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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 III: Theoretical Background and Contextualization: Pragmatic Competence


All ICC models and theories outlined in Chapter II emphasize appropriate and effective communication as the core element of intercultural interaction. While appropriateness is generally understood as “actions of the communicators [that] fit the expectations and demands of the situation” (Lustig & Koester, 2005, p. 65), effectiveness is realized when “people are able to achieve desired personal outcomes” (Wiseman, 2003, p. 193). Both of these concepts, appropriateness and effectiveness, pertain to the linguistic field of pragmatics. Moreover, the specific language competences identified in the different ICC frameworks are primarily pragmatic components as well. For example, Byram (1997) and Risager (2007) highlight sociolinguistic and discourse competence – next to general language proficiency – as those language skills necessary for felicitous intercultural communication. Thus, from an applied linguistic point of view, pragmatics and, in particular, interlocutors’ pragmatic competence can be regarded as central to successful intercultural encounters. Given this centrality of pragmatic competence to ICC, most “research regarding intercultural outcomes associated with foreign languages study or study abroad has been approached from the perspective of pragmatic competence” (Sinicrope, Norris, & Watanabe, 2007, p. 45).

In the following, I will first provide a brief overview of the field of pragmatics, including its historical development as well as the two branches of pragmatic research relevant for this particular study: cross-cultural and interlanguage pragmatics. Then, I will review relevant empirical studies conducted in different cross-cultural contexts, before outlining the developments in pragmatics testing from the late 1970s until today, thus providing the theoretical framework for...

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