Pragmatic failure of intercultural communication in higher education. A spoken discourse analysis

Research Paper (postgraduate), 2012

24 Pages


Table of Contents

1 Background of the Study
1.1 Introduction
1.2 A rationale for the choice of topic
1.3 Purpose of the Study
1.4 Significance of the Study
1.5 Questions of the study

2 Literature Review
2.1 Intercultural competence(ICC), Discourse and pragmatic competence
2.2 Cultural studies and Discourse analysis

3 Methodology

4 Data analysis of spoken discourse
4.1 Cultural words
4.2 Sentence level
4.3 Discourse level
4.4 Intonation

5 Discussion

6 Pedagogical implications

7 Conclusion

8 References

9 Appendices 24-
9.1 Appendix 1
9.2 Appendix 2
9.3 Appendix 3
9.4 Appendix 4

1. Background of the Study

1.1. Introduction

The issue of intercultural awareness in education has become recently debatable between the researchers, authors and Discourse analysts in the last few decades as a result of its importance in all forms of education for a better future. This led to that the year of 2008 to be the European year of intercultural dialogue (Marta-Christina et el 2010).

Based on the debate between the researchers that acquiring English does not have to be separated from acquiring the culture that it formulates, this paper analyzes the spoken discourses between people belong to different contexts to emphasize on the importance of including intercultural competence in the educational pedagogy and the problems that could occur in its absence.

1.2. A rationale for the choice of topic

In different countries, people interact differently as a result of having different cultures. Furthermore, they use the language completely differently in terms of intonations, ways of speeches, and norms. For instance, in some countries, it is impolite to speak while another is speaking. On the contrary, in some other countries, speaking while another is talking is normal.

Analyzing the spoken discourse has become an area of great interest of many researchers since the 1940s (Sinclair and Coulthard, 1975). The researcher of this paper is interested in analyzing spoken discourse due to the absence of cross-cultural awareness could be a high obstacle in understanding the message that is perfect linguistically. That could generally mirror pragmatic failure and in particular, in the classrooms.

1.3 Purpose of the Study.

As the number of non-native speakers has become recently increasing and has surpassed the number of native speakers, the culture of non- native speakers could not be ignored in the interaction between non- native speakers to native speakers or between the non-native speakers to native-speakers. Hence, the importance of cultural dimension in communicative competence has been also increasing between English learners and speakers. This research paper aims at analyzing many conversations to the language in use in different contexts for achieving the following:

- Highlighting the importance of intercultural awareness between English speakers / learners as well as the problems caused by its absence.
- Analyzing different spoken discourses on pragmatic failure in terms of words, sentence, discourse and Intonation.
- Defining the intercultural competence, pragmatic competence and discourse analysis.
- Presenting the relationship between the discourse analysis and culture.
- Recommending pedagogical implications to English authors, teachers, educational policy makers and learners.

1.4 Significance of the Study.

This research is considered precious due to its approach which highlights the importance of Cultural dimension in and outside classrooms. It also reflects the necessity of moving from cultural awareness into intercultural awareness in order to go beyond borders.

That could happen through refuting the mono-culture imposed by the native English speakers and encouraging teachers and students to apply the intercultural competence in classes. Furthermore, apply Intercultural competence in class rooms would be effective through encouraging students to move from cultural awareness into intercultural awareness (baker 2011). In addition, apply cultural-linguistic approach in English teaching (Jie 2010).

1.5 Questions of the Study.

As a result of the necessity of the intercultural competence /awareness, this qualitative study has been conducted to answer the following questions.

- In spoken discourse, is the cultural dimension important between the different cultural speakers?
- What is the effect of lack of intercultural competence on English learners?

In the forthcoming sections, the literature on intercultural communication, Discourse, pragmatic competence and cultural studies will be presented. Different conversations will be analyzed in terms of lexicon, sentence, discourse and Intonation then discussion and the pedagogical implications of such analysis will be addressed.

