Acquiring intercultural competence

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within the context of the period of residence abroad

Sylvie Toll

University of Central Lancashire
Sub-project report July 2000

for The Interculture Project

List of acronyms 2
Introduction 3
Module rationale 4
Factors influencing the design of the module 6
Tutorial support 7
Aims and Objectives 8
Expected Learning Outcomes 8
Teaching and Learning Strategies 9
Assessment strategy 10
Syllabus structure 12
Syllabus content 15
Concluding comments 29


1 Assessment criteria for portfolio 30
2 Auto-evaluation sheet for portfolio 31

Bibliography 32

List of acronyms
B/D/A before, during, after the period abroad

C2 culture of the “other” country

CBVE Central Bureau for Educational Visits and Exchanges

IAR intercultural awareness raising

ICP Interculture Project

L2 language of the other country

LL learning log

NRAD National Residence Abroad database

PLL personal learning log

PA period abroad

PRA period of residence abroad

PP(R)A preparation for the period (of residence) abroad

RAM Residence Abroad Matters

SARA Student Accounts of Residence Abroad database

STEFE Student Teachers' Experiences in France and England database

T task(s)

W/S workshop

YA year abroad

This document builds on the findings of the sub-project report compiled in 1999 by St Martin’s College and University of Central Lancashire for the “Interculture Project”.

The 1999 sub-project report entitled “Raising Intercultural Awareness in preparation for periods of residence abroad” reviewed Intercultural Awareness Raising (IAR) practices in UK HE languages courses. It gave a brief overview of available intercultural training programmes in the field of business from where the “initial impetus” for cross-cultural capability came and where the “longest-serving expertise” was likely to reside (Parry, 1999). It provided examples of IAR learning activities of a cognitive nature as well as an affective, behavioural and strategic one.

The report placed the debate as to whether IAR is inherent to the teaching of Modern Languages in the wider context of the Leeds conferences on “Cross-Cultural Capability”, outlining the main issues raised at the conferences which were of particular relevance to HE foreign language teachers. The annual Leeds conferences are the main fora for this interdisciplinary debate in the UK, representing a multitude of disciplinary research perspectives and ways in which these can be translated into language teaching pedagogy.

It provided a theoretical framework for discussing intercultural learning within the context of preparation for the Period of Residence Abroad (PRA).

The report summarised responses to both the 1997 NRAD and 1999 CBVE questionnaires; these clearly demonstrated that interpretations and formats of Intercultural Awareness Raising currently practised in UK HE institutions were very varied in that only a minority of respondents addressed the issue from a cognitive as well as affective, behavioural and strategic perspective whilst the great majority interpreted it as cognitive knowledge of the language, sociolinguistics, literature and arts of C2.
Whilst many institutions run preparation courses ranging greatly in duration and intensity, it is clear that many HE language teachers fail to make the distinction between learning about another culture and acquiring intercultural competence. Cormeraie (1998) underlines a dangerous tendency in modern language teaching to view “Culture 2” from an ethnocentric perspective and states categorically : “Teaching about other cultures as a strategy for reducing prejudice does not work. Nor does it address the issue of cultural bias which can be detected in those selected aspects of the other culture that teachers ethnocentrically choose to indict or advocate in their course reinforcing in so doing stereotypes and polarities”.
In terms of current practice in IAR in UK HE institutions, the most systematic and rigorous programme of cultural and intercultural learning is Jordan and Roberts’s integrated ethnography course. This consists of an “Introduction to Ethnography” module in the semester before students go abroad, a monitored ethnographic study and field diary during the PRA, the writing up of the study on their return with tutorial support, the presentation of their studies as part of a final-year module on language development and a viva on the ethnographic study as part of the final year degree award ( LARA report, 2000)

Module rationale
The starting point for this module is the argument that the approach to intercultural preparation for the PRA must be interdisciplinary and that “capability in one’s own culture is a necessary starting point for developing cross-cultural capability” (Jordan 1998). Intercultural awareness begins with an awareness of oneself and one’s own culture; this implies an awareness of the role of the self in interaction and the ability to learn from interaction.

The module aims to equip students with the tools which will enable them to gain greater awareness of their own cultural values and of intercultural issues and to develop a working knowledge of life in the country or countries in which they intend to spend their period of residence abroad . As a framework, the module uses the four

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