Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

Intercultural Citizenship and English Classroom Language

Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

Intercultural Citizenship and English Classroom Language

Article excerpt


Tatarstan has always been at the intersection of religions, cultures, traditions and languages. The population census of 2013 confirms that Tatarstan is one of the most multinational territories of Russia: representatives of over 173 nationalities live in the territory of the Republic of Tatarstan. Consequently, the issues of intercultural communication, ethnic tolerance and peaceful coexistence of peoples with different beliefs, behaviors and mentality have always been a relevant area of study. The question of multicultural education in our region remains vital as well [Abdrafikova A.R., 2014: 544]. Globalization and migration of workforce have made it all the more important for the solution of current everyday problems, most of which arise because of inadequate communication strategies, crucial to the development of intercultural dialogue.

Among academic subjects, which focus on oral speech skills, foreign language lessons are practically the only means of developing communicative skills required by social intercourse. However, a non-native environment is a great challenge for teachers of English as students are not motivated to use the target language in everyday interactions. The formal frame of classroom procedures in Russian educational institutions suggests formal foreign language phrases to deal with pressing issues of daily routines, while students' language is based on their native language experience and depends on the associations with the corresponding own-language phrases in the learner's memory.

Besides, most of the English language teachers in Russia are non-native speakers and imperative sentences predominate in their classroom language, which is characteristic of Russian school practices but is hardly acceptable in intercultural communication. It is all the more true in the case of "clash of cultures" when "differences in culture between students and teachers mean that students from different cultural backgrounds may view, interpret, evaluate and react differently to what the teacher says and does in the classroom" [Bridget M.W. Palmer, 2015: 80]. "Intercultural factors therefore create the potential for numerous communication problems and intercultural conflict" [Johann Le Roux, 2002: 38].

The ESL(English as the second language)/EFL classroom is, by definition, a place where different cultures meet and interact [Theron Muller, 2007]. Foreign language learning in a multicultural class is successful if students are personally and emotionally involved in classroom activities, which happens when communicative situations are meaningful to them. As Dana-Anca Cehan puts it, classroom discourse should aim at interpersonal communication, not only pedagogic communication [Dana-Anca Cehan , 2002: 59-60]. Thus "teacher talk plays a very important role in the teaching process as an interactive device" [Liu Yanfen & Zhao Yuqin, 2010: 85]. It takes time and effort to create teaching materials that would stimulate speech of all the students from different countries and make them use target language in communicative games, role-playing, simulations, and other types of classroom activities. Teachers rely on coursebooks and other useful resources in their search for situations that might enable them to practice communication skills and help students better memorize the language covered in the lesson. But few of these resources take into account intercultural relationships in a class with students of different religious beliefs and cultural backgrounds. The teacher should adapt communicative tasks to the specific conditions of multicultural environments as real life situations are the most efficient means of developing intercultural competence and lay the foundation for a successful intercultural dialogue in and outside the classroom.

Literature Review

Intercultural issues in EFL and ESL classes have been the object of numerous studies in the USA (The United States Institute of Peace, Bridget M. …

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