The Importance of Intercultural Understanding in Today’s World

This month we published Teaching Intercultural Competence Across the Age Range edited by Manuela Wagner, Dorie Conlon Perugini and Michael Byram. In this post the editors explain how their book addresses the challenges involved in teaching intercultural competence.

The importance of intercultural understanding cannot be overstated in today’s world. It is no surprise then that educationists of all kinds create task forces to provide tools to help students engage in meaningful and successful intercultural dialogue. As language educators often point out, there are substantial challenges. First, it is difficult to apply theory in practice, and teachers cannot easily imagine how intercultural competence theories play out in the classroom. Furthermore, it appears to be impossible to teach intercultural competence if students do not yet speak the target language or if they are young language learners.

With our publication Teaching Intercultural Competence Across the Age Range we address these challenges. We apply sound theory of Intercultural Communicative Competence (ICC) (Byram, 1997) in our practice. We debunk the myth that intercultural competence can only be taught to students with higher language proficiency and also provide examples of how colleagues can benefit from collaborations in order to implement theory in practice.

We combined a graduate course on theories of ICC with guided collaboration between the graduate students and classroom teachers. Together they designed and implemented innovative teaching units integrating ICC into existing units and practices in systematic ways. In the book we show how to create a community of practice consisting of researchers/mentors, graduate students, and teachers to teach ICC and give students new insights into their own and other cultures within and beyond their local and national environment. Each teacher/graduate student pair co-authored a chapter in which they shared their unit plans, assessments, and experience in implementing the units, meaning that all the participants in this project had multiple roles: teacher, learner, researcher.

Our intention with this publication is to show one way of tackling the teaching of complex issues. Although we want to emphasize that each context in teaching will require a customised curriculum, we hope that teachers as well as curriculum designers, program administrators and teacher educators will find the detailed unit descriptions helpful for creating their own units in a variety of contexts. Our emphasis on collaboration, both the benefits and the challenges, reflects our belief in the power of learning and acting together. One important lesson we learned is that seeming bumps in the road often represent learning opportunities. As readers will see, this also reflects the model of ICC which enables students to learn how to mediate between different groups of people and to apply criticality in the here and now.

For more information about this book please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like From Principles to Practice in Education for Intercultural Citizenship edited by Michael Byram, Irina Golubeva, Han Hui and Manuela Wagner.

Our Languages for Intercultural Communication and Education series celebrates its 30th book

Last month we published From Principles to Practice in Education for Intercultural Citizenship edited by Michael Byram, Irina Golubeva, Han Hui and Manuela Wagner, which became the 30th book in our Languages for Intercultural Communication and Education series. In this post, series editors Michael Byram and Anthony J. Liddicoat discuss how the series has grown from its inception in 2000.

The first book in the series
The first book in the series

The Language and Intercultural Communication in Education (LICE) series has reached a significant landmark with the publication of its 30th book. The series began as an initiative of Multilingual Matters, Michael Byram and Alison Phipps with the aim of encouraging the study of languages and cultures in ways which can ultimately enrich teaching and learning. The first book that appeared was Developing Intercultural Competence in Practice edited by Michael Byram, Adam Nichols and David Stevens.

Since that first book, LICE has published across a wide range of topics ranging from classroom practice, to study abroad, to intercultural citizenship. Some notable publications that show the breadth of the series are:

Although the focus of the series has been on education, we have also published books with a broader focus that advance thinking in the field more widely, such as Joseph Shaules’ Deep Culture: The Hidden Challenges of Global Living and Maria Manuela Guilherme, Evelyne Glaser and María del Carmen Méndez-García’s The Intercultural Dynamics of Multicultural Working.

We believe that the greatest achievement of the series has been to publish in the same series works that develop new theoretical insights into intercultural issues in language education and those that are very practical and offer ideas for the classroom.

The 30th book in the series
The 30th book in the series

Our 30th book, From Principles to Practice in Education for Intercultural Citizenship edited by Michael Byram, Irina Golubeva, Han Hui and Manuela Wagner, brings together a number of ideas that have been developed through previous books in the LICE series with its focus on intercultural citizenship and its presentation of teachers’ practice in language education in a range of different contexts around the world.

We are shortly about to release our 31st book Teaching Intercultural Competence across the Age Range edited by Michael Byram, Dorie Perugini and Manuela Wagner. This book aims to show teachers that developing intercultural competence is possible within their own power of decision-making and that there are various degrees of curricular change that are available to them. The book shows how a community of practice involving universities, schools and students working with teachers can develop teaching and learning, and includes self-analysis that shows the difficulties as well as the pleasures of changing curricula. This is a book that will speak directly to teachers as they seek to include intercultural competence in their teaching, showing how this is doable by providing a lot of detailed description of courses, and making it possible for others to use the book directly to reshape their own practice.

For more information about this series, please see our website