About this paper

Appears in:
Pages: 4305-4306 (abstract only)
Publication year: 2011
ISBN: 978-84-615-3324-4
ISSN: 2340-1095

Conference name: 4th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 14-16 November, 2011
Location: Madrid, Spain


W. Tulasiewicz

University of Cambridge (UNITED KINGDOM)
Interculturality is widely accepted as the interactivity phase arising from the fact of Multiculturality. Though not confined to Europe, the movement is often identified with Europe, particularly the European Union and its institutions, largely because of the presence of growing numbers of people of different origins, using different languages, customs and religions who have settled in what is on the way to becoming a federal-like socio-cultural political unit (there is much literature published about the EU in member states of the Union).

If, in the words of a UNESCO Report, the people living in a multicultural society ‘have to live together’, then the same words can be used to define intercultural practice as the need to learn to coexist harmoniously in a safe, peaceful and productive reality (details in EU documentation published in Brussels offices and also in academic and practical texts, such as those by Byram,1997; Byram et al., 2001; ).

Finding oneself herded together involves getting to know each other and communicating with and among each other. While not the only way, communication is usually achieved by using language which, in view of the multiplicity of languages and cultures available, confronts both the proposers and the users with a variety of educational tasks, for example which language to promote (there is much literature available especially in the context of teaching English as a foreign language).

In attempts to achieve contact it is possible to identify two long established and practised ways of communicating with the others. One emphasizes communicating involving learning and using each other’s languages the other consists of getting to know as much as possible about the others. While different in the practical measures to take the two are closely linked, for example drilling the correct pronunciation of words or learning about a nation’s cuisine both involve using the resources of language (Tulasiewicz, 2010).

This paper attempts to argue for making full use of the fact that language is both the repository of the contents of the message as well as its transmitting vehicle. This can also be shown when considering the cultivation of acceptable attitudes towards the others, when it is necessary to match the form of words with their meaning. The German word ‘dankeschön’ for example does not always correspond to the English ‘thank you’. The advocates of multicitizenship, such as European citizenship, insisting on ‘getting to know and abide by agreed rules and regulations’ and prioritizing friendly contacts as a daily routine do not always pay not always enough attention to the language (Osler and Starkey, 2005).

The questions arising are: how does one communicate in a multilingual society and how much language is needed to get to know the others. In other words, what language is necessary to discover ‘otherness’, and does translated material really guarantee learning the true facts about the other.

A group of practitioners in four EU countries (GB, D, PL, EL) have been examining the role of language in multicultural contexts as an instrument of communication and as an object of studying facts about the others in order to get to know them. The concept of language awareness is being exploited as an object of study to draw attention to the similarities and differences of different languages regarded as an important component of their cultures (Hawkins, 1987 Hawkins et al, 1996), the aim being to bring the different national and ethnic groups closer together in the process of their sharing much of their cultures.

Language can, of course, also be investigated as an agent of distortion creating bias and prejudice and responsible for undoing much of the good intercultural work attempted (Allport, 1954).

This confirms the dual role played by language. Language, as language awareness, can be practised both as an agent of communication and as an instrument helping to discover language distortion and manipulation.

The work of the above mentioned group has consisted in the study of language awareness for both communication and miscommunication scenarios.

While using this approach much time is inevitably spent examining language rather than learning how to use it. It is felt, however, that in the global present day reality emphasizing the culture ingredient of more than one language is more likely to promote intercultural practice and coexistence than learning a good version of one foreign language which may not be the one most in demand.

The research group has been involved in teaching language awareness classes rather than one specific language in the four participating countries as well as examining the richness of languages to be exploited and the skills of identifying and deleting distortion.
author = {Tulasiewicz, W.},
series = {4th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation},
booktitle = {ICERI2011 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-615-3324-4},
issn = {2340-1095},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Madrid, Spain},
month = {14-16 November, 2011},
year = {2011},
pages = {4305-4306}}
AU - W. Tulasiewicz
SN - 978-84-615-3324-4/2340-1095
PY - 2011
Y1 - 14-16 November, 2011
CI - Madrid, Spain
JO - 4th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
JA - ICERI2011 Proceedings
SP - 4305
EP - 4306
ER -
W. Tulasiewicz (2011) INTERCULTURALITY AND THE ROLE OF LANGUAGE, ICERI2011 Proceedings, pp. 4305-4306.