Developing intercultural communicative competence in the context of Kazakhstani educational environment

The rapid economic and technique development on a global scale, the growth of international tourism have caused the continued expansion of English as a global language. One quarter of the world population, it’s between 1.2 and 1.5 billion people are already fluent or competent in English, moreover, English language becomes a

«lingua franca» for the people who belong to different nationalities and languages, needed to use English as a single accessible means of communication in the educational and professional environment, and it would be right to cite here the well-known statements of Crystal D.«There never has been a time when so many nations needed to talk to each other so much. There never has been a time when so many people wished to travel to so many places. There never has been a more urgent need for a global language» [1, 8].

But it doesn’t mean that non-native speakers of English are successful in English language communication with native speakers, they often come across the problems of misunderstanding mostly connected with the partner’s culture. All these conditions make us to reconsider the existing practice of teaching and acquiring a foreign language, just English language, at educational institutions, define its goal and objectives in accordance with current international policy. The goal of foreign language education has been changing as much as the model of language competence has been developing. As it is known, the theory of competence is originally derives from N. Chomsky’s distinction between competence and performance, definition of «linguistic competence» supposed to be achieved while learning language [2]. Later on, D. Hymes finds the N. Chomsky’s definition of competence too narrow to describe language behavior as a whole [3]. D. Hymes deems it necessary to distinguish two kinds of competence «linguistic competence» that deals with producing and understanding grammatically correct sentences [2], and «communicative competence» that deals with producing and understanding sentences that appropriate and acceptable to a particular situation. Thus, D. Hymes coins a term «communicative competence» and defines it as knowledge of the rules for understanding and producing both the referential and social meaning of language.

Along with N. Chomsky’s and D. Hymes’ contributions to the theoryofcompetenceit’snecessarytopointtothefurtherdevelopment of notion and structure of communicative competence by H. Widdowson [4], M. Canale and

M. Swain [5], Van Ek [6]. The importance of Van Ek’s idea to include «socio cultural», «social» sub competences into the content of communicative competence underlines a necessity of introducing culture into foreign language learning and teaching. Thus, inclusion of socio cultural component into communicative competence, and then its transformation into intercultural communicative competence as a goal of learning and teaching foreign languages reflected the real needs of modern society. Existing for over than three decades a dominant methodological strategy of forming communicative competence aimed at simple acquisition of purely functional use of language didn’t satisfy the needs of teachers as well as learners, there appeared a need for cultural content of foreign language education. But it doesn’t mean a full refuse from forming foreign language communicative competence because these two notions are correlated with one another as the achievement of intercultural communicative competence is possible only in the condition of developing learners’ communicative competence.

So, the spread of intercultural communication studies all over the world (1970-1990), appearance of two terms connected with this study: «intercultural competence» and «intercultural communicative competence» influenced the need to reveal the difference between them, develop the notion, structure and content of intercultural communicative competence.

In spite of the term of Intercultural communicative competence (ICC) was introduced first in 1983 by J. Baxter [7], it was M. Byram who has most extensively developed the concept and the applications of Intercultural communicative competence (ICC) since the mid-1990s [8]. Michael Byram introduced the possibility of distinguishing between both competences:

  • in Intercultural competence individuals have the ability to interact in their own language with people from another country and culture, drawing upon their knowledge about intercultural communication, their attitudes of interest in otherness and their skills in interpreting, relating and discovering; whereas
  • in Intercultural communicative competence, interaction takes place between people from different cultures and countries in a foreign language, the knowledge of the participants of another culture is linked to their language competence through their ability to use language appropriately and their awareness of the specific meaning, values and connotations of the language[8, 70-71].

M. Byram gave not only definition and distinction between two mostly confused terms, but developed six factors or «saviors» to be acquired and developed by the learner while learning foreign language. All these dimensions of Intercultural communicative competence concerned with attitudes and values, knowledge, skills of interpreting and relating, skills of discovery and interaction, and critical cultural awareness. A thorough study of the «saviors» presents an Intercultural communicative competence (ICC) as an integrative quality based on social, cultural, psychological, linguistic knowledge and skills, personal characteristics [8, 31-54; 9, 57- 66].

