Intercultural communication and cross-cultural sensitivity: related activities

Intercultural communication in face-to-face as well as virtual activities within a WE and ELF-informed curriculum would further expand learners' sensitivity to other cultures and languages through the use of English as a means of communication. Today English is de facto entwined with a variety of cultures (Alptekin 2010; Matsuda 2012a) and the study of global topics and cultures can favour learners' awareness even of their own culture (Cortazzi and Jin 1999; McKay 2002; Matsuda 2012a: 176). An important tool for enhancing learners' intercultural communication skills and sensitivity to other cultures would thus be the use of forms of telecollaboration (Kohn and Warth 2011; Guth and Helm 2012; Grazzi 2013). Specially created dedicated blogs, Facebook pages or the aforementioned eTwinning and Tandem spaces can offer valuable opportunities for learners to interact in realistic situations and to experiment with the language in ELF intercultural contexts. As Ware, Liaw and Warschauer point out, the 'power of digital media in the classroom stems in part from its potential to bridge in-class activities with out-of-class use, to blur the lines between formal instruction and informal learning, and to validate the wide range of registers and uses of English on the global scene' (2012: 77). The authors add that 'learners in the EIL classroom grapple with real interaction, in which the messages they send and receive - the literal, linguistic meanings as well as the symbolic and cultural import underneath the words - position them as representatives of their communities and cultural groups' (2012: 78).

The core syllabus should include activities for developing awareness of and sensitivity to different languacultures and traditions, as well as to diverse realisations of identities, forms of communication and expression of feelings and politeness. The activities should be developed in a perspective that, as Seidlhofer notes below, uses materials and tasks to enable learners to face situations by extending, as well as appropriately adapting, their linguistic resources to the contexts they are going to be working in:

How much language learners acquire is ultimately irrelevant. What matters is the extent to which whatever parts they have learnt can serve to activate their capability for using, and therefore for further extending, their linguistic resource. This capability will then also serve them well subsequently, for instance when they do find they need (or wish) to conform to standard norms where such conformity is contextually appropriate. (Seidlhofer 2011: 198)

 
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