Intercultural studies in second language education

Intercultural studies in second language education

Convener: Ana Matos

The rationale for our focus highlights the imperative of researching the intercultural dimension in language education and the concepts that underpin it.

As greater diversity and rapid transformation have become part of our lives, we aim to explore the potential, possibilities and limitations of intercultural concepts and models applied to second language learning in educational contexts, from primary to higher education. Through theoretical and empirical investigation and comparative research we aim to examine the meanings and values, the complexities and limitations of terms such as “cultural awareness”, “identity”, “intercultural communicative competence”, “plurilingual competence” and “multiliteracy practices”.

The Council of Europe recognizes the importance of intercultural competence (Council of Europe, 2017) and of intercultural citizenship education (Council of Europe, 2016) in key reference documents meant to guide the learning process of foreign languages across Europe and, increasingly, in other countries. This reinforces the urgency of examining the role that intercultural education and intercultural citizenship education should play in educating citizens for the 21st century when assuming the responsibility of promoting social and linguistic diversity as sources of wealth; in requiring cultural translation, mediation and interpretative practice as tools to generate mutual intelligibilities between different worldviews; and in contributing to more engaged and critical citizens for a more inclusive world.

The use of languages as a medium of communication and as social construction offer a space for intercultural citizenship to inspire and complement education in second language education. Interculturality is here used as a research space generating interdisciplinary dialogue between different scientific fields, and seeking to promote intersections with the other strands that form the core of TEALS: b) CLIL; c) Languages, curriculum and teacher education; and d) Translationality.

Continuing the work developed so far, some of our aims are:

  • – To investigate practices and approaches to intercultural education and citizenship education, and its assessment, in second language education in Portugal;
  • – To examine the role of literature (including non-canonical texts such as illustrated narratives) and multiliteracy practices in supporting intercultural education and citizenship education;
  • – To engage in international exchanges, teaching experience and dialogue with colleagues who work in cognate areas of academic expertise.
  • – To collaborate in research projects within the MA and PhD programmes in language education.
  • – To strengthen contacts and cooperation with colleagues who work within second language education and citizenship education;
  • – To promote joint actions (projects; Erasmus exchanges) with a view to comparing multiple contexts (methodologies; teacher education; teaching practice; curricula; resources);
  • – To explore new possibilities of intercultural analysis within the scope of comparative studies.

Key references:

Council of Europe (2017). Common European Framework of Reference for Languages – Learning, Teaching, Assessment. Companion volume with new descriptors. Strasbourg: Council of Europe.

Council of Europe (2016). Competences for Democratic Culture: Living together as equals in culturally diverse democratic societies. Strasbourg: Council of Europe.

Byram, M. (2014) ‘Twenty-five years on – from cultural studies to intercultural citizenship’, Language, culture and curriculum, 27 (3). pp. 209-225.

Guilherme, M. & G. Dietz (2015) Difference in diversity: multiple perspectives on multicultural, intercultural, and transcultural conceptual complexities, Journal of Multicultural Discourses, 10:1, 1-21.