Empirical Study on Intercultural Communication Teaching for English Majors in Chinese Universities

Article excerpt

Abstract

The relationship between intercultural communication competence and foreign language teaching has been attended to worldwide for many years. Its importance has also been well recognized. In China, many universities have run Intercultural Communication as an individual course at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. This paper presents findings from an empirical research on intercultural communication teaching for undergraduate English majors from six universities in Yunnan province in southwest China. It focuses on students' perception of present intercultural communication course in terms of purpose of learning, content and effective approaches, expectations for teachers and suggestions for improving the course. Based on data analysis, this paper puts forward some implications on intercultural communication teaching. Teachers should help students to develop appropriate cultural attitudes and improve their intercultural communication competence so as to meet the demand of the globalized world. Meanwhile, collaboration among researches and teachers are advocated to improve teaching of intercultural communication.

Key Words: Intercultural communication; English majors; Perception; Teaching

INTRODUCTION

In recent years, an increasing number of studies have been done on intercultural communication and foreign language teaching, particularly on developing intercultural communicative competence. In China, with the increasing awareness of the importance of intercultural communicative competence, more and more universities have started to run intercultural communication course at both undergraduate and postgraduate level.

The trend for learning intercultural communication course is determined by many factors. Societies are moving towards greater interdependence and interconnectedness. How people from diverse cultural backgrounds effectively communicate with each other is becoming a challenging issue. University graduate are also demanded to demonstrate intercultural perspectives such as awareness of its own culture and its perspective and other culture and their perspectives, and to be able to value diversity of language and culture.

Based on literature review and problems identified in intercultural communication teaching, a study was carried out in Yunnan Province in southwest China to investigate the situation of intercultural communication teaching, and to find out what are students' perceptions of difficult perspectives in intercultural communication course, what are their perceived effective approaches and what are their expectations for course teachers. The study also tries to find suggestions from the perspective of teachers. Finally, the study puts forward some suggestions for teaching intercultural communication, particularly for the area like Yunnan where cultural diversity is so strong, and communication among ethnic groups are dynamic. It argues that students' perception of intercultural communication is important, as well as their attitudes towards their native culture, and that intercultural communication does not only mean the communication between China and western countries. It is therefore important for students to understand that communication among ethnic groups in a certain area or country is also important.

1. LITERATURE REVIEW

The relationship between intercultural communication competence and foreign language teaching has been attended to worldwide for many years. Its importance has also been well recognized. Scholars usually regard the publication of Professor XU Guozhang's article "Culturally-loaded Words and English Language Teaching" in Modern Language journal in 1980 as a symbol of intercultural communication study in China (WANG, 1996). In the past two decades, intercultural communication study has been developing very fast in China, drawing a large amount of scholars and researchers. The achievement in this area is also very obvious. A web search in CNKI (China National Knowledge Infrastructure) indicates that from 1999 up to 2011, there are 6133 journal articles with "intercultural communication teaching" as a key word. …