EPisodes: Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age

3: Incorporating intercultural communicative competence into the languages classroom

September 18, 2019 Philippa Kruger and Juliet Kennedy Season 1 Episode 3
EPisodes: Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age
3: Incorporating intercultural communicative competence into the languages classroom
Chapters
EPisodes: Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age
3: Incorporating intercultural communicative competence into the languages classroom
Sep 18, 2019 Season 1 Episode 3
Philippa Kruger and Juliet Kennedy

Philippa Kruger, Global Head of Languages, chats to Juliet Kennedy, an experienced language teacher, researcher, and professional expert at Future Learning Solutions. Together they discuss intercultural communicative language teaching and suggest practical ideas on how to implement it in your classroom.

Acronyms used in this podcast:
TPDL = Teacher Professional Development for Languages
iCLT = Intercultural Communicative Language Teaching
NCEA = National Certificate of Educational Achievement, the main national qualification for secondary school students in New Zealand.
TKI = Te Kete Ipurangi. Resource centre provided by the New Zealand Ministry of Education.

Show Notes Transcript

Philippa Kruger, Global Head of Languages, chats to Juliet Kennedy, an experienced language teacher, researcher, and professional expert at Future Learning Solutions. Together they discuss intercultural communicative language teaching and suggest practical ideas on how to implement it in your classroom.

Acronyms used in this podcast:
TPDL = Teacher Professional Development for Languages
iCLT = Intercultural Communicative Language Teaching
NCEA = National Certificate of Educational Achievement, the main national qualification for secondary school students in New Zealand.
TKI = Te Kete Ipurangi. Resource centre provided by the New Zealand Ministry of Education.

Philippa Kruger:

Welcome to our third EPisodes Podcast where we explore teaching and learning in a digital age. My name is Philippa Kruger and I'm the head of languages at Education Perfect.

Philippa Kruger:

Today we are going to be exploring intercultural communicative language teaching and I have the pleasure of interviewing Juliet Kennedy who is an expert in this field. Juliet is an experienced language teacher and researcher, and has done extensive research in this area. She also works as a professional expert at Future Learning Solutions, one of the providers for professional development for language teachers.

Philippa Kruger:

In this interview we use a range of acronyms that I'd just like to clarify. TPDL refers to Teacher Professional Development for Languages. ICLT stands for Intercultural Communicative Language Teaching. NCEA is our National Certificate of Educational Achievement in New Zealand, and TKI is our ministry of education portal for teachers in schools. You'll find them in the description of this episode too.

Philippa Kruger:

Hi, Juliet, could you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

Juliet Kennedy:

Sure. Kia Ora, my name is Juliet Kennedy and I am a language teacher. I teach French, German, Mandarin, and I have also taught ESL. I currently work as a professional expert at Future Learning Solutions, one of the MOE providers of professional development for language teachers, and I do that part time, and I'm also part time studying for a PhD at the University of Victoria.

Philippa Kruger:

Can you tell us a bit about the various research that you've been doing for both your master's and your PhD?

Juliet Kennedy:

Sure. I got really interested in language learning and language acquisition research when I first did a course called TPDL and it really showed me how research and inquiry really kind of makes teaching more interesting and meaningful, and also it really helped my teaching practice. So, as part of the TPDL course we learned about the principles of intercultural communicative language teaching and I transitioned from teaching only French and German, which are languages I speak pretty well and know the cultures pretty well, to teaching Mandarin, which I was very unfamiliar with, and also I realized that whilst I could try to pretend to be French or German, I couldn't pretend to be Chinese because that was never going to work, even if I spoke perfect Mandarin.

Juliet Kennedy:

So, the principals of intercultural communicative language teaching, which really promote exploring and understanding different layers of language and culture at play, and trying to deeply understand where other people come from and how they are going to perceive you, and so they really put an emphasis on sort of exploring and explicitly exploring and understanding both yourself in relation to different cultures, and how other cultures in relation to you and how these things react. ICLT was also really appealing for me because I started learning Chinese as an adult and I knew that I was never going to get perfectly speaking like a native speaker, but I knew that I also had enough language and enough teaching knowledge and experience to teach it.

Juliet Kennedy:

So, ICLT really emphasizes that it's about becoming an interculturally competent communicating speaker rather than a perfect native speaker, which is what communicative language teaching really focused more on.

Philippa Kruger:

That's really interesting to hear, you know, what led you to do your research. Could you tell us a bit more about what your research focused on?

Juliet Kennedy:

Well, I was really aware because I was a Pakeha European, teaching Mandarin Chinese to a combination of New Zealand born Chinese kids that didn't speak Mandarin or Cantonese, some native speakers of Mandarin who were born in China and had moved to New Zealand, and then plenty of other people that came from all sorts of different backgrounds who, like me, were totally new to learning Chinese.

