Introduction to virtual intercultural exchanges


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  • A concept of learning and intercultural developmentCompetence vs. actual performance3 core components
  • Yet, what constitutes ‘culture’ within intercultural communication? It is a very loose and fuzzy concept, and in the past thirty years, earlier concepts of culture as being monolithic, stable, objectifiable and highly connected to criteria of ‘nationality’ have come under discussion as being too simplistic and generalising, and where, all too often, ‘the cultural’ is just a “lazy explanation” (Piller 2011, 172). Intercultural communication itself has often been similarly objectified and given agency, in the sense that nationalities / cultures communicate (clash, negotiate, trade), not individuals. Approaches to ‘culture’ from constructivist and postmodern perspectives, and that is the position I wish to adopt in this chapter, have moved the discussion towards the individual as being actively involved in the construction and re-construction of their identity, instead of being governed by culture as if it  were an outside force. As Lull puts it, the “person himself or herself is now a ‘cultural programmer’ [...] rather than just a ‘cultural member’” (2001, 136).  What constitutes cultural meaning and identity (including values, norms and practises) is not just simply there, but it is constantly being negotiated. From a methodological perspective, this shifts the focus towards what constitutes the ‘inter-‘ or in-between and with this, what happens within intercultural discourse, investigating how interlocutors produce, reproduce and change meanings and how they address, negotiate and interpret what they believe to be factors and concepts of socio- and languacultural identities. This is not to underestimate the complexities of any communicative encounter, whether intra- or intercultural and how individuals approach and perceive the ‘other’ in reality. Real, perceived or projected social identities, statuses and roles will undeniably influence what they say or how they say it (cf. Byram et al. 2002, 5f.), just as they can lead to different forms of stereotyping, cultural comparison or reduction to one’s idea of what a person ‘from national culture A’ has to be like – or how I would like to portray myself (and be perceived) as a member of a particular group.   But by focusing on the intercultural discourse between individuals, ‘national culture A’ is taken out as the main part of the equation (and possibly ‘lazy explanation’), opening up the room for a closer examination of underlying processes of meaning negotiation, co-construction of meaning, or of such processes as ascribing and interpreting what a speaker believes to be ‘cultural’.  
  • Related to these revised concepts of ‘culture’ , many language teachers and researchers have established that one of the main aims of language acquisition should be to enable learners to meta-communicate with people of different backgrounds. Good knowledge of grammar rules,  rich vocabulary, well-memorized speech acts and cultural facts alone do not help the learners to socialize, make friends or successfully communicate and negotiate in a foreign language (Lázár in Kohn & Warth 2011: 15). Culture cannot be reduced to a handful of facts or stereotypes, as so often presented in teaching materials (Sercu 2005, Lázár et al 2007), but one also cannot be expected to be ‘fluent’ in a wide variety of languacultures; thus, it seems more useful to acquaint students with general skills and knowledge that will help them navigate intercultural situations . This ability, ‘intercultural communicative competence’, is increasingly replacing ‘communicative  competence’ as the key paradigm for ELT (cf. Byram & Risager 1999, Sercu 2005, Kohn & Warth 2011) and it has become a key skill in language education and training (CEFR 2001: 21). With this on-going paradigm shift, the concept of the intercultural speaker (Byram 1997, Kramsch 1998, Corbett 2003, Risager 2007) has gained currency as a new model for language teaching. Based on a rethinking of the norms, contents or demands against which the foreign language speaker’s “cultural knowledge and behaviour should be matched ” (House 2007: 17), the intercultural speaker has been under discussion as a possible model to replace the ‘native speaker’. By and large, the intercultural speaker is seen as someone who is able to mediate between people of different languacultural backgrounds by managing interaction, integrating different perspectives or interpreting and mediating different meanings with the help of a foreign language. Intercultural speakers have “critical or analytical understanding of (parts of) their own and other cultures” (Byram 2000) and are able "to select those forms of accuracy and those forms of appropriateness that are called for in a given social context of use" (Kramsch in Bredella 1999: 91). Within a given situation, intercultural speakers are able to draw on their knowledge and to choose suitable strategies and forms from their communicative repertoire to negotiate meaning together with the other participants in order to co-construct an intercultural 3rd space.   
  • Introduction to virtual intercultural exchanges

    1. 1. InterculturalCommunicativeCompetence &the Role of VirtualExchangesClaudia Warth-SontheimerUniversity of Michigan
    2. 2. Overview1. Virtual Exchanges & the Development of ICC2. What is “Intercultural Communicative Competence” (ICC)?
    3. 3. Virtual Exchanges & the Development of ICC
    4. 4. * Aka: telecollaboration, web based collaboration, online networking, onlineexchanges, teletandem, online buddies, epalsVirtual Exchanges * Didactic use of web and other communication tools for joint andcollaborative learning Constructivist approach  learning by working and solving problemsor tasks together Different combinations possible (e.g. hybrid learning, web-enhanced,local and international); tandem or more
    5. 5. Using virtual exchanges to support intercultural(language) learning Authentic … Use of the foreign language Between learners of different socio-cultural backgrounds Controlled, save space...
