Intercultural Competence in teaching
Intercultural Communication Competence: Language and Culture. The role Intercultural Communicative Competence in teaching foreign languages. Intercultural Competence in Foreign language teaching. Contexts for intercultural learning in the classroom.
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1. Intercultural Communication Competence: Language and Culture
1.1 Intercultural Communication Competence
1.2 Cultural differences
1.3 The role Intercultural Communicative Competence in teaching foreign languages
2. Intercultural Competence in Foreign language teaching
2.1 Contexts for intercultural learning in the classroom
2.2 Intercultural in the Foreign Language Learning Classroom
2.3 Developing intercultural competence of students in foreign language classroom
List of references
When it comes to the English foreign language classroom, often people's first associations are grammar rules or learning vocabulary. In fact, it needs much more to learn a language and be able to use it properly, than just achieving grammatical skills and knowledge in terms of vocabulary. In order to internalize and successfully apply English as a foreign language in spoken and written code, it will not suffice to merely learn about syntax, lexis, phonology and other features that structure the language. The learner should also be aware of the specific cultural background, which speakers of the English language have. Thus, intercultural communicative competence is a quality, which helps speakers of English as a foreign language to successfully communicate with native speaker. English - as much as any other language - has developed over centuries and was shaped by culture. Therefore, intercultural learning plays an important role in foreign language learning and should be systematically integrated in the English foreign language classroom.
The actuality of this work: English has become the official language of many nations worldwide and every nation developed its own history and culture, there are many cultures involved when it comes to learning about English culture. Since the English language originates from Britain, this term paper will focus on approaching British culture in the English foreign language classroom and its necessity for the development of an intercultural communicative competence.
The term paper will commence by giving a definition of culture and what it has to do with language in general. In the next step, it examines the purpose and development of intercultural learning in the foreign language classroom. Finally, this term paper gives an overview of how intercultural learning can be approached. It works as a guide for teachers and offers practical examples for the English foreign language classroom with focus on British culture.
The purpose of this experimental work is to examine the influences and impacts of the use of culture-based exercises and activities in foreign language teaching in the formation of Intercultural Communication (IC).
The aim of this course paper is to enable non-native teachers to develop the skills necessary for effective intercultural communication, to deepen understanding of the diverse issues associated with an intercultural working environment and to increase awareness and cultural sensitivity.
Object language or material culture refers to how we communicate through material artifactse.g., architecture, office design and furniture, clothing, cars, cosmetics, and time. In monochronic cultures, time is experienced linearly and as something to be spent, saved, made up, or wasted. Time orders life, and people tend to concentrate on one thing at a time.
The subject intercultural communication social attributes, thought patterns, and the cultures of different groups of people. It also involves understanding the different cultures, languages and customs of people from other countries.
The structure of course work: introduction, two main parts, conclusion and list of references.
intercultural communication competence language
1. Intercultural Communication Competence: Language and Culture
1.1 Intercultural Communication Competence
The influence and power of language is meaningful to cultural and ethnic group members. In each speech community - ethnic, racial, cultural or gender-related -- language use is of vital importance. Each speech community has its norms, forms and codes for communication. The interactions of a group of people vary in many respects: in frequency and value of speaking, interpretation of speaking performances, and shared language forms. The speech community maintains the norms and rules of communication, but it may gradually change them. On the other hand, in every speech community there is a degree of individual deviation from the norms. Not all group members communicate in the same way.
The group members share a speech code, a system of symbols, signs, meanings and rules in a specific situation and interaction. Several aspects, like the relationship, age, gender, social status and generation, affect communication. Likewise, the proportion of verbal and nonverbal communication vary in different speech communities.
Rules of speaking determine what is appropriate and inappropriate in a situation with particular communication partners. We are automatically aware of what to say and not to say, and in what a way.
Rules of interaction help a person to know how to act towards others in a particular situation.
Language is not only used as a means of communication, but also as a marker or indicator the speaker's cultural identity. The identity is communicated through a particular language use during interaction (discourse markers). Certain types of expressions are used to express belonging to a group, but likewise they are sometimes used to exclude, separate or discriminate .
Intercultural communication takes place when interacting participants represent a different communication system. Differences may occur in verbal and nonverbal communication, for instance, eye contact, gestures, touch, pauses, turn-taking or use of time. They are potential sources of clashes or conflicts in intercultural communication. In a case of an intercultural communication clash, there may occur feelings of confusion, tension, embarrassment and frustration.
