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Assessing Intercultural Language Learning

The Dependence of Receptive Sociopragmatic Competence and Discourse Competence on Learning Opportunities and Input


Veronika Timpe

Although Intercultural Communicative Competence (ICC) has become a key objective in foreign language (FL) education, curricula offer little in how language teachers can promote ICC through language instruction. This book responds to the challenge of how intercultural language learning can be accounted for more profoundly in FL teaching. By means of innovative intercultural assessments, the author investigates the development of three language competences central to ICC in relation to learning opportunities as experienced by German learners of English. Audiovisual media were found to be a major input factor in the development of intercultural language abilities. The book ends with a discussion of how audiovisual media can be implemented in secondary and tertiary FL and teacher education.
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Chapter I: Introduction: ICC, Pragmatics, and Language Learning


In this introductory chapter, I will briefly outline basic considerations and principles that gave rise to the research project and as such also provide the groundwork, underpinning theories, and discussions presented in this study.

Intercultural language learning is a key concept in European language education. The intercultural focus in foreign and second language education aims to prepare learners to use a given language in order to interact with

people for whom it is their preferred and ‘natural’ medium of experience, those we call ‘native speakers’, as well as in lingua franca situations where it is an estranging and sometimes disturbing means of coping with the world for all concerned. (Byram, 1997, p. 3)

Thus, not only do students need to learn vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation, but they also need to learn how to use the given language appropriately in different communicative encounters, depending on factors such as relationships between interlocutors, settings, and sociocultural contexts (Washburn, 2001). Hence, foreign and second language students also need to learn about (socio)pragmatic phenomena in order to develop what has been labeled ‘intercultural communicative competence’ (ICC) – the ability to interact with speakers from different language and culture backgrounds in a target language.

However, pragmatic phenomena have proven to be particularly challenging for L2 learners – especially, because pragmatic phenomena are oftentimes not recognized as a part of language competence. For example, in a conversational encounter between a native speaker and an L2 learner, grammar or vocabulary mistakes...

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