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How applicable is intercultural communication theory to language learning? Teachers have their say

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Tony Young


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This presentation reports a recent investigation into the beliefs and practices of experienced teachers of adults in the USA, UK and France relating to the application of a model of intercultural communicative competence (ICC) to English language programmes. Broadly ‘intercultural’ approaches to language learning and teaching are strongly advocated in both the recent applied linguistics literature, and in curricular guidance in frameworks such as Council of Europe (2001). However, very little prior empirical research had addressed the extent to which such approaches are perceived by practitioners, and actually operationalised. The investigation was multimethodological, combining diaries, semi-structured focus group interviews and questionnaires. Byram’s (1997, 2008) language pedagogical model of ICC was the specific focus. Findings indicated a general consensus across locations, with an interesting disparity emerging between teachers’ attitudes to and beliefs about ICC, and their actual current classroom priorities. Most participants reported beliefs that strongly supported the relevance of intercultural approaches to their work, and stated that ‘good’ learners and teachers tended to exhibit high intercultural communicative ability. However, they also suggested that ICC was given relatively little emphasis in syllabi which were negotiated with learners. Participants identified and discussed a lack of support, in language testing, in textbooks and in institutional syllabi, for effective and appropriate approaches to ‘culture learning’ and interculturality. Implications of these findings for teacher education, classroom practice, language curricula and for intercultural theory will be discussed. Byram, M. (1997). Teaching and Assessing Intercultural Communicative Competence. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters. Byram, M. (2008). From Foreign Language Education to Education for Intercultural Citizenship: Essays and Reflections. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters. Council of Europe (2001). Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment. Strasbourg: Council of Europe/CUP.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Young TJ

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: Across Languages and Cultures

Year of Conference: 2011

Sponsor(s): 4th International Adriatic-Ionian Conference & Ca’ Foscari University of Venice