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Intercultural language teaching and learning Some of the general aims of education are to enable the child to live a full life as a child and to realise his or her potential as a unique individual to enable the child to develop as a social being through living and co-operating with others and so contribute to the good of society to prepare the child for further education and lifelong learning.
The benefits of intercultural education for all children include the following: It encourages the child’s curiosity about cultural and social difference. It helps to develop and support the child’s imagination by normalising difference. It helps to develop the child’s critical thinking by enabling the child to gain perspectives on, and to question, his/her own cultural practices. It helps to develop sensitivity in the child. It helps to prevent racism.
This refocusing is reflected in the Council of Europe’s framework for intercultural language learning, which identifies the knowledge, skills and attitudes ‘which language users build up in the course of their experience of language use and which enable them to meet the challenges of communication across language and cultural boundaries’
A model of intercultural communicative competence Byram (1997), one of the foremost theorists in the field of intercultural language teaching and learning, proposes a model of intercultural communicative competence that has five components: attitudes; knowledge; skills for interpreting and relating; skills for discovering and interacting; and awareness.
Byram describes these as ‘readiness to suspend disbelief and judgment with respect to others’ meanings, beliefs and behaviours’, and ‘a willingness to suspend belief in one’s own meanings and behaviors, and to analyze them from the viewpoint of the others with whom one is engaging’, — requirements that apply to teachers as well as students.
Culture as practice from an intercultural stance Intercultural communicative language teaching and learning encourages learners to discover the less visible cultural dimensions of their own lives, and to use this self-awareness as the basis for being able to understand cultural otherness, and for making sense of intercultural interactions.
This is a crucial starting point for developing Intercultural communicative competence. Intercultural communicative language teaching and learning requires self-reflection, through which learners come to understand how their culture influences their use of language, and how their communicative interactions reflect their culture.
Intercultural communicative language teaching emphasises understanding not only one’s own cultural world but also how it relates to the cultural worlds of others. It encourages learners to look for similarities and differences between their own and another culture, using their own culture as the starting point. Comparing cultures is a practical focus for language teaching which allows learners to develop more sophisticated concepts of culture.
Language has a central role in the transmission of cultural codes; It is noted “culture shapes what we say, when we say it, and how we say it from the simplest language we use to the most complex. It is fundamental to the way we speak, write, listen and read.” language forms and the messages conveyed by them provide cultural knowledge.
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