Teaching and Learning Intercultural Communicative Competence

Theories and Practice

Seminar Paper, 2017

17 Pages, Grade: 1,0



1. Introduction

2. Terminology and overview
2.1 Culture - A Definition
2.2 Communicative/Language and Cultural Competence
2.3 Intercultural Communicative Competence (ICC)

3. Teaching Intercultural Communicative Competence (ICC)
3.1 Byram's Model ofTeaching and Learning ICC
3.2 Approaches in Teaching and Learning the Intercultural Dimension
3.3 Cultural Studies in the EFL Classroom - An Example Based on Byram's Model of ICC

4. Trying to Make Culture Graspable - Cultural Standards (Thomas)
4.1 Cultural Standards - Definition and Explanation with Reference to Byram
4.2 Cultural Standards - Germany
4.3 Germans' and Chinese's Social Norms - A Comparison Based on Cultural Standards

5. Theory and Practice - Exemplary Implementation ofTeaching & Learning ICC
5.1 Description of the Seminar Group's Task - German & Chinese Cross-cultural Encounters
5.2 Methodological Analysis of Students' Task Plus Reference to Byram's ICC components
5.3 Reflection of the Implementation of the Students' Task according to Byram's ICC plus


1. Introduction

Since the globalization, which also means internationalization, is constantly developing and broadening interactional encounters with communication partners being from different cultural backgrounds are constantly becoming more common. That is, inter-/cultural awareness as a competence that enables to interact and communicate adequately in situations that could lead to critical incidents is increasingly gaining importance. This means not only learning foreign languages to be able to communicate linguistically correct, but also changing position and 'stepping outside of' (Fantini 1991: 111) one's own view of the world, relativizing one's attitudes, and valuing the other. Whenever another language is intended to be learned or taught, it should be considered that language acquisition/learning never occurs without adapting and accepting - at least parts of - the respective culture, since these two components are inseparably connected. Thus, language is not just a medium of communication, but also a medium that influences our whole lives. That is language has an impact on how we construct our world view and vice versa (language determinism). Therefore, the use of more than one language also provides access to various perspectives on the same world (language relativity) and enables to compare as well as contrast views of the world with the other (cf. Fantini 1991: 110f., 118). Nowadays, the aim of Foreign Language Teaching (FLT) is more than providing students with the ability to read, write, understand, and speak in the target language. It rather aims an overall Intercultural Communicative Competence (ICC) that also implies a 'fifth skill' - the cultural awareness - in order to provide them with consciousness about various behaviour patterns and information to be able to succeed in intercultural encounters (cf. Council of Europe 2001: 43).

This term paper intends to give an overview on cultural awareness resp. Intercultural Communicative Competence (ICC), and its importance. Additionally, the ICC Model according to Byram (1997) is visualized and exemplarily referred to the English as a Foreign Language (EFL) classroom. Furthermore, it deals with a concept that tries to make culture graspable to a certain extent - the Cultural Standards according to Thomas (2006). These standards are, due to the presence of a Chinese course participant in the respective seminar, exemplarily visualized by comparing the German standards to the Chinese. Since this term paper is written based on a lesson with students it also contains a description and reflection of a task - case example - through which the students are supposed to apply the previously learned theories and are shown how teaching/learning ICC can possibly be implemented. Moreover, the task's reference to the ICC Model's components is visualized.

2. Terminologyandoverview

2.1 Culture - A Definition

For further comprehension, this paper presupposes culture as an orientation system, which is made up by specific symbols, universal for a certain society, and generationally passed on. Culture affects or even determines people's perception, acting, thinking, judging, and therefore defines their belonging (cf. Thomas & Utler 2013:41). That is, acculturation is a process of becoming a part of a certain 'system' (acculturation) and therefore also an element of the ultimate and inalienable Intercultural (Communicative) Competence (ICC), which students should acquire through the process of learning a foreign language (cf. Müller & Hartmann 2014: 18; Byram 1997; Byram et al. 2002: 10).