Intercultural Communication Competence is a form of communication that aims to share information across different cultures and social groups. It is used to describe the wide range of communication processes and problems that naturally appear within an organization or social context made up of individuals from different religious, social, ethnic, and educational backgrounds. Intercultural communication is sometimes used synonymously with cross-cultural communication. In this sense it seeks to understand how people from different countries and cultures act, communicate and perceive the world around them. Many people in intercultural business communication argue that culture determines how individuals encode messages, what medium they choose for transmitting them, and the way messages are interpreted.
The European researcher Daniele Trevisani pointed out the semantic distinction between intercultural and cross-cultural communication should be clearly specified: Intercultural Communication properly refers to the study of the "interaction" between people from different cultures, while cross-cultural communication specifically refers to the comparison of how people from different cultures communicate. In other words, cross-cultural communication is a "static differential image" depicting differences in communication patterns across different cultures, while Intercultural Communication studies "dynamic interactional patterns", what happens when people from at least two different cultures meet and interact, and what "frames" are generated from this interaction, e.g. understanding vs. misunderstanding, agreement vs. disagreement, cultural adaptation vs. cultural isolation, emerging of "third cultures", conflict vs. cooperation, intercultural team cohesiveness vs. team misunderstandings, intercultural projects success vs. projects failure, emotional improvement vs. emotional deterioration, and any other relational outcome  .
In a broader sense, Intercultural communication encompasses cross-cultural communication, international communication, development communication, and intercultural communication's narrower referent, intercultural communication proper.
With regard to intercultural communication proper, it studies situations where people from different cultural backgrounds interact. Aside from language, intercultural communication focuses on social attributes, thought patterns, and the cultures of different groups of people. It also involves understanding the different cultures, languages and customs of people from other countries. Intercultural communication plays a role in social sciences such as anthropology, cultural studies, linguistics, psychology andcommunication studies. Intercultural communication is also referred to as the base for international businesses. There are several cross-cultural service providers around who can assist with the development of intercultural communication skills. Research is a major part of the development of intercultural communication skills.
Effective intercultural communication involves more than understanding a group's norms. There have been many attempts to identify the skills needed to be more effective in intercultural communication.
Definitions of intercultural competence grounded in communication have tended to stress the development of skills that transform one from a monocultural person into a multicultural person. The multicultural person is one who respects cultures and has tolerance for differences (Belay, 1993; Chen & Starosta, 1996). Chen (1989, 1990) [3;4;5], for example, identifies four skill areas: personality strength, communication skills, psychological adjustment, and cultural awareness.
The main personal traits that affect intercultural communication are self-concept, self-disclosure, self-monitoring, and social relaxation. Self-concept refers to the way in which a person views the self. Self-disclosure refers to willingness of individuals to openly and appropriately reveal information about themselves to their counterparts. Self-monitoring refers to using social comparison information to control and modify your self-presentation and expressive behavior. Social relaxation is the ability to reveal little anxiety in communication. Effective communicators must know themselves well and, through their self-awareness, initiate positive attitudes. Individuals must express a friendly personality to be competent in intercultural communication.
Individuals must be competent in verbal and nonverbal behaviors. Intercultural communication skills require message skills, behavioral flexibility, interaction management, and social skills. Message skills refer to the ability to understand and use the language and feedback. Behavioral flexibility is the ability to select an appropriate behavior in diverse contexts. Interaction management means handling the procedural aspects of conversation, such as the ability to initiate a conversation. Interaction management emphasizes a person's other-oriented ability to interaction, such as attentiveness and responsiveness. Social skills are empathy and identity maintenance. Empathy is the ability to think the same thoughts and feel the same emotions as the other person. Identity maintenance is the ability to maintain a counterpart's identity by communicating back an accurate understanding of that person's identity. In other words, a competent communicator must be able to deal with diverse people in different situations .
Effective communicators must be able to acclimate to new environments. They must be able to handle the feelings of "culture shock," such as frustration, stress, and alienation in ambiguous situations caused by new environments.
To be competent in intercultural communication, individuals must understand the social customs and social system of the host culture. Understanding how a people think and behave is essential for effective communication with them.
From intercultural perspective
When communicating with people from different cultures, it is important to remember that culture and communication are strongly connected. The way that people view communication--what it is, how to do it, and reasons for doing it-- is part of their culture. The chance of misunderstanding between members of different cultures increases when this important connection is forgotten.
