Innovation in Language Learning

Edition 16

Accepted Abstracts

Focusing on Intercultural Communication through English: An Analysis of Learners' Responses

Anna Maria De Bartolo, University of Calabria (Italy)


The study centres around the idea that second language learning and use is an intercultural process. The global role of English as a primary means of intercultural communication has highlighted the need to develop intercultural competences in language learners. The more learners are able to see that different cultures represent equally legitimate ways of looking at the world, the higher is the chance for them to act like intercultural citizens. Based on these premises, the study will attempt to explore the relationship between language and culture from a cultural and intercultural perspective, drawing on the concept of linguistic and “cultural flows” (Pennycook, 2007) as well as on the idea that culture and language are “nested systems, systems within systems, which mutually co-evolve with each influencing and adapting to the other and with the boundaries between them as fuzzy and blurred” (Baker, 2015:88). Secondly, the intercultural nature of English will be highlighted in the attempt to identify which factors are more likely to contribute to successful intercultural communication. In the specific, the study will analyse the attitudes of two groups. The first sample is composed of students belonging to different first language backgrounds, mainly non-native speakers of English studying in a non-target language environment, the University of Calabria (South of Italy). The second sample is made up of both native and non-native English speakers studying in target-language environments, Chicago Loyola University (USA) and University of Alberta (Canada) where English is not only the main means of communication but also the main medium of academic instruction. An online link to a questionnaire was sent via email to all participants and was used as a research instrument to collect quantitative data. Overall, 226 participants responded and data were analysed using SPSS. In particular, the study will investigate whether exposure to non-native English and familiarity with multicultural academic communities, leads participants to manifest more or less positive attitudes and awareness towards the relation between culture and language and the factors facilitating or hindering intercultural communication. Finally, native/non-native speakers responses will be compared.
The purpose will be to shed further light on the factors affecting intercultural communication through English, in the hope to gain useful insights that may encourage language teachers to incorporate Intercultural Communication issues in the language classroom. The preliminary results will be presented and pedagogical considerations suggested.

Keywords: Intercultural Communication; Language and culture; non-native varieties of English

[1] Baker, Will (2015). Culture and identity through English as a Lingua Franca: rethinking concepts and goals in Intercultural Communication. de Gruyter: Berlin/Boston.
[2] Pennycook, Alastair (2007). Global Englishes and transcultural flows. London: Routledge.

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