Intercultural Aspects in Teaching English at Primary Schools

by Eva Reid (Author)
©2014 Monographs 135 Pages


Slovak education, including foreign language education, is going through curricular reform. Even though the development of intercultural communicative competences is claimed to be one of the key aims of foreign language teaching, recent research suggests that most teaching time is devoted to the development of grammatical and vocabulary skills, and that it is often difficult to convince English teachers that the teaching of culture ought to be a primary goal. From her own first hand experience of living in foreign countries and through teaching, the author has learned the importance of intercultural competence for communicating successfully in a foreign language with speakers from cultures different to one’s own. This study features a qualitative approach to the intercultural dimensions of English language teaching in Slovak primary schools, including observations and interviews, along with analysis of relevant policy and curricular materials.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • 1. A Statement of the Problem
  • The main research aim
  • Further research aims
  • The research questions with regard to the main aim
  • Further research questions
  • 2. Defining the main areas and concepts of research
  • 1.1. Concept of culture in foreign language education
  • 2.2. Communicative competence in connection with culture and foreign language learning
  • 2.3. Intercultural competence (IC) and Intercultural communicative competence (ICC) in education
  • 2.4. The role of culture within English language education
  • 2.5. Techniques, methods and materials used in teaching culture
  • 2.6. Intercultural education in reflection of the curricular reform in Slovakia
  • 2.7. Current research on intercultural communication within foreign language teaching
  • 3. An outline of the research undertaken
  • 3.1. Methodology of the research
  • 3.2. Research paradigm
  • 3.3. Document analysis
  • 3.4. Observation
  • 3.5. Interview
  • 3.6. Reliability and validity
  • 3.7. Ethics
  • 3.8. Sampling
  • 3.9. Research subjects
  • 3.10. Stages in research
  • 4. Research analyses
  • 4.1. Document analyses
  • 4.1.1. CEFR
  • 4.1.2. Slovak curriculum for the English language for primary school level (2001)
  • 4.1.3. Slovak national curriculum for the English language ISCED 1 (2011)
  • 4.1.4. Conclusion of the document analyses
  • 4.2. Observation analyses
  • 4.2.1. Conclusion of the observation analyses
  • 4.3. Interview analyses
  • 4.3.1. Conclusion of the interview analyses
  • 4.4. Conclusion and discussion of the research – Triangulation
  • 4.5. Implications and recommendations for linguo-didactics
  • 4.5.1. Recommendations for teacher training programs
  • 4.5.2. Recommendations for Continued Professional Development (CPD) of English language teachers
  • 4.5.3. Recommendations for further language pedagogy research
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography

← 6 | 7 → Introduction

One of the main priorities of the Council of Europe and also Slovak authorities is to equip European citizens with the ability to communicate across linguistic and cultural boundaries in an increasingly multicultural and multilingual Europe, in other words to acquire intercultural communicative competences. Slovakia as a full member of the European Union has an ambition for its citizens to be equally competitive in all fields of science, business, engineering and education with all the other counterparts in the EU. For that reason the Slovak citizens have to be able to communicate professionally in foreign languages and to communicate without any major cultural misunderstandings. Nowadays, Slovak education, including foreign language education, is going through curricular reform. Even though the development of intercultural communicative competences is claimed to be one of the key aims of foreign language teaching, several scholars believe, that most of the teaching time is devoted to the development of the four language skills and that it is often difficult to convince English teachers that the teaching of culture is not a secondary goal. Without doubt culture is an inseparable part of foreign language learning, and this is confirmed by Brooks (2001) who says that language without culture is only a set of symbols which can be misinterpreted, if they are not understood in the right cultural context. Another reason for addressing the issue of acquiring intercultural communicative competences developed from the author’s life experiences, which were based on many years of living in three foreign countries and being married to a native English person. Through this personal experience the author became aware of the necessity of being interculturally communicatively competent in order to function successfully during communication using a foreign language with representatives of cultures different to ones own. Ones vested interest and the weight being afforded to this topic by the governing bodies and authorities helped me to make a decision to research the area of teaching intercultural aspects, specifically to find out the reality of the role of culture and intercultural communication in English language education at primary schools in Slovakia.