In general, people from Western and Asian cultures have the greatest chance of misunderstanding each other. Much of this misunderstanding comes from the fact that Western and Asian cultures have two very different views of communication. Western cultures, especially the United States, give higher status to the speaker or "source" of information than to the "receiver," the person who pays attention to the information. Asian cultures view communication as communicators cooperating to make meaning. This model of communication reflects Confucian collectivist values because respecting the relationship through communication can be more important than the information exchanged.
In intercultural communication situations, it is natural for people to be aware of the potential for various misunderstandings and to want to avoid them. However, despite the best intentions, serious misunderstanding and even conflicts can occur. One reason for this is that even though people are consciously attempting to avoid problems, they still are making ethical judgments as they are communicating. The values that people hold affect both their communication decisions and interpretation of what others communicate.
Western and Asian cultures often have the greatest misunderstandings when ethics areconsidered. For example, an Asian who had a Confucian view of communication would think it perfectly acceptable to give gifts to business associates and to hire one's own relatives. Both of these actions help maintain social relationships. However, people in the United States would consider these actions bribery and nepotism, both of which are against the law in the United States. So differing ethics can cause conflicts, especially when what one culturemay consider morally wrong, another may actually encourage. When such conflicts occur, people who want to be ethical intercultural communicators should try to understand, respect, and accept each individual's ethical perspective.
Good intercultural communicators have personality strength (strong sense of self and are socially relaxed), communication skills (verbal and nonverbal), psychological adjustment (ability to adapt to new situations), and cultural awareness (understanding how people of different cultures think and act). These areas can be divided into eight different skills:
self-awareness (using knowledge about yourself to deal with difficult situations),
self-respect (confidence in what you think, feel, and do),
interaction (how effectively you communicate with people),
empathy (being able to see and feel things from other people's points of view),
adaptability (how fast you can adjust to new situations and norms),
certainty (the ability to do things opposite to what you feel),
initiative (being open to new situations),
acceptance (being tolerant or accepting of unfamiliar things).
1.2 Cultural differences
Cultural characteristics can be measured along several dimensions. The ability to perceive them and to cope with them is fundamental for intercultural competence. These characteristics include:
- Interdependence of every human;
- Reverse of individualism;
- High priority on group than individual;
- Collectivist cultures include Pakistan, India and Japan.
- moral worth of individual;
- promote the exercise of one's goals and desires and so value independence and self-reliance;
- advocate that interests of the individual should achieve precedence over the state or a social group;
Liberalism, existentialism and anarchism are examples of movements that take the human individual
Masculine characteristics or roles appropriate to, a man;
Opposite can be expressed by terms such as "unmanly'" or epicene.
Masculinity pertains to societies in which social gender roles are clearly distinct
Feminine set of attributes, behaviors, and roles generally associated with girls and women; made up of both socially defined and biologically created factors;
Traits traditionally cited as feminine include gentleness, empathy, and sensitivity. Femininity pertains to societies in which social gender roles overlap.
Uncertainty avoidance reflects the extent to which members of a society attempt to cope with anxiety by minimizing uncertainty; uncertainty avoidance dimension expresses the degree to which a person in society feels uncomfortable with a sense of uncertainty and ambiguity; Countries exhibiting strong Uncertainty avoidance Index or UAI maintain rigid codes of belief and behavior and are intolerant of unorthodox behavior and ideas. Weak UAI societies maintain a more relaxed attitude in which practice counts more than principles; People in cultures with high uncertainty avoidance tend to be more emotional. Low uncertainty avoidance cultures accept and feel comfortable in unstructured situations or changeable environments and try to have as few rules as possible; People in these cultures tend to be more pragmatic, they are more tolerant of change.
- people in some cultures accept a higher degree of unequally distributed power than do people in other cultures;
- high power distance culture the relationship between bosses and subordinates is one of dependence;
- low power distance society the relationship between bosses and subordinates is one of interdependence;
People in high distance countries tend to believe that power and authority are facts of life
- time-fixed, "one after the other”
- Doing one thing at a time
- Involved with doing the job
- Time commitments taken seriously
- Follows plan
- Deals with short-term relations
- Narrow focus
- Lower risk tolerance
- Self-reliant ethic
- Sequential tasks
- Positional power
Many things at the same time, "multitasking". Also called "long-term orientation."
