26 February 2013

Cultural, intercultural, bicultural, multicultural - 1

I am setting out here to try to debunk some stuff I am finding somewhat hard to get around. It is likely to take more than this post, so I will start here with what I am trying to do and with some resources gathered to inform my exploration.

Intercultural Communicative Language Teaching is "a set of techniques", six principles "for putting interculturally informed pedagogy into practice"

"Students build their awareness of language and culture, their language knowledge, their cultural knowledge, and positive attitudes towards themselves and others. Intercultural communicative language teaching (iCLT) encourages students to make comparisons and connections between languages and cultures"
(Learning Languages Pedagogy, TKI)

In this 6 principles I recognise the following words that relate directly to Learning:
    - actively involves
    - make connection
    - social interaction
    - reflect
    - take responsibility

"The development of intercultural competencies" has become an essential feature of school education in NZ and other Western countries, and the responsibility for this falls to some extent, but not only, on languages education and thus on the Language teacher.

Statistics New Zealand, in its National Ethnic Population projections, informs us that Maori (+29%), Asian (+145%) and Pacific (+59%) populations will continue to increase their share of the NZ population by 2021 (that's 8 years away!), with Europeans only increasing by 5%. All ethnies bar Europeans will have a much younger age structure on average of NZ population bar Europeans,  who are overall getting older. And all ethnies bar Europeans will have more babies thus more children going through school. Add to this the growing diversity of cultures, backgrounds, religions and languages that migrants bring to any NZ regions (example in the Bay of Plenty) and it is looking vibrant indeed!

All of these reasons (and the specific context of teaching Languages in Aotearoa NZ) makes me want to move on with "developing my intercultural competencies" as this multicultural mix is coming to a classroom near me rapidly (or is already there depending where you are located geographically).


These are all reasons why as a teacher of French,  I am not to merely transmitting information about my culture but I have "focus on raising awareness of culture and culture-in-language in the lived experience of the students and people from the target language culture(s) as well as other cultures present in a classroom or community"

 Language learning itself won't necessarily foster a positive attitude to other's culture hence the need for interculturality to be addressed explicitly and openly in the classroom.

What does interculturally informed pedagogy look like in the language classroom?

  • construct knowledge through EXPLORING cultural practices
  • make CONNECTIONS between cultures, and between existing knowledge of culture and language, and new learning
  • social INTERACTION that involve communicating across cultural boundaries
  • REFLECT ‘critically and constructively on linguistic and cultural differences and similarities’
  • TAKE responsibility for their intercultural growth, assisted by teachers who, for example, foster engagement with difference and awareness of stereotypes. (Ref: Dellit 2005, pp. 26–28)
I would like to discuss this specifically to think of actions in the classroom that support this (use of some radical controversial materials to engage? role playing? online communication with native speakers? make culture explicit, open with key questions to wonder about eg: how do they do it, how do I do it, is it different, the same, what do I notice, why, what do I learn from it, what do I learn about my own culture, myself from what I have learnt? )

What is iCLT setting out to do?

"to foster interculturally competent learners who can confidently navigate intercultural interactions and relationships"
  • who are tolerant and have a positive attitude towards others' culture,
  • who can communicate with a native speaker without necessarily being fluent themselves,
  • who welcome diversity and also are able to see some universal similarities amongst cultures including their own,
  • who can confront and reflect on their preconceptions and prejudices,
  • who can resolve and/or learn from misunderstandings arising from miscommunication,
  • who develops a strong sense of one's own identity
    who is a cultural intermediary between one' s own culture and the foreign culture
So what do I do as Language teacher?

I am a French teacher who is French. "What does it mean to me to be French?" "What does it mean to be French in NZ?" "What makes me French?" "Who am I?" are questions that I am now more curious to think about. And if I am to grow a culturally responsive pedagogy, I ought to develop intercultural competences which ban assumptions, distance myself from conventional attitudes about differences, show deep interest in others' cultures, including of my students in my classroom, provide these students with the opportunity to not only eplore another culture and language but above all gain or strengthen their awareness of their own cultural and language through discovering another.

To move forward with this I need to go back and the urgency is to know my students, all of them, for who they are really.
And to learn to do that in a New Zealand context I want to turn to the kaupapa around teaching/learning strategies for Maōri learners and raising Cultural Responsiveness.

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