Sessions / Intercultural Communication in Language Education
Language teaching involves a commitment to, and interest in, intercultural communication. In providing language learning instruction, practitioners are not merely sharing linguistic knowledge and skills in a one-directional manner, but are continuously negotiating and learning from their students’ dynamic experiences, repertoires, and identities. As English is a lingua franca, which facilitates communication across cultures, a sensitivity to the intricacies of interaction between groups from different speech backgrounds is essential. In an era characterised by division and remoteness, language educators’ roles have become even more paramount in upholding and promoting intercultural mindsets. However, these skills may be overlooked or complicated to build and hone.
This forum is a collaboration between the Teacher Development (TD) and Intercultural Communication in Language Education (ICLE) SIGs. Featuring a panel of invited speakers from the SIGs, each presenter will explore a different element of what developing intercultural practice, understanding, and principles as a foreign language educator entails. Following the presentations, the panellists will interact about points of interest and resonance, and there will be an opportunity for audience participants to share their reflections and contribute to the dialogue. It is hoped that this session will provide guidance for developing intercultural teaching approaches and language learning environments.
The global pandemic has limited student mobility, thus reducing intercultural learning opportunities. These sorts of learning opportunities remain crucial, however, for students to develop skills for intercultural communication. Many educational contexts are now faced with a need to provide intercultural learning by transforming curricula to online modes of delivery. The presentation outlines an online intercultural education course at Sojo University, Kumamoto. Originally established for face-to-face instruction, the course was converted to online delivery. Aims include fostering intercultural learning, developing awareness of diversity in English language, and supporting independent learning skills. In the presentation we outline the educational framework guiding the course, and provide examples of online activities including observations, surveys, posting opinions, and media research. For added context, we include qualitative data on how the framework, in its face-to-face application, was seen in self-reflective writing and self-evaluative end-of-course comments among 69 students. A content analysis using data-driven coding revealed some meaningful intercultural learning. Informal observations of learning using the online application suggest the depth of intercultural learning has been enhanced in the online course format. The presentation aims to offer teachers in other settings a potentially useful and relevant example of online intercultural education in home contexts.
Intercultural interactions have been mainly implemented in study abroad programs and researchers report the positive impact on the development of students’ intercultural competency (Jackson, 2008; Nakagawa 2009). Since international mobility has been restricted due to the spread of the pandemic, this study explores the possibility of improving students’ intercultural competency through a virtual international service-learning project.
The project was conducted with the collaboration of a volunteer organization in Vietnam. 12 English communication majors enrolled in my service-learning course participated in this project and engaged in interacting with Vietnamese university students as their English conversation partners. The interactions took place for 45 minutes in a small mixed group outside the class for one semester. During and after the project, students were required to write several reflective reports, which became the main source of qualitative data. A survey asking the image of Vietnamese was also administered before and after the project.
The results showed that students gained deeper understanding about Vietnamese culture and their image about Vietnam has become positive. They also acquired intercultural competence such as empathy, open-mindedness, and flexibility in addition to technological skills. In this presentation, suggestions for implementing successful virtual exchange will be also offered.
A 12-week online exchange was conducted between university students from Taiwan and Japan (N=75) with the purpose of raising cross-cultural awareness and communication skills. The exchange consisted of 8 Flipgrid activities, where students responded to one another through video recordings, and students also participated in 2 sessions of real-time small group conversation during class time. The purpose of this study is to examine the effectiveness of such online exchange in promoting cross-cultural awareness and student learning motivation. A survey was conducted at the end of the exchange. The feedback from the students indicated that 89.5% of them agreed that the communication skills they acquired through the online exchange were useful for their future. 84.5% of them felt that the exchange had increased their motivation to learn English. Two-thirds of the students expressed interests to take part in similar kinds of online exchange. In the written comments, some students felt a certain level of anxiety for having difficulty to communicate spontaneously in real-time small group conversation as compared to the recorded conversations using Flipgrid. In general, the online interaction was a positive experience for the majority of students.