- Involved with family, friends, customers
- Commitments in time mean little
- Changes plan
- Builds lifetime relationships
- Big picture
- Higher risk tolerance
- Networking focus
- Simultaneous engineering
- Charismatic leadership
- Error-tolerant system
- Structural characteristics:
- basic personality,
- the experience of time and space,
- selective perception,
- nonverbal communication,
- and patterns of behavior
1.3 The role Intercultural Communicative Competence in teaching foreign languages
It is important to remind ourselves that even under the best of circumstances foreign language learning lacks the social reality that defines the target culture. Due to lack of shared reality, communication breakdowns are likely to occur. "In order to transmit and decode meaning, we must do much more than arrange our sounds and words in a special order" (Loveday 1982) [7, p. 61]. One has to be aware of the diverse and implicit ways of constructing a message which are culture specific. In attempting to remedy this deficiency, it has been recognized that communicative competence falls short of our needs and therefore we need a wider concept. Today the goal in language teaching and learning should be intercultural communicative competence (also referred to as cross-cultural competence or cultural competence). During communication, meaning construction depends on the speaker's and listener's presuppositions. What complicates matters at the intercultural level is that when interlocutors are from different cultures, they share fewer and fewer common things while other variables increase especially those in language, culture and worldview. Language learners carry a dual burden on their shoulders- unfamiliar language plus unfamiliar culture. This heavy load can only be lessened by expanding and developing intercultural communicative competence.
Without an alternative form of communication and worldview we are bound to think and perceive in our preset patterns of perception, conceptualization, formulation and expression of our thoughts from a single point. Mono-vision leads to ethnocentricism, contempt and hostility on the part of the language learner as he will employ his own cultural frame as a reference to understand the target culture. At this point lies the power of a different cultural experience. In addition to a chance to learn more about another culture, it helps language learners to see their own culture and ways of life in a conscious way and helps them realize that what they take for granted is not objective reality. Therefore, we need intercultural communicative competence, which will take us beyond our mono-vision. Our intercultural communicative competence consists of an extremely complicated set of beliefs, knowledge, feelings, attitudes and behaviour. Irving (1986) defines the term as "… the ability to understand cultures... one's own and others... by means of objective, non-judgmental comparisons. It is an appreciation for, an understanding of, cultural pluralism...the ability to get rid of our ethnocentric tendencies and accept another culture on its own terms. Many cross-cultural interactions go sour due to a lack of such competence"[8, p. 31]
Unless there is sufficient competence, there may be misunderstanding. In absence of relevant background knowledge, any meaning may fail to be constructed. The learners should be made tolerant of and should develop an understanding of other cultures. Otherwise, language learners will be unaware of certain kinds of culture specific behaviour and develop hostility and ethnocentricism. For example, in Vietnam people avoid contradicting or ridiculing a superior; therefore, you are likely to hear "That must be so" as an answer to your question "Is this the way to the station?" although you are pointing at the wrong direction. Then you may find yourself wondering why the person from the native culture deliberately misguided you and develop hostile feelings to him.
Intercultural competence is needed to recognize such things as the place of silence, appropriate topics of conversation, taboos, forms of address, and expressions of speech acts because they are usually not the same across cultures. All above enumerated can be grouped under a notion of context. That is, the problem in misunderstanding a representative of another culture lies not in the linguistic code but in the context, which carries varying proportions of the meaning. Without context, the code is incomplete since it encompasses only part of message. A high-context (HC) communication or message is one in which most of the information is either in the physical context or internalized in the person, while very little is in the coded, explicit transmitted part of the language. A low-context (LC) communication is just the opposite; i.e., the mass of the information is vested in the explicit code. Although no culture exists exclusively at one end of the scale, some are high while others are low. American culture, while not on the bottom, is toward the lower end of the scale. China is on the high-context end of the scale (Hall) . For example, for some communities silence is distressful whereas for others it is normal and pleasant. In Japan, silence is a virtue. Japanese people emphasize silent receipt of information and strong non-verbal communication patterns; they have a reluctance to enter into general discussions or to offer personal opinion. A similar view is held by Kazakh people in that the proverb "silence is golden if speech is silver" reflects the opinion that people who are too talkative are not considered a favourably but seen as 'empty boxes making a lot of noise'. Recognition and appreciation of such values are essential to attain effective cross-cultural communication.
Figure : Hall's scale about High-context and Low-context cultures and their inclusive parts
Intercultural communicative competence might be identified as twofold: first, a competence that derives from a wide range of knowledge about the target culture including its ways of organizing public life, time and space, its history, its artistic and scientific achievements, its institutions, its modes of social stratification, its myths about its past and its dreams for the future. Second a competence that manifests itself in an awareness of the rules of language use. As all these are indicators of a given culture, both competencies are intricately and inseparably tied to each other within the frame work of culture.