2.2 Communicative/Language and Cultural Competence

In order to become part of a certain culture (see above) the medium which provides access to it - language - and thus the ability to communicate is required (cf. Fantini 1991: 110). Basically, communicative competence (or language competence) corresponds to the skills and knowledge respective a specific language. It includes receptive (listening-comprehension, reading- comprehension), productive (writing, speaking), as well as cognitive skills (linguistic units, grammar) (cf. Nodari 2002: 10). But, since language is everything that is integrated in communication on a linguistic (i.e. forms, sounds, grammar) as well as on a paralinguistic level (accompanying features/appearances of language like gestures, behaviour patterns, facial expressions), it also entails four subordinate competences on a grammatical, discourse, strategic, and sociocultural level. These are even more important in intercultural encounters (cf. Savignon 2001: 17; Fantini 1991: 113). Cultural competence is, based on the definition of culture, on the one hand, the knowledge of a common system containing its symbols, norms, meanings, and rules, which determine behaviour, and, on the other hand, the capability of being able to behave, interpret, and (inter)act appropriately according to that particular system (cf. Jantz & Mühlig-Versen 2003: 3). To describe ICC communicative and cultural competence need to be extended by an intercultural dimension, which is discussed subsequently.

2.3 Intercultural Communicative Competence (ICC)

As already mentioned, language is not only about the ability to form linguistically correct utterances. Therefore, Intercultural Communicative Competence (ICC) not only implies the ability to be capable of producing linguistically correct utterances in the target language, but - according to the particular culture - appropriate ones, which are accompanied by the adequate tone, gestures, voice, and further interactional behaviour (cf. Fantini 1991: 116). Basically, ICC can be defined as

communicative/language competence - including sociolinguistic aspects on discourse level - extended by an intercultural dimension which also implies a cultural competence referring to one's own (see
above) (cf. Vogt 2007: 140; Byram et al. 2002: 10). Both, cultural and intercultural competence, are part of the curriculum in Baden-Württemberg (cf. MKJS 2012: 74) and thus inalienable to deal with in the course of studying to become an EFL teacher.

3. Teaching Intercultural Communicative Competence (ICC)

3.1 Byram's Model ofTeaching and Learning ICC

The developmental path to the acquisition of ICC is called intercultural learning. This learning process is intended to result in the acquisition of competences regarding one's attitudes towards and knowledge about other cultures, as well as general skills relating to all parts that are included in interaction with other cultures and its representatives (interpreting, relating, discovering, appropriate interacting) (cf. Haß 2015: 142; Moeller/Nugent 2014: 7). Therefore, Byram (1997) came up with the ICC Model which tries to define ICC implying five components:

Concerning attitudes Byram claims that students should be open-minded, inquisitive, and tolerant towards other culture. That means it is aimed to not only value one's own world view and take it as the only basis of judgement and behaviour. It rather aims - based on one's own culture (attitudes) by adding new perspectives on the same world - an increase in tolerance and respect towards the different other plus the ability to compare, contrast, and finally compose it to a multicultural perspective that facilitates cross-cultural interaction. Acquiring these

Factors in intercultural commmunication (cf. Byram 1997: 34)

striven attitudes also implies knowledge about the other culture, the social group with all its products, approaches to life and ways of living while not neglecting knowledge about one's own. This means that Byram's ICC knowledge is a relational knowledge that enables to compare differences, but also similarities between one's own culture/identity and the other. ICC requires "knowledge of the world from various perspectives” (Parmenter 2003b: 133). It is intended that students learn to appreciate other cultures and realize that their own attitudes are not the only ones which are true. Furthermore, also knowledge about interaction processes, such as behaviour patterns and gestures, need to be acquired. This actually is part of one of the two skills: (2) is concerned with the skill to interact in real-time and the capability of discovering new things and value them, whereas (1) entails the ability to interpret e.g. texts from the other culture and relate them to one's own culture. These four components plus a critical, cultural awareness are supposed to finally result in ICC (cf. Vogt 2007: 140; Haß 2015: 142; Müller-Hartmann & Schoker-v. Ditfurth 2014: 23-27; Parmenter 2003a, b: 20: Byram et al. 2002: 12f.).

The five elements are all interdependent and thus cannot be acquired and should not be taught separately. Generally, the ICC Model is expected to help learners to negotiate and mediate meaning on a cross-cultural level. Moreover, students are intended to achieve the ability to compare their native culture with and relate it to another culture.

3.2 Approaches in Teaching and Learning the Intercultural Dimension

The intercultural learning process, that leads to ICC, is based on oral as well as written texts that are

produced by the learners inside and outside the classroom (cf. Müller-Hartmann & Schoker-v. Ditfurth 2014: 23). The model is fundamentally implemented through experiential learning, which reveals to be extremely powerful regarding self-consciousness resp. a reflective self-perception. Furthermore, learning through exploration and discovery, where learners, for instance, can act as observers to detect details in culture-related behaviour patterns, turns out to be an equally good approach. But likewise, simulations and role plays are possible to activate background knowledge as well as to elaborate stereotypes (cf. Byram et al. 2002: 14).

