DESIGNING AN INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT IN LANGUAGE TEACHING
Raising students’ intercultural competence has been one of the major issues in language education (Byram 2000, Kramsch, Léby & Zarate 2008, etc). Byram (2000) defines intercultural competence as: “the ability to see relationships between different cultures – both internal and external to a society – and to mediate, that is, to interpret each in terms of the other, either for themselves or for other people.” It also covers the ability “to critically and analytically understand that one’s own and the other culture’s perspectives are culturally determined rather than natural.” (Byram 2000) Kramsch (2010) claims that educators therefore should provide students with opportunities to help them define and design for themselves their “third place” or “third culture”, a sphere of interculturality that enables language students to take an insider’s view as well as an outsider’s view on both their first and second cultures. It is this ability to find/establish/adopt this third place that is at the very core of intercultural competence.
The purpose of this presentation is to introduce the joint research project which was carried out during the years of 2012 and 2013 in collaboration with four universities: Pusan National University (South Korea), Busan University of Foreign Studies (South Korea), Donghua University (China) and Dalarna University (Sweden). This joint research project was established to investigate ways to raise the intercultural competence of students who learn Japanese at each university.
The main goal of this research is to design a learning environment where students can actively interact with each other in their target language (Japanese) and develop their intercultural competence through these interactions. Other than developing their communicative competence, we aim at developing the following of the students’ competences:
• The ability to deepen their self-reflection.
• The awareness of the presuppositions they hold and the cultural basis of many of these (Byram2011).
This research is based on three studies (carried out in the spring term 2012, the autumn term 2012, and the spring term 2013). Five Japanese language teachers, one or two from each university, participated in the project. 17 students participated in the first term, 21 in the second term and 41 in the third term. The students from each university interacted online outside of the ordinary classes.
In our presentation we will describe the challenges we have met and what we have learnt thus far by organising this kind of international study (how the environment was prepared, how topics were chosen, what kind of tools we chose, how we made the students deepen their thoughts, etc). We will also present the learning results obtained by the students.