The spread of Covid-19 has made it difficult for university students to study and travel abroad, which may affect students’ motivation to learn English negatively. Hoping to motivate first-year Japanese students to learn English in a class of a private university in Japan, I conducted five online language exchanges with the Japanese students and university students learning Japanese in the U.S. The Japanese students wrote a journal about the contents and feedback in English after every exchange. After the five exchanges, the students also answered a questionnaire survey with closed and open questions. The closed questions were made in terms of oral comprehension, production, and interactions from CEFR Companion Volume (Council of Europe, 2020), cultural understanding, foreign language anxiety, motivation, and pragmatic competence. The results showed that most of the students were able to improve their listening and speaking skills, understand different cultures, reduce foreign language anxiety, be motivated to learn English, and maintain a conversation. The open question also showed their positive opinion toward the exchanges. In the presentation, I will discuss the possibility and challenges of online language exchanges for the new normal era after Covid-19 based on analyzing the students’ journals and the questionnaire survey.
The International Virtual Exchange Project (IVEProject) (https://iveproject.org/) offers two eight-week exchanges each year affording EFL students the opportunity to interact with peers from other countries. In 2020 over 6000 tertiary-level students from twelve countries joined. This presentation will focus on a supplemental activity, the Student-Generated Survey (SGS), from creation and implementation to classroom application. The SGS aims to increase student engagement by allowing them to submit questions to all participants. Approximately fifteen questions are selected to create the SGS which are made available to participants. The large number of responses (over 1500 in the spring exchange), separated by countries, offers students a unique opportunity to discuss and reflect upon the similarities and differences of their international peers. This presentation will outline qualitative and quantitative data regarding student perceptions of the activity. Students reported that results from this activity helped them understand they had more similarities with their international counterparts than they expected. It was also found that student use of the SGS results differed by country. The IVEProject is maintained with financial assistance from a Japanese government Kaken grant and is therefore free-of-charge.
Humor can break down cultural barriers, but there are also vast differences regarding how humor is used in different cultures. These differences often complicate intercultural communication and can lead to embarrassment or isolation for language learners (Bell, 2011; Lems, 2013). A growing number of researchers thus advocate the inclusion of humor competency training in foreign language education (Hodson, 2014; Kim & Lantolf, 2016; Wulf, 2010). Humor competency training refers to training learners to better recognize, comprehend, and respond to humor in the context of intercultural communication (Bell & Pomerantz, 2016).
How can we include humor competency training as a part of English language classes? Humor competency training does not involve giving dry lectures on the humor norms of different cultures, but rather designing engaging and interactive communicative activities. The presenters will provide an overview of humor competency training units they have implemented in their university English language courses. These units include a focus on two modes of humor that are ubiquitous in many English-speaking cultures, verbal irony and satirical news. The humor training covers both interpersonal and online intercultural communication. A summary of class activities, recommended resources, and student reactions will be shared.
“In the modern world, monolingualism is not a strength but a handicap” (Crystal, 2006). While foreign language education may be able to encourage and support the development of sequential multilingualism in the still mainly monolingual Japanese society (Harding-Esch & Riley, 2003; Wang, 2018), implementation of linguistic competence without intercultural competence (IC) is not enough to guarantee effective use of the new language/s. IC is the ability to communicate effectively and appropriately in intercultural situations through the application of one’s intercultural skills, attitudes, and knowledge (Deardorff, 2006). This lecture-style presentation will first briefly explain multilingualism and IC respectively, and how the two are connected. Finally, it will focus on how IC can be practically integrated and assessed in EFL classrooms. Participants will hopefully be able to understand the importance of IC and gain ideas on how to practically incorporate it in their language classrooms.
Engaging students in online exchange has numerous positive effects; one is to keep students connected to the international community (Blake, 2000). This presentation focuses on how CEFR A1- to A2-level English learners engage in authentic communication with native English speakers through an online application during the pandemic as part of a two-month project. The purpose of this presentation is to share the project’s classroom practice and the effectiveness of its online communication exchange for speaking development and cultural understanding. In this project, university students learning English in Japan exchanged a video with students learning Japanese in the US. The main language used in the video was English. However, the topics included intercultural aspects, such as sharing stories about their favorite heroes. At the end of the project, the post-test speaking test showed increased gains in English learners’ fluency, accuracy, complexity, and lexical diversity, as the English learners may have picked up native terms from their video exchange partners. This presentation also provides feedback and comments from students from both countries and highlights issues that may arise during the project to assist future project organizers who are interested in conducting an international video exchange project.