The study was to provide a holistic overview of the situation starting with the Common European Framework for Languages (2001) its reflection in the national curriculum to the teachers’ attitudes and the real teaching of cultural aspects in the ← 7 | 8 → English language lessons. The first part of the monograph offers an insight into the theoretical background of the concept of culture in foreign language education. The role of intercultural teaching within English language lessons is analysed with many scholars’ recommendations and tips for methods, techniques and materials. An important part of this chapter is dedicated to the analyses of numerous studies on current research in the area of intercultural communication within ELT. Special attention is paid to three comparable studies (Europublic, 2007; Zerzová, 2012; Kostková, 2012) made independently within different countries. Some of the results can be compared to the current research. The amazing thing is that even though the current research was done qualitatively on a small scale, the results are very similar to the results from the other three studies, which proves the validity of this research. The details of the three studies are dealt with in the first chapter and compared with the current study in the conclusion.

The greatest part of the monograph is dedicated to research methodology and research analyses with conclusions triangulating results of individual research methods. The end of the monograph is dedicated to implications and recommendations for linguo-didactics. In this monograph the mixed qualitative methodology is innovative in the European context and it gets beyond the limitations of the quantitative methods normally used. Three qualitative methods of observation, interview and document analyses with subsequent triangulation were chosen. Different elements of one phenomenon were explored, inter-related and combined into a coherent, convincing and relevant explanation. The aim of the document analyses was to explore and compare the Slovak curricular documents (the pre-reform and current curriculum) with the Common European Framework for Languages (a reference document). As the CEFR does not specify in detail all aspects of cultural learning, I have excerpted and summarised general and communicative competences connected to culture and created clear models. These models were constructed by connecting theories on culture and intercultural communication with cultural contents from CEFR. The proposed models are presented in this monograph and could serve as a base for development of ICC at all levels of English language education. The document analyses show that the current Slovak national curriculum only includes less than a third of the set cultural aspects (based on newly created models from CEFR) which is considered as insufficient. A positive shift can be noticed in the elaboration of sociolinguistic and pragmatic competences, but a negative shift in the area of socio-cultural knowledge. The aim of the observations was to outline the real situation in English language lessons taught at primary schools in Slovakia. The most astonishing finding was that only less than a half of the observed lessons included cultural aspects, even though all the teachers were ← 8 | 9 → informed about the aim of the research and were asked to include some cultural teaching into their lessons. English language teachers were interviewed in order to gain additional data considering the implementation of cultural aspects into the English lessons. The findings reveal the fact that most teachers include socio-cultural knowledge (the visible parts of the cultural iceberg) into their lessons and they either neglect or do not realize the importance of the sociolinguistic, pragmatic and paralinguistic aspects (the invisible parts of the cultural iceberg) in the process of acquiring intercultural communicative competences. By triangulation – comparing data from the three research methods – I identified connections, but also contradictions. It can be concluded that many teachers do not know what cultural aspects comprise of and do not understand the importance of acquiring intercultural communicative competences. Most teachers rely on the curriculum as the main guidance for their teaching. If the curriculum does not offer well elaborated guidelines concerning all the important elements of teaching the language, teachers cannot be expected to know how to conduct excellent lessons including all aspects of the language.

The ambition of this monograph is to serve as a valuable source of materials and also as an inspiration for further research.← 9 | 10 →


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2014 (July)
Lehrplan Sprachkompetenz Gemeinsame europäische Referenzrahmen für Sprachen interkulturelle Kommunikation
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 135 pp., 4 b/w fig., 21 tables

Biographical notes

Eva Reid (Author)

Eva Reid is an assistant professor at the Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra (Slovakia). Her main area of research is developing intercultural communicative competences in English language education. She has published numerous research articles in this area and she is also the author of two English language books for primary school pupils.


Title: Intercultural Aspects in Teaching English at Primary Schools
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138 pages