"Language is a double-edged sword: Language communicates, but it also excommunicates" . In other words, language includes only those who share the system, others are excluded. As during meaning construction, there are several interrelated components, which vary in detail from culture to culture, at work: a linguistic component (sounds, forms and grammar of language), a paralinguistic component (tone, pitch, volume, etc.), an extralinguistic component (non-verbal aspects) and a sociolinguistic dimension. All these are mastered as a part of one's native competence during socialization. Developing intercultural communicative competence is a challenge, but its attainment promises rewards. Intercultural competence offers the possibility of broadening the limitations of one's singular worldview. Just like a fish that is unaware of water in which it has lived or the air outside it, a person who has never experienced another culture is often unaware of his own culture and that of others. Contact with other culture can result in a shift of perspective along with appreciation for the diversity and richness of man.
2. Intercultural Competence in teaching
2.1 Contexts for intercultural learning in the classroom
Contexts that are seen as appropriate for intercultural learning in the classroom are those which promote the acquisition of intercultural competence consisting of the components mentioned above. Examples: communication between members of different cultures via e-mail: not yet a standard in everyday schooling, but it serves many useful purposes for intercultural learning;
authentic print text: fictional texts are the ideal medium for intercultural learning since it is the substrate of a specific culture and its history, while it simultaneously contains culture-general aspects; it stimulates personal identification and it offers numerous options for creative activities; also it may induce discussions of aspects of subjective, as well as objective, culture - useful examples: Malorie Blackman's Noughts and Crosses series, Qaisra Shahraz' "A Pair of Jeans"; non-fictional texts are definitely useful in this context as well.
film: authentic film especially improves the language proficiency (and thus intercultural sensitivity), because it means direct and authentic contact with the L2; it also guarantees access to the evaluation of audiovisual media and maybe even new media- useful examples: Bend It Like Beckham, Save the Last Dance, My Beautiful Laundrette.
Intercultural communication competence development in EFL classroom
Teaching culture and developing intercultural skills have become fashionable phrases in foreign and second language pedagogy in the last ten years. However, this is hopefully not only a superficial and quickly passing fad since many language teachers and researchers have established that the primary aim of second and foreign language acquisition is to enable learners to communicate with people coming from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds in a multicultural world. Since there is an increasing need to be able to deal with cultural diversity effectively and appropriately, students also need to acquire intercultural communicative competence. Therefore, we can see that while teaching linguistic skills, second and foreign language instructorsshould also integrate a variety of cultural elements in their language lessons.
It is extremely difficult to define what culture is. `Culture' is believed to be one of the most complicated words in the English language. A lot of time can be spent on tryingto give a precise definition of the word.
Byram refers to culture as: `the whole way of life of the foreign country, including but not limited to its production in the arts, philosophy and “high culture” in general' (Byram).
Valette, however, highlights the two major components of culture in the following broad sense: `One is anthropological or sociological culture: the attitudes, customs, and daily activities of a people, their way of thinking, their values, their frames of reference. Since language is a direct manifestation of this phase of culture, a society cannot be totally understood or appreciated without a knowledge of its language. The other component of culture is the history of civilisation. Traditionally representing the “culture” element in foreign language teaching, it includes geography, history, and achievements in the sciences, the social sciences and the arts' (Vallette inValdes).
Hofstede sees culture as “the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another”. In his pyramid model, he differentiates three levels of “the software of the mind”: universal, cultural and personal. The iceberg analogy of culture compares the notion of culture to an iceberg only the tip of which is visible (literature, food, architecture, landmarks, etc.), whereas a very large part of the iceberg is difficult to see or grasp (beliefs, values, attitudes, perceptions, etc.). The items in the invisible body of the iceberg could include an endless list of notions from definitions of beauty or respect to patterns of group decision-making, ideals governing child-raising, as well as values relating to leadership, prestige, health, love, death and so on.
Clearly, culture covers a wide territory. Its broadness is certainly an attraction but can also be considered as a problem. However, it is worth making a list of the areas it includes: literature, the arts in general, customs, habits and traditions, humans' behavior, history, music, folklore, gestures, social relationship etc. These are ingredients and it is difficult to give a whole picture of them. This can be considered a problem deriving from the complicated nature of culture. Extending the image of culture leads us to the view that culture is `unbounded' and `not static' (Nelson), which opens the scope even wider.
