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Intercultural Aspects in Teaching English at Primary Schools

Eva Reid

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.
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Introduction

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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...

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