An introduction to the concept of intercultural communicative language teaching and learning: A summary for teachers

Publication Details

This document is an introduction for language teachers to the concept known as intercultural communicative language teaching and learning. It is a summary of a Ministry of Education-commissioned report, Intercultural Communicative Language Teaching: Implications for Effective Teaching and Learning, produced through Victoria University of Wellington by Jonathan Newton, Eric Yates, Sandra Shearn, and Werner Nowitzki (the Newton report).

Author(s): This summary was written by Janet Rivers, based on a report written by Jonathan Newton, Eric Yates, Sandra Shearn and Werner Nowitzki of Victoria University of Wellington

Date Published: 2010

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This report is available as a download (please refer to the 'Downloads' inset box).  To view the individual chapters please refer to the 'Sections' inset box.

Section 4: Summing Up

The Newton report presents a new direction for languages teaching in New Zealand that focuses on the role of intercultural awareness in developing learners' competence in communicating in the target language. The report describes this as intercultural communicative language teaching and, based on its review of the literature, has developed a framework of six principles to guide effective intercultural languages teaching in New Zealand.

The literature review found a growing consensus internationally that learning a language additional to the language of instruction involves more than linguistic proficiency. There is recognition also of the importance of understanding culture, with policies internationally reflecting an awareness of the role that education, and languages education in particular, has to play in developing tolerance and understanding between people from different cultural backgrounds who live together in increasingly multicultural and multilingual societies.

In its review of the literature, the Newton report found a developing area of research providing a theoretical and conceptual base for intercultural language teaching and learning which views culture and language as closely linked; culture as ever-present in language; and cultural skills as important as language skills. The concept of interculturality in language learning involves a deepening awareness of one's own language and culture as one learns the target language and culture, and an understanding that there is a dynamic interplay between one's own and the target language and culture.

Interculturality fits with the New Zealand curriculum in that it aligns with the cultural knowledge strand of learning languages, which in turn, with the language knowledge strand, supports the main strand of communication. A key aspect of an intercultural perspective on language learning is that it broadens the goal of learning to include intercultural competence alongside linguistic competence.

Intercultural language learning has particular resonance in New  Zealand in the context of its unique bicultural and multicultural context. Such a bicultural and multicultural context provides a rich resource for learning an additional language, in that many classes will have more than the language and culture of instruction to draw on in developing intercultural language awareness.

A shift in the direction of intercultural language learning offers opportunities for all New Zealanders that will guide their understanding and ability to cope effectively with the growing diversity of languages and cultures within the country and in their interactions internationally.

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