About Intercultural Communicative Competence
Contact with other languages and cultures provides an excellent opportunity to foster the development of intercultural communicative competence (ICC, or intercultural competence, for short). Once intercultural contact has begun, ICC development generally evolves as an on-going and lengthy process, occasionally with periods of regression or stagnation, but more commonly with positive results and no end point. Different individuals bring differing goals and motivations to the intercultural experience that result in varying levels of competence. Some wish to achieve native-like behavior in the host culture; others may be content simply to gain acceptance; and for still others, mere survival may be adequate.
Generally, the more deeply one enters into a second language-culture (LC2), or "linguaculture", the greater the effects on one's native linguaculture (LC1). As a result, individuals often modify their initial perspectives of the world (or "worldview"). A willingness to truly engage in the new culture during a cross-cultural sojourn, promotes both transcendence and transformation of one's original mode of perceiving, knowing, and expressing about the world and interacting within it. Developing intercultural competencies aids this process.
But what exactly is intercultural competence? Although this term is in wide use today, there is no clear consensus about what it is. Some researchers stress global knowledge, others emphasize sensitivity, and still others point to certain skills.
One definition of ICC is that it is the complex of abilities needed to perform effectively and appropriately when interacting with others who are linguistically and culturally different from oneself.
The Importance of Culture in Language Teaching/
Linguists and anthropologists have long recognized that the forms and uses of a given language reflect the cultural values of the society in which the language is spoken. Linguistic competence alone is not enough for learners of a language to be competent in that language . Language learners need to be aware, for example, of the culturally appropriate ways to address people, express gratitude, make requests, and agree or disagree with someone. They should know that behaviors and intonation patterns that are appropriate in their own speech community may be perceived differently by members of the target language speech community. They have to understand that, in order for communication to be successful, language use must be associated with other culturally appropriate behavior.
In many regards, culture is taught implicitly, imbedded in the linguistic forms that students are learning. To make students aware of the cultural features reflected in the language, teachers can make those cultural features an explicit topic of discussion in relation to the linguistic forms being studied. For example, when teaching subject pronouns and verbal inflections in French, a teacher could help students understand when in French it is appropriate to use an informal form of address (tu) rather than a formal form of address (vous)--a distinction that English does not have. An English as a second language teacher could help students understand socially appropriate communication, such as making requests that show respect; for example, “Hey you, come here” may be a linguistically correct request, but it is not a culturally appropriate way for a student to address a teacher. Students will master a language only when they learn both its linguistic and cultural norms.
Teaching Culture Without Preconceptions
Cultural information should be presented in a nonjudgmental fashion, in a way that does not place value or judgment on distinctions between the students' native culture and the culture explored in the classroom. Kramsch describes the “third culture” of the language classroom--a neutral space that learners can create and use to explore and reflect on their own and the target culture and language.
Some teachers and researchers have found it effective to present students with objects or ideas that are specific to the culture of study but are unfamiliar to the students. The students are given clues or background information about the objects and ideas so that they can incorporate the new information into their own worldview. An example might be a cooking utensil. Students would be told that the object is somehow used for cooking, then they would either research or be informed about how the utensil is used. This could lead into related discussion about foods eaten in the target culture, the geography, growing seasons, and so forth. The students act as anthropologists, exploring and understanding the target culture in relation to their own. In this manner, students achieve a level of empathy, appreciating that the way people do things in their culture has its own coherence.
It is also important to help students understand that cultures are not monolithic. A variety of successful behaviors are possible for any type of interaction in any particular culture. Teachers must allow students to observe and explore cultural interactions from their own perspectives to enable them to find their own voices in the second language speech community.
Intercultural competence and the teacher. Finally, for many teachers, culture teaching and learning is a relatively new and unfamiliar venture, especially in the framework of our model of culture learning. The problem is compounded by a lack of concrete examples of how to teach for intercultural competence and by teachers' mistaken belief that they need to be culture experts. Rather, we hope teachers will come to share the view so perceptively expressed by Kane that, “By being the one invested with the knowledge and authority, the teacher's responsibility is to invite - and join - the students in challenging unexamined beliefs and stereotypes”. Teachers can become guides and partners in a process of culture learning and discovery with their students, rather than culture expert upon whom their students exclusively rely for cultural knowledge.
How to go about incorporating intercultural communication?