Juliet Kennedy:

So, I also noticed in myself and in my students that there was quite a lot of, sort of not really understanding cultural differences or interesting things that happened, and so I went into a Chinese classroom, a year 11, so 15 year old students learning Chinese, and I spent time observing that classroom and over one school term in New Zealand, and then I also had ongoing interviews and discussions with two of the students in the classroom, talking to them about what they've noticed, what they discussed in class, what they felt in relation to different aspects of things that happen in class, and also different presentations of cultural knowledge in class, and then I analyzed it and went through the research process of analyzing it and looking at how the students experienced this and drawing conclusions and so on.

Philippa Kruger:

And what did your analysis show?

Juliet Kennedy:

Well, basically, to sum it up, the classroom that I did my observations in, the teacher that was teaching the class, I also interviewed the teacher and worked with the teacher as part of this. This teacher wasn't familiar with the principles of ICLT, and so I found, first of all, that intercultural understanding and intercultural kind of curiosity and thinking about how other people relate to you in relation to how you relate to other people and differences that you perceive and notice. This can't be developed in the classroom or in life without plenty of explicit time dedicated in class to discussing things that seem different or weird that you noticed through studying another language.

Juliet Kennedy:

So, if we are to develop into cultural competence, which is actually part of what the school curriculum in many countries requires us to do, there has to be a very explicit, inbuilt, regular place and time for students and teachers to discuss strange or interesting things that they notice and flesh them out, don't just do it on the surface but go deep in discussions about these issues during class time.

Philippa Kruger:

And would you recommend doing that in the target language, or in English?

Juliet Kennedy:

That's a really good question. I'm a great advocator of doing it in whichever language it feels okay to do. So, if you're teaching beginner learners, they're still going to be noticing lots of different aspects of culture, like even if you're teaching French, just the fact that you give people a kiss on the cheek, and I think that you can do it in a mixture of both languages, deep discussions that will involve cultural and political and historical events or happenings or understandings.

Juliet Kennedy:

I think that most students in the New Zealand classroom will find that quite hard to do in purely the target language, especially in Mandarin. It's really hard to do, so I think that you can do it in English or the dominant language of the class, but I think that there are ways that teachers can facilitate these kind of discussions by providing sort of phrases that can do a start. I think about, sorry I can't think of anything off the top of my head, but you can scaffold this to be done in the target language, and I've done that in some of my classes using the NCEA interaction portfolio. We've had some intercultural discussion topics as part of the interaction portfolio assessment.

Philippa Kruger:

That's a great idea, and in terms of sort of activities for facilitating this, you know, you've talked about the importance of discussion and fleshing it out and going into a lot of detail about cultural differences, but can you recommend any class activities that will be useful for facilitating this discussion?

Juliet Kennedy:

Sure. Well, one thing that's really easy to do is to just use different kind of videos that you can start a conversation with. So, for example, last year when teaching year nine French, we were talking about school and the differences about school lunch times, and I actually showed them a really amazing video that I found on YouTube, which is about Japanese school lunch times, and I don't speak Japanese, I don't know Japanese culture, but the Japanese school lunchtimes are quite an amazing thing, whereby the kids help with the cooking, they set up the class, they serve their classmates, they clean up afterwards, and then there's an awesome video that you can also get off YouTube, which is Michael Moore going around different countries and sort of showing up how other countries do things in what he perceives to be better ways than America, and so there's a lovely scene of a French school serving lunch at the 'cantine' [canteen].

Juliet Kennedy:

Then I also got the students to write down what they do at lunch at their school in New Zealand, and we said, "Okay, what do you notice? What do you think? How do you feel? What are the similarities? What are the differences?" Just by looking at these three different clips of New Zealand school life. So, I think film is a really good, powerful way of doing it, but another thing that I really highly recommend, especially with junior students, but also with senior students, is project based things.

Juliet Kennedy:

So, in year 10 Chinese, I was teaching school subjects and talking about school timetables and learning the words in Mandarin for what you think of your subjects and why you think them when you have them, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, but alongside their language learning, I ran an intercultural project whereby at my school we had a large number of Chinese international students and I taught one in year 12 German and I invited her into my class and she talked about... Or first of all, I got my students to Google image schools in China, and so they came up with a really rich set of images.

Juliet Kennedy:

We sort of talked about what they noticed on the pictures, things like school uniform and school exercise routines and the way the desks and the classrooms are set out, and also talked about how they'd feel if they went to a Chinese school, what do they think they would find different or easy or hard to cope with, and then I invited a speaker into the class and she talked about her experiences of going to school in China and also in relation to her experiences of going to school in New Zealand.

