Academic journal article Utrecht Studies in Language and Communication

The Importance of Developing Multicultural Awareness in ELT Teacher Education

Academic journal article Utrecht Studies in Language and Communication

The Importance of Developing Multicultural Awareness in ELT Teacher Education

Article excerpt

1 Introduction

Developing foreign language learners' intercultural awareness is considered important for foreign language use (cf. Baker, 2012; Byram, 2012). Intercultural awareness is taken to mean an awareness and understanding of the language users' own culturally-induced behaviours as well as about the L2 they learn. Developing teachers' intercultural awareness aims at equipping teachers with knowledge and experience about how language and culture interrelate in the act of communication - be it verbal or non-verbal - and how variations in language in use may endorse different cultural behaviours and vice versa.

First, I will briefly refer the old paradigm in which we trained teachers pointing out that the ELT teacher training classrooms, like the ELT school classrooms, were primarily monolingual and monocultural, juxtaposing it to the new paradigm in which our ELT teacher training classrooms, like the ELT school classrooms, have become increasing multipolar in nature. Next, I will explore intercultural awareness in the light of the new paradigm and I will argue for the benefits that the expansion of contexts may have for developing FL teacher trainees' multicultural awareness. Then, I will report empirical research on developing students' multiculturalism carried out in the context of an elective pre-service teacher training course entitled Language and Culture for Foreign Language Learning.1 Lastly, I will outline the benefits such an approach may have in developing teacher trainees' multicultural awareness.

2 Old and new paradigms of ELT: The Greek case

On discussing ELT teacher training it is important to clearly define the teacher training paradigm in which we train teachers of English as well as the school context in which a good number of our teachers, if not all of them, are expected to function as professionals later on. The defining features of the broader old paradigm in which ELT teachers were trained in Greece was as follows: The overwhelming majority of our teacher trainees were native speakers of Greek, bom and raised in Greece. Most of them had learned English as a FL in the school system, be it the public or in the private sector.2 In this context, with regards to the English taught in schools and Universities, it was that branch of ELT generally referred to as EFL. The emphasis was on the teaching of a particular NS variety of English, mainly British or General American English, with the purpose of using it as a foreign language particularly with NS. The teaching of a particular variety of English was reenforced by the widely accepted understanding in the broader society that a FL should be certified to be used for job purposes in adult life (cf. Sifakis, 2011). In terms of Kachru's (1992) model, I consider Greece to be a representative paradigm of the periphery or extended circle.3 Roughly speaking, this kind of an EFL situation was to be found in the broader European context, too.

In the last twenty years or so, the unprecedented flows of people, goods and services have changed Universities in Europe. Increasingly, students with different home Lis attend and graduate from Greek schools (cf. Gogonas, 2010). After graduation, they enroll in our English Faculty courses to earn a degree. In addition, thanks to student and teacher/tutor mobility schemes of the European Union, there is also a good number of Erasmus students who enroll for a semester at our University. These students are most commonly studying in Faculties of English Studies in their home institutions. Moreover, in undergraduate teacher education courses there are Greek students who have had the experience of an Erasmus student in another European country. These changes have altered the scene in our classrooms - both in schools and in the teacher training quarters - transforming them into multicultural spaces. In the school context, the new paradigm can be represented as follows: LI: Greek + Lia, Lib, Lie etc. representing the home languages and cultures of migrant pupils vs L2 culture: English. …

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