2. Literature Review

2.1 Intercultural competence (ICC), Discourse and pragmatic failure

As the importance of culture and intercultural communication internationally, there have been many approaches for cultural studies, not to be limited, ethnography of Speaking approaches, Cross cultural attitude approaches, Behavioral skills approaches and Cultural identity approach(Collier 1989). It is seen, the most important approach to culture and discourse analysis is the ethnography of communication by its founder Hymes and 1962 as he hinted with the social context of understanding others in 1961 and determined it in a conference in 1962 (Hymes 1967) then developed and published it in 1972. Hymes termed “communicative competence” which means that to be a competent speaker; you have to go further than structural concept and consider the social context and recommended communicative competence through “speech events” in variant cultures and laid out a frame work which is called “ SPEAKING” model (Hymes 1972). On the contrary, structural concept at that time has dominated the world, not to be limited, Chomsky (1965) stressed on the universal grammar which is innate and fixed. In the same track, In 1960s, language competence was defined in terms of “command of grammar” (Lado, 1961). As a result, language tests evaluated the knowledge of lexis and grammar with ignorance to the social context. However, Cliff and Wierzbicka (1997) confirm that Hyme’s communicative competence inspired so many researches in the sake of understanding cultural differences in conversations especially the norms of interactions in speech events, while Jie (2010) confirms that Chomsky’s concept ignored the culture and focused only on Grammar. In his definition to communicative competence, Hymes (generally defines it as it includes both linguistic and cultural aspects. (Hymes 1972, p.282) argues that “[c]competence is dependent upon both (tacit) knowledge and (ability for) use”. While Saville-Troike (1982) states that “communicative competence” has to be formed in the idea of cultural competence as long as the speaker has knowledge and skills brought in a situation.

In spite of the difficulty of defining culture, (Cortazzi and Jin 1999, P.197) define it as: “the framework of assumptions, ideas, and beliefs that are used to interpret other people’s actions, words and patterns of thinking”. While (Banks 2006, P.2) broadly defines it as “[a]n interrelated system of ideas, values, symbols, products, behaviors and so forth all function together interdependently”.

As the trend currently is to go across the borders of countries, the year of 2008 has been declared the European year of intercultural dialogue due to its importance (Marta-Christina et el 2010), many researchers intensify their efforts to highlight the importance of intercultural competence in English pedagogy. (Baker (2011) confirms the necessity of moving from cultural awareness into intercultural awareness through being aware of basic cultural awareness, advanced cultural awareness and intercultural awareness, while Warrin & peter (2009) mention that learners should not imitate the native speakers’ language and culture. Furthermore, they should have intercultural awareness of the target language, own culture and others. In addition, as the language could not be learnt without realizing the cultural contexts where it is used, it should be noted that the learner of the language is also the learner of the culture and intercultural competence could be developed to the learners by the integration of language and culture.

Sercu (2004) mentions that the term “intercultural competence” passed some stages. The goal of culture pedagogy has been modified from acknowledging the foreign culture into ‘cultural awareness’ then into ‘intercultural communicative competence’. As long as cultural awareness signals to cultural insight, attitude and identity development, intercultural competence, furthermore, focuses on performance and behavioral prospects.

In his broad definition to intercultural competence, (Deardorff 2011, P.66) defines it as “effective and appropriate behavior and communication in intercultural situations, which again can be further detailed in terms of indicators of appropriate behavior in specific contexts.” While (Baker 2011, p. 66) defines the intercultural awareness as follow:

“Intercultural awareness is a conscious understanding of the role culturally based forms, practices, and frames of understanding can have in intercultural communication and an ability to put these conceptions into practice in a flexible and context specific manner in real time communication”


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Pragmatic failure of intercultural communication in higher education. A spoken discourse analysis
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Elsayed Mahmoud (Author), 2012, Pragmatic failure of intercultural communication in higher education. A spoken discourse analysis, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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