    6. 6. What is “Intercultural CommunicativeCompetence” (ICC)?
    7. 7. The 3 Core Components of ICCIntercultural Communicative Competence (ICC)InterculturalcompetenceCulturalcompetenceCommunicativecompetenceUnderstanding andinterpreting culturalconcepts and artifacts(own – other)“… is the complex of abilitiesneeded to perform effectivelyand appropriately wheninteracting with others who arelinguistically and culturallydifferent from oneself” (Fantini2005)In L1 and L2
    8. 8. “Inter”?Communication?Culture?• Artifacts & products?• Membership?• Attitudes, values,practices &behaviors?• Knowledge?• Organizational,corporate?• The contactsituation?• The (un)commonground?• What is createdfrom “culturecontact”?• Communication between “cultures”?• Between individuals?• Considerations re language aspects, FL
    9. 9. Fuzzy Concepts of Culture away from text-book approach or “culture capsules”: “culture” not somethingmonolithic, stable or tied to „nationality‟ “people communicate, not cultures” (Scollon & Wong-Scollon) individual is actively involved in constructing their identity  person as“cultural programmer […] rather than just a „cultural‟ member” (Lull 2001:136) shift towards the „inter-‟: intercultural discourse & processes of meaningnegotiation, co-construction of meaning, or ascribing and interpreting what aspeaker believes to be „cultural‟
    10. 10. A Model: the Intercultural Speaker is someone who is able to see relationships between different cultures is able to mediate, i.e. interpret and explain each culture in terms of theother it is also someone who has a critical or analytical understanding of (partsof) their own and other cultures is conscious of their own perspective, of the way in which their thinking isculturally determined, rather than believing that their understanding andperspective is natural(based on Byram & Risager 1999, Sercu 2005, Kohn & Warth 2011)Negotiating and co-constructing a 3rdspace
    11. 11. Byram‟s Model of ICC &the 4 DimensionsCompetence area DescriptionAttitudescuriosity and openness, readiness to suspend disbelief about othercultures and belief about ones ownKnowledgeof social groups and their products and practices in ones own andin ones interlocutors country, and of the general processes ofsocietal and individual interactionSkills of interpretingand relatingability to interpret a document or event from another culture, toexplain it and relate it to documents from ones ownSkills of discoveryand interactionability to acquire new knowledge of a culture and cultural practicesand the ability to operate knowledge, attitudes and skills under theconstraints of real-time communication and interactionCritical culturalawareness / politicaleducationan ability to evaluate critically and on the basis of explicit criteriaperspectives, practices and products in ones own and othercultures and countries
    12. 12. Learning Contents: One ApproachLanguaculture & Rich points (Agar)(1) “languaculture” = close interconnectedness of language andculture  language use cannot be understood outside the culturalcontext in which it is used(2) refers to the notion that the use of language differs with respect toits culture and various other subcultures(3) “rich point” refers to a moment when a person is at a languaculturalinterface and encounters a difference in the ways of communicatingfrom his or her cultural assumptions; rich points have rich, thick andheavy meaning“hot spots” (Heringer)  speech acts, conventions, ritualsalso extends to: Cultural scripts (and with this, an exploration andexplication of what a person believes to be a cultural pattern)
    13. 13. Agar, M. (1996). Language shock: Understanding the culture of conversation. Harper Paperbacks.Belz, J. (2003). Linguistic perspectives on the development of intercultural competence in telecollaboration. Language Learningand Technology, 7(2), 68–117.Byram, M. (1997). Teaching and assessingiIntercultural communicative competence. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.Fantini, A. E. (2005). About intercultural communicative competence: A construct. VT: Brattleboro. School for InternationalTraining., H.J. (2004). Interkulturelle Kommunikation. Grundlagen und Konzepte. Tübingen & Basel: UTB.INCA – Framework & Manuals (LdV project, 2004), K. & Warth, C. (2011). Web collaboration for intercultural language learning. Münster: Monsenstein & Vannerdat.Kramsch, C. (1998). The privilege of the intercultural speaker. In M. Byram & M. Fleming (Eds.), Language learning in anintercultural perspective (pp. 16–31). Cambridge: CUP.Lázár, I., Huber-Kriegler, M., Lussier, D., Matei, G. S. & Peck, C. (Eds.) (2007). Developing and assessing interculturalcommunicative competence. A guide for language teachers and teacher educators. European Centre for Modern Languages.Strasbourg: Council of Europe.ODowd, R. and Ware, P. (2009). Critical issues in telecollaborative task design. In: Computer Assisted Language Learning,22:2,173-188.ODowd, R. (2007). Online intercultural exchange: An introduction for foreign language teachers. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.References