Juliet Kennedy:

Then my students teamed up with an ESOL class which had students from predominantly China, but also other countries, and they interviewed each other, half in Chinese when they could, half in English. It was a big mix of languages. They interviewed each other about schools in New Zealand and in their home countries, and then they had a series of reflection questions that they kind of wrote up at the end.

Juliet Kennedy:

So, I think this project based learning is very rich, both for the intercultural development of the students, the reflections that the students ended up with were quite astounding and very in depth and they really enjoyed doing the project and the ESOL class also really enjoyed working with my year 10 Chinese class, which was predominantly, mainly New Zealand born students. You can do that with any kind of thing really, and there are plenty of other suggestions and also if you look up online you can find lots of activities for that. So, yeah, I think films are great to start and also using the resources that you have in your community.

Philippa Kruger:

That's awesome, thank you. That gives a nice variety of different ideas using both the video and having that interconnection between the Chinese class and the ESOL class I think is an awesome idea. Have you ever experimented, or do you know if people have experimented, with getting a class in New Zealand to interact with, say a class in France or Germany or China through using online communication like emails or blogging or social media? Have you come across that before?

Juliet Kennedy:

Oh, absolutely. I think these kinds of projects are happening all the time. I can't think of any off the top of my head, but this is definitely something that's talked about both in the classroom setting on a very practical day to day level, and there's been lots of research projects from students at all levels, including universities, which do these sort of online intercultural projects and that I think so long as they're really well set up and they have clear kind of outcomes and a clear focus point for the students to why they're doing it and what's the purpose behind it, I think they work really, really well. I'm sorry I can't think of any off the top of my head, but yeah, they do seem like a great thing to do.

Philippa Kruger:

To sort of conclude our conversation, do you have any sort of top tips if a teacher was thinking, "Gosh, I really want to work on improving how I integrate intercultural communicative language teaching." What would be your top tips for them? What would be the best advice you could give to those teachers?

Juliet Kennedy:

I think that a really good first place to go is the principles of ICLT, Intercultural Communicative Language Teaching. There are six principles originally done by Jonathan Newton and a team of other researchers of Victoria, University of Wellington, and these have become really well known throughout the world and I think you can look at those six different parts of the framework and ask yourself, "What do I do already that's intercultural, and what can I do to do more?" Things like using the cultural iceberg, using that as a starter for conversations with your students, and I think asking yourself how explicitly do I actually plan, and do, in class time intercultural reflection, like comparing, trying to be empathetic and understanding things from other perspectives as to why people do things differently from you. I also think it's really great to find as many opportunities as you can to help students become aware of what is their culture.

Juliet Kennedy:

So, having conversations, what does your family do at Christmas? What does your family find important in your everyday life, that's a really basic level thing, and then taking that, what do you do, what do you think, what does your family think, that's your culture and how does that look when you look at it in relation to people who live in the countries of which languages that you are studying. So, yeah, I'd say looking at those ICLT principles is a really good place, and building in that reflection time.

Juliet Kennedy:

There's a great article on TKI, which is a series of projects that are centered around ICLT that had been done by a group of researchers Adele Scott, Martin East, Jocelyn Howard, Christine Biebricher, and Constanza Tolosa, I think her last name is, and they give sort of case studies of teachers of different languages, I think in the intermediate school level, of how teachers have been on a kind of intercultural journey in their teaching. So, yeah, that's the advice I'd give.

Philippa Kruger:

Great, thank you so much and thank you so much for your time today. It's been really fascinating to talk to you and to learn a bit more about intercultural community of language teaching, and I'm sure it's going to be useful for the teachers out there that are listening to our podcast today. So, thank you so much for your time.

Juliet Kennedy:

Kia Ora.

Philippa Kruger:

In our interview, Juliet makes reference to Newton's principles for Intercultural Communicative Language Teaching which are designed to be a guide for teachers on how to interweave culture into language learning. If you don't know or remember what they are, let me list them here for you. The principles are as follows: ICLT integrates language and culture from the beginning. It engages learners in genuine social interaction. It encourages and develops an exploratory and reflective approach to culture and culture and language,. It fosters explicit comparisons and connections between languages and cultures. It acknowledges and responds appropriately to diverse learners and learning contexts, and finally, it emphasizes intercultural communicative competence rather than native speaker competence.

Philippa Kruger:

Hearing Juliette's thoughts on how to implement these principles in our classrooms was my key takeaway from this conversation. Some of my favorite suggestions were the idea of using photos and videos to generate discussion and reflection, but also the concept of connecting with an ESOL or EAL class in sharing knowledge with each other to broaden the cultural understanding of all the students. I hope you were also able to take away some inspiration from this interview. Do you have any great activities or suggestions for implementing ICLT in the language classroom? It would be great if you are willing to share these in our LinkedIn group, Teaching and Learning in a Digital Age. I'll pop the link in the description. It would be great to develop a bank of ideas together.