3.3 Cultural Studies in the EFL Classroom - An Example Based on Byram's Model of ICC

In the domain of regional and cultural studies, as e.g. concerning Scotland and its legend about Loch Ness, it is essential to distinguish between artistic and literary culture and culture as a way of life (cf. Müller-Hartmann & Schoker-v. Ditfurth 2014:110f.). The belief in the respective legend is, for instance, part of the Scottish way of life and a constituent of Scottish people's (from the Highlands) attitude. Regarding the German culture there is no such phenomenon which is comparable and coincidently famous like the legend of Loch Ness. Now, according to the level of knowledge, the learners are supposed to acquire knowledge about the legend and concurrently learn to impartially deal with it. Furthermore, they need to learn how to compare and relate what they have learned to their own culture - as a way of life - and eventually find similarities. That is, they possibly likewise know something about such legends from their home town/country which implies that they also need to know/learn something about themselves. A possibility to do so, is via various texts, but also visualizations and promotes the students' skill to discover new things. To enhance the learners' ability to communicate, interact, and interpret (which is part of Byram's skills) a communicative approach is recommended, for instance, working on the topic in small groups. This, moreover, provides a less public atmosphere and facilitates free communication plus enables the learners to exchange their opinions and thoughts about the legend. Thereby, additionally, the students get to know other ideas and attitudes with which they need to respectfully deal with. That, in turn, fosters relativizing their attitudes by being confronted with diverse perspectives on a certain part of the same world (cf. Byram 1997: 34). By teaching ICC, as exemplarily visualized, students are gaining more and more tolerance and flexibility regarding different world views and perceptions - not just interculturally, but also on an intracultural level. They implicitly, as well as constantly, experience that their way of thinking, judging, perception, and feeling is not the only true existing one and that there are diverse manners of doing so. This, in fact, is what we need in order to raise them as respectful humans who are valuing each other.

4. Trying to Make Culture Graspable - Cultural Standards (Thomas)

4.1 Cultural Standards - Definition and Explanation with Reference to Byram

Thomas tried to figure out prevalence in behaviour patterns in cultures and thereby attempted to come up with a concept that makes it graspable to a certain extent. His research is based on various surveys in different countries. The investigations are based on qualification and were approached inductively through open interviews, whereby the respondents delineated their experiences with critical interactions and how they reflected on respective unfamiliar and unexpected behaviour while staying in another country. Additionally, the respondents were requested to try to explain the behaviour of the respective other cultured interaction partners. These delineations were also presented to people with longer experiences and residences in the respective cultures, then finally evaluated (cf. Thomas 2006; Kühnel 2014: 60). According to Thomas (2006) cultures itself are constituted by culturalstandards, which are determined by five characteristics:

(1) they are manners of perception, thinking, judging, and acting, that are, concerning a certain society, considered the norm;
(2) accordingly, on that basis, one's own and foreign behaviour is directed, regulated, and judged;
(3) they contain a regulatory function regarding situational, social, and (inter)cultural coping;
(4) the specific manner of coping with cultural standards may vary to a certain extent;
(5) behaviour, exteriorly the certain domain-specific tolerance limit, is declined and sanctioned. Generally, cultural standards can be defined as typical behaviour patterns or social norms (cf. Thomas 2006: 25).

It can be abstracted that cultural standards - and being aware of them - is part of all ICC elements, since they entail knowledge of one's own culture and the other, as well as knowledge of how to interact appropriately cross-culturally. Moreover, they imply the skills of interpreting, relating (to one's own culture), discovering, and interaction, and above are part of education regarding cultural awareness. Being conscious of different cultural standards - related to one's own - also results in an appropriate attitude towards other cultures, as it relativizes one's self and thus leads to a greater valuing of others (cf. Byram 1997: 34).

4.2 Cultural Standards - Germany

Based on Thomas' survey from 2006 concerning Germany the proceeding cultural standards were abstracted:

(1) Orientation on the objective - subject matter resp. the facts and circumstances are more important than personal issues;
(2) Orientation on rules - appreciation and searching for rules;
(3) Directness / Veracity -the direct manner/solution is preferred;
(4) Interpersonal distance differentiation - distance and tentativeness towards other people's (personal) business is expected;
(5) Internalized Control -Germans always like to have control over everything;
(6) Time management - time is precious and therefore must be effectively doled out (punctuality);
(7) Separation ofpersonality and daily/work life areas (cf. Thomas 2006: 26).

