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INTERMAR: intercomprehension at sea

(EU Key Activity 2 (KA2) multilateral project) Alison NOBLE Senior Lecturer in Maritime English, Antwerp Maritime Academy, Oostkasteel Noord 6, 2030 Antwerp, Belgium. alison.noble@hzs.be Tel. +32 (0)3 205 64 30 Fax. +32 (0)3 225 06 39 ABSTRACT Umberto Eco (2000, 19) hoped that Europe might evolve into a kind of linguistic Utopia in which there existed perfect reciprocal understanding between speakers/writers of different languages. This understanding would then lead to an ability to use the language(s) in question productively, thus adding to plurilingual competences. His particular version of Utopia involved intercomprehension or the use of linguistic and non-linguistic skills and knowledge to unlock the secrets of hitherto unknown languages. However, you dont have to be a linguist to unlock the door. It is known that in general human beings rely on a wide range of interpretive processes to decode unfamiliar or seemingly unintelligible messages. The capacity to interpret languages and to tap previous funds of knowledge lies within all of us but recognition or awareness of this ability is often lacking. INTERMAR is a EU Key Activity 2 (KA2) multilateral project that aims to create a community of maritime and naval institutions that share an IC (intercomprehension) approach to foreign languages. A consortium of 18 partners, including 8 maritime or naval academies will create IC and Maritime English modules for formal blended courses. By enhancing maritime students awareness of IC, the tailored modules encourage the learner to acquire the strategies needed for the understanding of texts and utterances of any new language they might encounter. Future maritime professionals thus add to their range of skills for coping with todays multi-ethic, multilingual crews. One entire module within the project is dedicated to Maritime English whilst other modules encompass the role of (Maritime) English as a bridging language. The workshop will preview some of the materials created for the INTERMAR modules and offer participants the chance to take part in IC activities. Time will be allocated to structured discussion on the potential benefits of using IC in maritime academies. KEYWORDS Intercomprehension, plurilingual competences, interpretative processes, learning strategies, Maritime English, blended learning. Erik HEMMING Senior Lecturer in Languages, land University of Applied Sciences, PB 1010, AX-22111 Mariehamn, Finland. ehe@ha.ax, Tel. +358 (0)18 5370 Fax. +358 (0)18 16913

INTERMAR: intercomprehension at sea


(EU Key Activity 2 (KA2) multilateral project) INTRODUCTION In linguistic terms intercomprehension (Fr)1 may be described as a form of natural communication where everyone speaks their own language and, at the same time, is able to understand their interlocuter/s. Umberto Eco (2000, 19) dreamed of Europe as a kind of linguistic Utopia in which there existed perfect reciprocal understanding between speakers and/or writers of different languages. This understanding would, in turn, lead to an ability to use the language(s) in question productively, thus adding to plurilingual competences. Intercomprehension can be used as a starting point, a trigger or a tool for language learning. It may also be viewed as an educational goal in itself. The concept of intercomprehension as a means of developing and acquiring a plurilingual repertoire has given rise over the last few decades to different pedagogical initiatives to develop language skills or to facilitate communication. Emphasis during the learning process is placed on receptive skills, prior knowledge, learning strategies and, most often, on a common linguistic heritage (IC2012). Promoters of intercomprehension encourage the integration of IC education, procedures and practices into curricula in order to facilitate the acquisition of linguistic skills and competences. As stated, a common linguistic heritage most often acts as the stepping-stone to enhanced plurilingual competences. It is easier for the learner to decode a foreign language if he or she already knows another language from the same language group (e.g. Germanic, Romanic, Slavic). Thus a Dutch speaker, for example, will find some elements of Swedish familiar, and vice versa. These elements may include language group vocabulary, spelling and pronunciation and syntactic structures, amongst others. Grzega (2005) refers to Haugen, who coined the term semicommunication, whereby a speaker of, for example, a Scandinavian language (Danish, Swedish, Norwegian) uses his/her mother tongue and the respective hearer tries to understand through his/her passive command of the speakers (frequently genetically related) language. This passive command is also termed receptive multilingualism (Grzega, 2005: 2). In todays global village it is often the case, however, that participants in a communicative event, be it social or work-related, speak languages which are unrelated; in other words they come from different language families. In such situations any attempt to make, for example, lexical associations would be in vain. The interlocutor would be reduced to searching for internationalisms2 which he or she may recognise. This would not be enough, however, to render the communicative interaction successful. This is when English steps into the breach and proves its worth as a decoding aid for target
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Also sometimes referred to as IC. Examples of so-called internationalisations are jeans, lunch, manager, football, shopping (Grzega, 2005: 3)