Some very simple general guidelines for language teachers and teacher trainers:
- If you do have first-hand experiences from other cultures, take every opportunity to tell your students about these and elicit their reactions as well as their own similar experiences;
- If the course book you use contains culturally-loaded texts (most of them do by definition), make sure you do not only exploit these texts for grammatical analysis and vocabulary building;
- Even grammar practice and vocabulary activities can be sources of cultural knowledge, means of intercultural skills development or ways to form open and accepting attitudes if you do not fail to add those two or three sentences that will help students understand the cultural dimension better;
- When you give writing tasks and tests, do not only assess your students' knowledge of grammar rules and vocabulary items but sometimes ask them to write (guided) reflective compositions about their experiences in other countries or in their home town with people from other cultures;
- Encourage your students to look things up, be open, curious and non-judgmental, establish e-mail partnerships with students in other countries, participate in simulations, role-plays and ethnographic projects during language lessons (see concrete ideas below), and go on study trips if possible.
The role of culture in foreign language teaching materials: an evaluation from an intercultural perspective
Textbooks used in foreign language (FL) instruction are primarily designed to facilitate language learning, but they cannot simply do that since language learning is inseparable from its cultural context. As Cunningsworth states, “A study of language solely as an abstract system would not equip learners to use it in the real world” (Cunningsworth). For that reason, it is usually expected that FL teaching materials (TM) should include elements of the target language culture. Moreover, many documents analysed by Byram highlight three general goals of FL instruction:
- the development of communicative competence for use in situations the learners might expect to encounter;
- the development of an awareness of the target language;
- the development of insight into the foreign culture and positive attitudes toward foreign people.
But as Byram stresses, these three aims should be integrated. The extent and ways of incorporating cultural aspects in FL instruction vary in different TM, and therefore it is important for the FL teacher to know what to look for in a particular language textbook in order to decide if it is suitable for attaining the aforementioned goals.
Defining the cultural content for FL classes
One of the most difficult problems confronting FL teachers is the choice of adequate instructional materials. What should students learn about a foreign culture to be able to function in that culture? Different academics offer various suggestions concerning the cultural content of FL TM. In order to answer the abovementioned question, it is essential to examine some ways in which culture is reflected in FL textbooks.
Patrick Moran offers four categories where culture is identified as:
- knowing about, relating to cultural information - facts about products, practices and perspectives of the target culture as well as students' own;
- knowing how, referring to cultural practices in the everyday life of the people of the target culture;
- knowing why, constituting an understanding of fundamental cultural perspectives - beliefs, values and attitudes;
- knowing oneself, concerning the individual learners' self-awareness. In other words, students need to understand themselves and their own culture as a means to comprehending the target language culture.
Whereas the categorisation of culture concentrates mainly on description, the treatment of the cultural content in FL materials should also include analysis, comparison and contrast, which is more in keeping with the comparative method suggested by many scholars .
One of the aims of the FL classroom is the development of the learners' awareness of intercultural issues and their ability to communicate effectively and appropriately in a variety of situations and contexts, given the increasingly international nature of contemporary life. In order for this to happen, learners need first to acquire knowledge about the target language community and then they need to reflect on their own culture in relation to other cultures . That is, in acquiring knowledge about and reflecting on the target language culture, students need to be encouraged not simply to observe similarities and differences between the two cultures, but they should also analyse them from the viewpoint of the others and try to establish a relationship between their own and other systems.
Intercultural awareness, described as “sensitivity to the impact of culturally induced behaviour on language use and communication” comprises awareness of students' own culturally induced behavior, awareness of the culturally induced behavior of the target language community, and ability to explain their own cultural standpoint .
ICC, according to Byram, requires certain attitudes, knowledge, and skills to be promoted, in addition to linguistic, sociolinguistic and discourse competence. The attitudes refer to curiosity and openness as well as “readiness to suspend disbelief about other cultures and belief about one's own (Byram). The acquired knowledge is of two kinds: on the one hand, knowledge of social groups and their products and practices in one's own and in the foreign country, and, on the other hand, knowledge of the general processes of individual and societal interaction (Byram). Finally, the skills comprise those of interpreting and relating, discovery and interaction as well as critical awareness/political education (Byram). Byram also maintains that the FL classroom provides ample opportunities for the acquisition of the abovementioned skills, knowledge and attitudes, provided it proceeds under the guidance of a teacher .
Teaching intercultural communication
Kramsch (1993) hinted at the intercultural dimension in her classic book about culture in language teaching, and many methodologists of the 1990s picked up the idea; yet Beamer1992, Brislin, Yoshida 1994, Landis, Bhagat1996 and other leading studies of the same years separated IC teaching apart from language education, both in schools and universities, and in lifelong learning contexts, and this trend prevailed (a critique of intercultural communication training in these years can be found in Cargile, Giles 1996); only in Attard 1996, Byram 1997, Balboni 1999, Byram et al. 2001; Humprey 2002, IC teaching was seen under an educational perspective .
