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Intercultural Competence

Concepts, Challenges, Evaluations


Edited By Arnd Witte and Theo Harden

This book explores the idea of ‘intercultural competence’, which, despite its current popularity across various discourses, has remained a vague and oscillating concept. Interculture lacks a universal definition and ‘competence’ is not only a cognitive construct but also includes psychological traits such as attitudes, affective aspects and constructions of identity. The essays in this volume approach the complexity of the concept from a number of different angles. These include theoretical models for defining the concept of ‘intercultural competence’, outlining paths for future research; application of the concept in the teaching and learning of foreign languages, cultures and literatures; exploration of institutional and sociocultural influences on mediating intercultural competence; and analysis of the concept’s impact on such diverse contexts as international business, religious constructs and notions of selfhood and identity. The volume develops a broad range of perspectives on intercultural competence, providing stimulating new ideas, reflections and models around this important concept.


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Part 2 Intercultural Competence and Institutional Teaching 109


Part 2 Intercultural Competence and Institutional Teaching Gillian Peiser Does the Revised English MFL Curriculum Give Us Reasons to be Optimistic about Fostering Intercultural Understanding Amongst Key Stage 3 Language Learners? 1. Introduction This chapter has emerged from an ongoing doctoral study on the signifi- cance of intercultural understanding in the revised English Key Stage 3 (ages 11–13) Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) curriculum. Using Byram and Zarate’s (1994) and Byram’s (1997) savoirs model as a basis for analysis, it explores whether recent curriculum initiatives are likely to foster intercul- tural understanding amongst pupils in Key Stage 3. The savoirs conceptual model has been selected since it comprises objectives that are most easily related to elementary learners of modern languages. Many of the other intercultural models assume a more sophisticated linguistic knowledge or demand an explicitly interdisciplinary approach that is not necessarily compatible with the structure of secondary education in England. The chapter critiques MFL curriculum documents, compares MFL policy with other policy texts and draws upon data from two interviews with a curriculum adviser at the Qualifications Curriculum and Develop- ment Agency (QCDA) with expertise in MFL (in May 2008 and August 2009) and an interview with the National Director for Languages (in August 2009). It argues that whilst policy makers have indeed aspired to increase the focus on Intercultural Understanding (IU), they have paid more attention to the need to complement general policy goals than inter- cultural languages pedagogy. This has resulted in a lack of coherence between...

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