languages. English, for the time being, has come to be ranked as the most prominent second language in the world. Certainly amongst young people, there is an everincreasing desire and need to use English as a means of communicating with peers who speak a different language. The ability to communicate using English as a bridge language is a common phenomenon of the 21st century. Thus, capitalising on peoples general knowledge of English and highlighting its use in bridging the linguistic gap have come to prove valuable tools in the acquisition of intercomprehension competences. The IC approach is not only used for the development of receptive skills within languages of the same family Romance, Germanic and Slavonic languages but also for negotiating borders between language families. Rationale: IC and the maritime community The need for IC development and its institutional inclusion has been recognised by the European Commission. The Communication from the Commission to the European Parliaments Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, Multilingualism: an asset for Europe and a shared commitment (2008: 10) states that the value of passive language knowledge should be further explored, and appropriate language learning methods enhanced to allow understanding and basic communication across different languages. However the concrete applications of IC in the institutional contexts of language learning are still very few3. Maritime education and training (MET) institutions and naval academies may be one of the most receptive formal contexts for the implementation of IC in language courses. Prospective seafarers entering the Merchant Marine or the Navy are highly motivated to communicate across language and cultural borders and several of the partner institutions have already found that interest in IC language training is spontaneous. Seafarers are, of course, required to conduct their professional tasks in English, the lingua franca of the sea. The acquisition of Maritime English is thus of key importance in MET and naval academies and those cadets who hope to succeed at high level (officers, captains, commanders) must master English in the context of their duties. For many seafarers learning English to the high level demanded by the Merchant Marine and Navy can be a daunting task. In addition todays multi-ethnic, multilingual crews provoke cultural and linguistic barriers, complicating and hindering communication. In both a professional and social context on board the seafarer needs to be able to display strong linguistic skills. INTERMAR (EU Key Activity 2 (KA2) multilateral project) INTERMAR is a EU Key Activity 2 (KA2) multilateral project that aims to create a community of maritime and naval institutions that share an IC (intercomprehension) approach to foreign languages.

Parts of this text are taken from the EAC/EA Lifelong Learning Programme Application Form (2011) which provides a detailed description of the INTERMAR project.

The project co-ordinators are led by Centro Regional das Beiras - Universidade Catlica Portuguesa (Prof. Filomena Capucho), and the consortium consists of 18 partners, including 8 maritime or naval academies4. The partners will create IC and Maritime English modules for formal blended courses. By enhancing maritime students awareness of IC, the tailored modules encourage the learner to acquire the strategies needed for the understanding of texts and utterances of any new language they might encounter. Future maritime professionals thus add to their range of skills for coping with todays multiethic, multilingual crews. Through a process of blended learning and IC methods the course created by the INTERMAR project aims to encourage cadets to develop interpretative processes to cope with foreign languages, as well as equipping them with additional skills to learn Maritime English. The course will comprise six modules. One entire module within the project is dedicated to Maritime English and its role within intercomprehension learning processes; another deals with intercultural awareness. The other modules include the role of (Maritime) English as a bridging language. The six modules are as follows: Icebreaker Baltic Languages Germanic Languages Romance Languages Intercultural Awareness IC & Maritime English The project runs from November 2011 to October 2013. The main target group of INTERMAR is composed of adult learners who follow initial or in-service training in MET institutions or naval academies in selected European countries5. The partner MET and naval institutions have committed to running 60-hour blended courses (face-to-face and e-learning contexts) both in Maritime English and in IC, using at least 4 of the 6 modules, according to each partner institutions specific needs. In each MET/naval academy the learners will be selected according to specific criteria to be defined by each institution and, in the case of initial training, 3 ECTS will be attributed to the courses. The course will therefore be granted full institutional recognition. The course, once

land University of Applied Sciences, Finland; Antwerp Maritime Academy, Belgium; Escola Naval, Lisbon, Portugal; cole Navale ENGEP, Brest, France; Escuela Naval Militar de Marin, Pontevedra, Spain; Lithuanian Maritime Academy, Lithuania; Maritime Academy of Latvia (MAL), Latvia; Mircea cel Batran Naval Academy, Constanta, Rumania.
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BE, ES, FI, FR, LT, LV, PT and RO.

completed, will remain freely available and downloadable from the project webpage6 for at least 5 years after the end of the project. The synergies that will be created by INTERMAR will allow IC to integrate in MET and naval maritime education within Europe, enabling the development of plurilingual competences within the maritime community. WORKSHOP OUTLINE The workshop will offer a brief overview of the INTERMAR project before going on to preview some of the materials created for the INTERMAR modules. Participants will be offered the chance to take part in IC activities. Time will be allocated to structured discussion on the potential benefits of using IC in maritime academies. References Eco, U. 2000, La ricera della lingual perfetta nella cultura europea. Rome. Grzega, J., (2005), The Role of English in Learning and Teaching European Intercomprehension Skills, Journal for EuroLinguistiX 2: 1-18, available online http://www.unil.ch/webdav/site/magicc/shared/Ressources/The_Role_of_English_in_Lea rning_and_Teaching_European_Intercomprehension_Skills.pdf, accessed 25 September 2012. IC2012 (Intercomprehension : plurilingual competences, corpus, integration conference of language didactics), Stendhal - Grenoble 3, France, June 21 - 23, 2012 http://ic2012.urenoble3.fr/index.php?pg=1&lg=en

INTERMAR http://www.intermar.ax/