Intercultural Competence

Manila Bulletin, April 25, 2009 | Go to article overview

Intercultural Competence


Since there were paper presentations that dealt with policy analysis and performance standards, implications of such for reform in the different economies were highlighted. Moreover, for the Language Learning area, the top concerns that emerged from the discussion dealt with teacher capacity building, standards, assessment, and policy. An important paper was the presentation of Dr. Anne Pakir, a noted applied linguist from the National University of Singapore (NUS), who highlighted the concept of English-Knowing Bilingualism as a core competency in the 21st century in relation to the growing awareness and acceptance of multiculturalism and multilingualism around the globe.In terms of standards, highly recommended was the development of standards sensitive to APEC contexts and 21st century competencies, thus giving due importance to the three circles of English use: English dominant, English bilingual/lingua franca, and English as a foreign language. Communicative and intercultural competencies were also noted to be part of the standards to be developed for the learners. With respect to assessment, an appropriate assessment for diverse contexts, learners, and purposes was endorsed. The sharing of assessment practices and tools in use across economies was also found to be of utmost significance to the APEC region countries; likewise, the linking of assessment to standards, most especially, high stakes assessment. With regard to policy, the concern focused on the status of multilingualism and multiculturalism in APEC countries both in general and educational contexts.The nexus among realistic course objectives, course implementation, and learner assessment was highlighted. Since assessment seeks to determine if the stated goals of the course are achieved, applicable assessment tools should be employed. Thus, there should be no prejudice against the target learner, and attention should be accorded to the procedure with which tools are administered and the indicators used to rate the learner.To cite a concrete example, in English classes in English as a Second Language/English as a Foreign Language (ESL/EFL) contexts, teachers claim that they use the communicative approach. Obviously, this is a good move since the classroom teacher does not only teach grammar rules but moves a step further along, away from what textbooks dictate (most of which still use the structural approach), to tackle the sociolinguistic and cultural/intercultural aspects of classroom instruction. If it is true that the communicative approach is used, teachers should not only address grammar and pronunciation but also focus on the paralinguistic aspects such as pitch, intonation, and volume and the extralinguistic aspect which focuses on the non-verbal code such as gestures.One who favors the development of intercultural competence would know that cultures vary in terms of initiating and ending topic conversations, when employing gestures used to punctuate important ideas or thought groups.Let me give an example from the literature: Nancy Sakamoto and Reiko Naotsuka in their text entitled Polite Fictions: Why Japanese and Americans Seem Rude to Each Other (1982) claim that conversations can be compared to ballgames. For instance, the Western style of conversation may be described as a kind of conversational tennis. …

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