4.3 Germans' and Chinese's Social Norms - A Comparison Based on Cultural Standards

Furthermore, based on Thomas' German cultural standards, this paper aims to compare German and Chinese culture to a certain - limited - extent. Therefore, according to interviews with a Chinese exchange student and a Chinese researcher's article, the following differences and similarities concerning the two different cultures could have been abstracted:

(1) Orientation on the objective reveals not to be that important in China, the focus is more on personal issues.
(2) There is not as much rule-orientation in China as it is in Germany, Chinese people seem to be more flexible.
(3) Surprisingly, concerning the interpersonal difference differentiation, a great accordance in German and Chinese culture can be found.
(4) The greatest differences proofed to be found respective the Germans veracity and directness. Chinese people prefer to not raise resentments or conflicts, and always want their opponent (interlocutor) feel comfortable. According to Chinese perception and view on the world the indirect way is the most convenient way. This fact perfectly exhibits how different humans feel and how vastly their perceptions of the same issue - world - vary, since Germans absolutely prefer the direct way, which is, according to their world view, the most convenient way. Through other perspective this direct manner may seem rude and sometimes even raise resentment.
(5) A further distinction can be found with regard to Germans' need for having control over everything, which is not very important for Chinese people. They are, as opposed to the Germans, again, more flexible and maybe more even-tempered, at least it appears to be like that.
(6) The importance of time-management in China depends on the region and the social context. Basically, punctuality might not be that focused on as it is in Germany, but it is unneglectable either.
(7) Another enormous disparity is found in the concern of mixture between work and personal life areas. Germans enormously tend to not mix these, whereas Chinese significantly tend to do so. A reason for that might be the tremendous significance of Chinese's relation(-ship) and group­orientation. It turned out that especially these (the last mentioned) cultural resp. social norms are enormously determining Chinese life, perception, judging, thinking, and problem-solving (cf. Zhiqiang 2015).

5. Theory and Practice - Exemplary Implementation ofTeaching & Learning ICC

5.1 Description of the Seminar Group's Task - German & Chinese Cross-cultural Encounters

As mentioned above, teaching ICC mainly takes place on basis of oral or written texts (cf. Müller­Hartmann & Schoker-v. Ditfurth 2014: 23). Thereby, for instance, students are firstly exposed to new information on the respective culture orally or via written texts. Afterwards they are supposed to respond resp. create oral or written texts by themselves accordingly. That is learning and teaching ICC only functions through communication which seems to be logical considering that language and culture are inextricably interwoven (cf. Fantini 1991: 110f., 118).

Hence, the students' task is based on a written text which depicts the story of a German and Chinese friendship. The case example deals with a German family - the Beckers - that moved to China due to the father's current job transfer. Regardless the prevalent prejudice that Chinese do not honestly befriend with other cultured people the Beckers also wanted to establish intercultural friendships. One day they made the acquaintance of a Chinese family, the Xus, with whom they developed - from their perspective - a very good friendship over the course of lots of mutually shared time. However, it turned out that Mr. & Mrs. Xu were expecting some advantage from this relation, since Mr. Becker had an enormous good position in his company which from Chinese's perspective indicates a great influence not only regarding the respective company. Thus, the Xus subtly, but constantly told the Beckers about their successful, German language learning son who wants to study medicine in Germany - which is not easy to get access to in any case due to strict restrictions. Since the Beckers did not really respond to the Xus' attempts, one day Mr. Xu directly confronted Mr. Becker with the request to make his son get access to a study of medicine in Germany. He wanted Mr. Becker to use his position and influence to make it possible.

At this point of the story the first cut for the students is made. Based on the depicted part of the case example the students are supposed to put themselves in the position of Mr. Becker. But, furthermore, they are to take into consideration knowledge about German and Chinese culture and the social norms that determine their behaviour.


Excerpt out of 17 pages


Teaching and Learning Intercultural Communicative Competence
Theories and Practice
University of Education Weingarten
Sprach- und Kulturwissenschaft sowie ihre Didaktik
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
462 KB
Intercultural Communicative Competence; Cultural Awareness; Byram's Model of ICC; Intercultural Psychology; Cultural Studies; Teaching a Foreign Language & Culture
Quote paper
Simone Fay (Author), 2017, Teaching and Learning Intercultural Communicative Competence, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/371362


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