EDUC5176 Interactions for Languages Education Assignment 1 - Essay JIN Man 110158709

Language teaching and learning with an intercultural perspective and the

implications for teaching Chinese in Australian secondary schools

Recently, there is a general consensus among experts about an intercultural perspective to

language teaching and learning. In contemporary foreign language learning in Australian

secondary schools, the intercultural stance towards language education is widely

encouraged. Therefore, in order to make adaptation to this relatively recent development,

there is a need for language educators to grow understanding of language teaching and

learning with an intercultural perspective and seek the ways of applying this approach to

educational practice. This essay will firstly explore some key concepts of language teaching

and learning with an intercultural perspective in terms of the concepts of language, culture

and their relationship as well as the five principles of intercultural language learning. Then

the implications for applying these theories to teaching Chinese in Australian secondary

schools such as language teacher's understanding of their role as a mediator and his/or

capability to mediating language learning will be discussed.

Review the concepts of intercultural language teaching and learning

There are some key concepts need to be reviewed within the intercultural perspective.

Firstly, understandings of language and culture and their relationship are fundamental and

have impact on the understanding of intercultural language teaching. In the foreign

language classroom, both learners' own language and culture and the target language and

culture are equally relevant and important to language teaching and learning experience

(Scrimgeour 2016). This is because learners' negotiation of meanings in their own

language and culture is critical for them to make sense of target language and culture and

understand the relationship between languages and cultures. This process of meaning

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EDUC5176 Interactions for Languages Education Assignment 1 - Essay JIN Man 110158709

negotiation can be seen as mediation processes in intercultural language learning, which

allows learners to use their own language and culture as a starting point, explore the nature

of languages, cultures and use them as the tools to achieve learning (Liddicoat & Scarino

2013, p. 51). Furthermore, experts agree that it is significant to expand the understandings

of language and culture from a static and structural view of language as a code and culture

as facts and information to the concepts that include dynamically seeing language and

culture as societal norms and contemporary communicative practices (Liddicoat 2002, cited

in Kohler 2015, pp. 26; Scarino 2014, pp. 391).) Authors further explain that the language

education with an intercultural perspective allows a shift from seeing culture as isolated

facts, such as festivals and traditional food, to intercultural learning, which puts emphasis

on the interrelationship between languages and cultures and encouraging learners to make

connection and engage with the new culture (Moloney et al. 2015, pp. 60; Scarino &

Liddicoat 2009, cited in Skene 2013, pp. 49). However, this expansion view of language

and culture does not take language and culture as social practices as the only focus of

language teaching and learning in classroom. According to Liddicoat and Scarino (2013), it

is important to take each layer of language in consideration and integrate different

understandings of cultures in language teaching and learning. For instance, linguistic

structures and vocabulary should be taught and learned as the basic element for

communication and the resource for promoting social practices (Liddicoat & Scarino 2013,

pp. 17) while culture is embedded in language teaching and learning (Moloney et al. 2015,

pp. 60). It can be seen that intercultural language teaching and learning views learners'

own language and culture as fundamental tools, involving different perspectives of

languages and cultures and their relationship, encourage learners to negotiate meaning

and finally establish their identity across languages and cultures.

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EDUC5176 Interactions for Languages Education Assignment 1 - Essay JIN Man 110158709

Secondly, Scarino and Liddicoat (2009, p. 35) identify five principles as the foundation of

intercultural language learning in terms of active construction, making connections,

interaction, reflection and responsibility. The principles highlight the importance of

encourage interactions about languages, cultures and their relationship as well as

engagement in purposeful and active communication and learning in the foreign language

classroom, through which learners may generate their own understandings of languages,

cultures, language learning etc., establish their own identities and build relationships with

other speakers, make connections between their prior knowledge and experience and the

new information. From this perspective, intercultural language teaching and learning can be

seen as a continuous process of making connection, expanding understandings and

applying the knowledge to interactions across cultures reflect on their learning experience

(Scrimgeour 2016). Moreover, experts states that the principles can be considered as a

starting point for an intercultural pedagogy and assist teachers developing understanding of

intercultural language learning and outlining teaching practice (Liddicoat & Scarino 2013, p.

59; Kohler 2015, p. 31). This means that the principles are not the rules and approach of

implementing language teaching but the ones underpin understanding of language

teaching and learning with an intercultural perspective and a pedagogical framework may

be developed based on them.

Implications for teaching Chinese in Australian secondary schools

Considering how to apply the theories and promote intercultural language teaching and

learning in second language classroom, some implications in terms of challenges can be

seen for teaching Chinese in Australian secondary schools. Firstly, it is critical for a

language teacher to understand his/her role in language teaching and learning process.

