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Foreign Language Learning as Intercultural Experience

The Subjective Dimension


Arnd Witte and Theo Harden

Learning a foreign language in its cultural context has a significant effect on the subjective mind, ranging from the unsettling to the inspirational. The complex interplay between native and foreign languages, their cultural conceptualisations and discourses and the mind and body of the learner results in the subjective construction of individual positionings located «in between» the languages and cultures involved. These processes are not restricted to the cognitive level of learning but also involve deep-seated habits, values and beliefs. These habits, values and beliefs are to a certain extent the result of subjective experiences and feelings; however, they are also embedded in a socio-cultural network of concepts, norms, traditions and life-worlds, so that they are characterised both by the learner’s subjectivity and by the sociality and (inter-)culturality of their environment.
The essays in this volume explore the subjective dimension of intercultural language learning, ranging from theoretical considerations to empirical studies and providing stimulating insights into this important area of study.
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The Role of Corporeal Communication in Foreign Language Learning as Intercultural Experience


To address subjective experiences in intercultural encounters as far as foreign language acquisition is concerned invites discussion on a considerable number of scientific disciplines: first, those which pretend to determine what subjectivity of experience means, as analytical philosophy and cognitivist psychology, phenomenology and hermeneutics do. Second, those which are dealing with cultural matters as sociolinguistics, cultural studies, cultural psychology, crosscultural psychology, general vs. historical anthropology and crosscultural vs. intercultural studies. Third, those which contribute to language learning as language pedagogy, applied linguistics, speech act theory, psycholinguistics, learning psychology and learning theory. This list is probably just an approximation. The present paper will follow this threefold structure of dealing with the topic. Not being a linguistic contribution, this article uses the term ‘foreign language learning’ in a wider sense, ‘foreign language acquisition’ is considered to be a part of it.

Theoretical approaches

Subjective experience

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