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

 

From Principles to Practice in Education for Intercultural Citizenship

This autumn we are publishing From Principles to Practice in Education for Intercultural Citizenship edited by Michael Byram, Irina Golubeva, Han Hui and Manuela Wagner. In this post, the editors describe how the book came together.

From Principles to Practice in Education for Intercultural CitizenshipThis book is the outcome of several years of collaboration among language teachers and researchers interested in the integration of language and culture in their teaching. We call it teaching ‘intercultural communicative competence’. We are part of a much bigger group called ‘Cultnet’ who have supported our work in many ways.

The concept of teaching intercultural communicative competence is not new. The ideas have circulated among language teachers for more than 20 years and are beginning to take root in curricula, in textbooks and in teaching. What is new is the introduction of ideas from citizenship education.

Citizenship education is attractive because it ensures that learners do not only learn about citizenship but also get directly involved in their community as they are interacting in the classroom and in communities. This is what we introduce into language teaching and learning.

However, citizenship education is inward-looking. It prepares people as members of their own societies and communities i.e. a national perspective. In contrast, foreign language teaching is international in its outlook, teaching the languages and cultures (the ‘languacultures’) of other countries. So combining citizenship education and foreign language education leads to a focus on ‘intercultural citizenship’ (not ‘international citizenship’).

Intercultural citizenship means language learners at school and university – from elementary/primary school to advanced learners specialising in languages – can work together on citizenship problems and plan together a response which is not inward-looking but benefits from a broader perspective.

For example, the book has chapters describing how young learners in schools in Denmark and Argentina work together on environmental issues, or older learners in England and Argentina work on historical and political issues which are highly sensitive, and gain a new understanding through their intercultural, cross-Atlantic cooperation. All this is facilitated by use of the internet.

The book also explores how learners and teachers understand intercultural citizenship. There are chapters from China and Korea as well as the USA, which describe how learners think they can be ‘active in the community’ or ‘global citizens’, a much-used term in education and beyond.

We think this approach excites learners and gives them something important and intellectually – and sometimes emotionally – demanding to do with their languages, in the here and now. We have seen this happen among older and younger learners, with advanced and with modest levels of language competence. They find themselves ‘making a difference’ in their communities in ways they would not have thought of if they had not worked with people in other countries and continents. At the same time their language competence improves – this happens because they are concentrating on what they can do and not only on the language they are using to do it.

If you would like more information about the book, please see our website.

Bringing together ELF and intercultural communication research

Earlier this month we published The Cultural and Intercultural Dimensions of English as a Lingua Franca edited by Prue Holmes and Fred Dervin. In this blog post, the editors explain how, until now, the fields of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) and intercultural communication have remained quite separate but their book brings them together. 

The Cultural and Intercultural Dimensions of English as a Lingua FrancaThis book is the first of its kind. It brings together two very popular, yet separate, fields of research: ELF and intercultural communication. Although these two fields have been very productive and at the centre of scholarly and societal discussions in recent decades, their potential intersection has seldom been discussed in scholarly work. We started the project because we believed that ELF without interculturality—as much as interculturality without input from studies on lingua francas—is a little-investigated area and thus represents an opportunity to question orthodoxies and enrich research in both fields.

Our understanding of interculturality acknowledges the socially-constructed nature of intercultural communication, and the limitations of discourses of “cultural difference”, “respect for other cultures” and “tolerance” perpetuated by powerful institutions, the media, and even early scholarship in the field. Interculturalists are moving beyond these conceptualisations towards more politically-informed perspectives of intercultural encounters. What consequence does this move have for lingua franca research and pedagogy, and for ELF in particular?

In his foreword to the volume, Michael Byram notes that our book “may also turn out to be controversial … and all the better so.” Yet our main objective is not to create a polemic, or to nurture or perpetuate spurious disciplinary boundaries, but to open up fertile and interdisciplinary discussions of the cultural and intercultural in lingua franca communication. The introduction and nine chapters that compose the volume, as well as the stimulating commentary chapter by John O’Regan, all discuss how “culture” and “interculturality” can be understood, theorised, and operationalised in ELF, and the implications for pedagogy. The book will therefore appeal to researchers and teachers working in the fields of intercultural communication and language, in particular ELF, and on lingua francas other than English.

For more information about this book please see our website