The basic assumption of the studies above (and many others we cannot quote here) is that IC can be taught. We think this is not exact. In fact, the dynamic and ever changing nature of intercultural communication implies that ICC must be seen as dynamic and ever changing as well, which implies lifelong and lifewide learning. In other words, no IC course can claim to be a `complete' course.
Our opinion is that ICC cannot be taught as such because it changes continuously, but a model for lifelong observation of ic is fully teachable. The student attending a course of IC studies is an adult, a fully autonomous person, who needs a scaffolding (our model) to be filled up and completed through lifelong and lifewide observation.
As far as the behavioral component of ICC, exotopy, empathy, suspension of judgment, decentralization and so on can be presented to the student, can be described and discussed, but attitudes cannot be taught.
This perspective implies that teaching IC means making students aware of the nature of IC and of ICC, providing them with an instrument - the observation model - to record what they observe, lifelong, lifewide. The model thus provides the table of contents of a personal manual of IC manual.
2.2 Intercultural in the Foreign Language Learning Classroom
The link between foreign language learning and culture learning has been established by the linguists and anthropologists a long time ago. The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages has concluded that through the study of other languages, students gain a knowledge and understanding of the cultures that use that language. Moreover, students cannot truly master the language until they have also mastered the cultural contexts in which the language occurs. Linguistic competence alone is not enough for learners of a language to be competent in that language. From simple, everyday things, like forms of address to appropriate ways of expressing disagreement, culture forms an integral part of the language learning curricula. In any case, in order for communication to be successful, language use must be associated with other culturally appropriate behavior, not only linguistic rules in the narrow sense.
Culture is often taught implicitly, as a part of the linguistic forms that students are learning. To make students aware of the cultural features reflected in the language, teachers can make those cultural features an explicit topic of discussion and bring them to the forefront when appropriate. It is of utmost importance that cultural information be presented in a nonjudgmental way which doesn't evaluate the distinctions between the students' native culture and the culture explored in the classroom. Claire Kramsch uses the term “third culture” of the language classroom to describe an ideal learning environment, one where learners can explore and reflect on their own and the target culture and language.
However, it is also important to help students understand that cultures are not monolithicand so a variety of successful behaviors are also possible for any type of interaction in any particular culture. Teachers can make it possible for students to observe and explore cultural interactions from their own perspectives to enable them to find their own voices and language egos in the second language speech community .
There are several practical ways to effectively teach culture, along with teaching a language:
Provide students with authentic materials - Watching films, news broadcasts or TV shows can provide students with ample information about non-verbal behavior, such as the use of personal space, eye contact or gestures. On the other hand, reading authentic fictional or non-fictional materials can also be a good introduction about the values and norms of the target language culture. These materials also help the students improve their language skills, especially in terms of listening and understanding written texts.
Compare and contrast proverbs - Apart from being very informative about the two cultures, proverbs can lead to a discussion about stereotypes or values represented in the proverbs of both cultures. Furthermore, proverbs and idioms form a significant part of every language and knowing them is a plus for every learner.
Use role plays - They especially support students in making the shift in perspective from their own culture, which can become a strange one and is looked at from the outside, and the target culture, which becomes more familiar. In the process, students practice speaking and using language in unpredictable situations.
Research cultural items - While also practicing their presentation or writing skills in the target language, the students can inform their classmates about an assigned item from the foreign culture and contextualized the knowledge gained.
Students as cultural resources - Many classrooms nowadays are very culturally and ethnically diverse and they often have exchange students from foreign cultures or returnees from an exchange program in the target culture. They can be invited to the classroom as expert sources and share authentic insights into the home and cultural life of native speakers of the language.
2.3 Developing intercultural competence of students in foreign language classroom
European and Kazakhstan higher education operates in a new environment characterized by globalization, new communicative technologies, increased competition and commercialization, English being the language of international communication. Hence, the importance of learning foreign languages and their role in the labor market as a whole has increased and is leading to a higher motivation in the study of foreign languages.
The integration into the international community puts a new goal to the Kazakhstan education system - the formation of personality of students who perceive themselves not only as representatives of one particular culture, but as world citizens, conscious of their importance and responsibility in the global human processes taking place in Kazakhstan and in the world as a whole.
Foreign language is one of the basic tools of education of individuals with planetary thinking. Foreign language as the means of international communication can foster students' bilingual social competence, including the formation of such qualities as tolerance, open-mindedness towards other cultures, peoples and countries. Studying the language and culture of another people, students have the opportunity to expand their social-cultural knowledge.
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