According to Kramsch (2004, cited in Scarino 2014, p. 394), from an intercultural

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EDUC5176 Interactions for Languages Education Assignment 1 - Essay JIN Man 110158709

perspective, the role of language teacher in foreign language classroom can be understood

as a cross-cultural mediator, which requires the ability and skills of helping the learner to

build connections between their prior knowledge and new information, make sense of the

target language and culture (Kohler 2015, p. 142). Similarly, Kohler (2015, p. 143) states

that mediation is the process that learners are engaged in interactions to navigate multiple

language and cultural frameworks, develop their skills to move between languages and

cultures as well as learn new ways of being themselves as intercultural speakers. In this

case, language teacher's understanding of language teaching and learning as well as

his/her choice of texts and examples and the way he/she uses to present the resource and

promote the interactions in classroom have influence on language learning experience.

Secondly, it is challenging that in order to promote meaning making and negotiation across

languages and cultures, a 'common language' need to be used to move teachers and

learners to the 'third place' where all languages and cultures are involved and interactions

between them are allowed (Kramsch 1999, cited in Kohler 2015, p. 27). In this process, a

language educator's capability to decentre from his/her own language and cultural identity

and apply it as a resource to mediate learning with an intercultural perspective is essential

and need to be fostered actively (Kolher 2015). Allied to this, support and scaffold should

be provide to help language learners to develop metalinguistic awareness and

metacognition, which refer to the understanding of the nature of language and the

capability to think and reflect on one's thinking and language learning respectively (Scarino

2014, p. 394). Therefore, language teachers need to face the challenge of making explicit

instruction and comparison, engaging learners in exploratory discussion about language,

providing open-ended questions and encouraging learners reflect on their language

learning process. In this way, learners may generate their personalised interpretation and

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EDUC5176 Interactions for Languages Education Assignment 1 - Essay JIN Man 110158709

establish connection with target language and language learning.

Moreover, the advantages and disadvantages for a native speaker (NS) teacher to teach

Chinese in Australian secondary schools have been widely discussed and some scholars

may believe that native speaker teachers have better knowledge of the Chinese language

and culture (Byram 2015, p. 52). However, they may still face critical challenges in

language teaching and mediating language learning in Australian classrooms. For example,

from the intercultural perspective, it is crucial for a teacher to have intercultural

communicative competence (ICC) and teach ICC, which refers to the ability to engage,

communicate and interact with other language and culture while the relationship between

language and culture is important (Byram 2015, p. 38). And in the complex educational

context of Australian secondary schools, especially foreign language classrooms, Scarino

(2014, p. 98) states that as mediators, language teachers need to be aware of students'

diversity and work with it. This diversity involves not only linguistic and cultural background

but also prior knowledge and life experience. This requires of a Chinese NS teacher not

only the knowledge of Chinese language and culture, the awareness of their self-identity as

mediator, but also good understanding of the language that learner speaks, the prior

knowledge, language learning and life experience that the learners bring in the second

language classroom as well as apply them to effective pedagogical practice. This is a

challenging task for a NS teacher as well.

In conclusion, it is essential to have an integrated view of languages, cultures and their

relationship as well as identify the equally important roles of both first language, culture and

second language, culture as mediators in second language classroom. The five core

principles of intercultural language teaching and learning can be used as a basis for

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EDUC5176 Interactions for Languages Education Assignment 1 - Essay JIN Man 110158709

language educational practices. However, there are some challenges that language

teachers face in Australian secondary classroom, such as understanding of their roles,

knowledge about learners and their diversity and the ways of mediating language learning.

And since language and culture is dynamic and intercultural language teaching can be

seen as an overall orientation towards an integrated view of language, culture and learning,

intercultural language pedagogy need to be further explored and issues of implementing it

in language teaching and learning practice need to be addressed.

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EDUC5176 Interactions for Languages Education Assignment 1 - Essay JIN Man 110158709

References

Byram, M 2015, 'Culture in foreign language learning, the implications for teachers and
teacher training', Culture and Foreign language education: insights from research and
implications for the practice, pp. 37-59.

Kohler, M 2015, Teachers as mediators in the foreign language classroom, Multilingual
matters, Bristol, UK.

Moloney, R, Harbon, L, Fielding, R 2015, 'Pre-service teachers discovering intercultural
enquiry in language classroom discourse', Culture and Foreign language Education:
insights from research and implications for the practice, pp. 59-85.

Scarino, A 2014, 'Learning as reciprocal, interpretive meaning making', Modern Language
Journal, pp. 386-401.

Scarino, A & Liddicoat, AJ 2009, Teaching and Learning Languages: A Guide, Curriculum
Corp, Melbourne.

Scrimgeour, A 2016, 'Interactions for language education', lecture notes distributed in
EDUC 5176 at The University of South Australia, Adelaide in SP5 2016.

Skene, C 2013, 'Investigating reciprocal meaning-making as an element of intercultural
language learning in the languages classroom', Bable, vol. 48, no. 2&3, pp. 48-60.

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