Nowadays an intercultural communicative competence is defined by scholars as a capability, which allows a language personality to overcome the borders of his native culture and get a quality of not only languages but also cultures mediator without losing his native cultural identity. This approach proves the idea of forming a second language personality while learning a foreign language [10].

So, the above given survey of foreign language goal at current stage made us to search the answers to the following questions: What place does the ICC take in Kazakhstani foreign language education? What factors of developing learner’s intercultural communicative competence are taken into account while constructing foreign language education? Are all pedagogical and methodic opportunities of current system of foreign language education used properly?

The formation of intercultural communicative competence in foreign language learning defined by Conceptof Kazakhstani Foreign Language Education [11; 12] as criteria of developed person’s ability to participate in foreign language communication on intercultural level. In the context of intercultural paradigm a learner becomes a subject of academic process and subject of intercultural communication on the base of forming a second language personality while learning a foreign language within the frame of following levels: A1-C2.

By foreign language learner we mean a person who is studying one of the foreign languages, just English, and in our case in artificial language environment. Therefore we agree with N. Galskova that it’s quite impossible to form a second language personality of learners out of natural language environment. It would be better to speak about different levels of developing a second language personality depending on the type of educational institutions and foreign language learning opportunities presented there. So, ordinary secondary schools are oriented to form a very initial level of second language personality’s structure, while the specialized linguistic schools, such as linguistic gymnasiums and lyceums – a more higher level represented by switching the learners to a foreign picture of the world.

In these conditions, the issue of authenticity, so important in teaching foreign language, because it helps to prepare learners to real authentic communication with native speakers, for easy orientation and adapting to living abroad.

The authenticity is provided in our foreign language education by using authentic teaching sources and inviting native speakers as foreign language instructors.

Authentic materials not only motivate the learners, but also provoke teachers to better handle the foreign/second language culture they are teaching. According to Byram and Esarte-Sarries the textbooks should be loaded not only with the culture of target language but with native language culture as well.

As for the intercultural loaded foreign/second language textbooks used by Kazakhstani learners they are characterized mostly as one-sided, because they contain the information of culture of target language but lack of native language culture, which influences the opportunity of becoming a real intercultural speaker. Only the last years the Ministry of Education and Science took into account this problem and nowadays such international editions as Macmillian and Cambridge University Press began to work intensively on the adapting their English language textbooks for Kazakhstani learning environment. Thus, in 2013-2014 academic years the following textbooks developed by Cambridge University Press were included into the List of textbooks recommended by Ministry of Education and Science of RK:

  • Primary Colors for Kazakhstan (for 1-4 grades);
  • Messages for Kazakhstan (for 5-8 grades);
  • English in Mind for Kazakhstan (9-11 grades). All these sources are in the process of approbation in 87 experimental schools, where English language is taught from the 1-st grade. An analysis of these textbooks have revealed a superficial level of adaptation as mostly English names, titles and others have been changed into Kazakh ones and that’s all. It’s not enough and to our mind the teaching sources of English language used in Kazakhstani educational institutions should be adapted and changed

additionally by the foreign language teachers themselves while the process of learning. That’s why a great attention should be driven to the intercultural communicative competence of language instructors and here we have to reconsider our point of view toward the teacher of foreign language, just English. The idea of authenticity presented by native speaker in the role of language instructor is peculiar to communicative approach but not always to intercultural approach aimed to formation of ICC, because it doesn’t take the learners’ own culture in learning process and as it was said above it won’t contribute to the forming them as intercultural speakers. The replacement of native speaker as a reference point for foreign language learner by the intercultural speaker, a mediator of both languages and cultures was introduced by Byram and Zarate [15]. But being a mediator implies building bridges between languages and cultures, therefore in the process of learning a new foreign language and becoming an intercultural speaker, the first language cannot be suppressed. Competence of native speaker and intercultural speaker is not the same linguistically or culturally. That’s why a serious attention should be paid to the quality of native language and culture learning while future teachers’ professional training. The future foreign language teacher, whether it’s a native speaker or not, should be aware of that the better the learner knows his native language the easier he will be aware of differences of foreign language and culture. So, an «intercultural teacher», a curious, open-minded, widely travelled teacher can help students see connections between their own and other cultures, as well as awaken their curiosity about difference and otherness, develop tolerance and sympathy toward foreign culture.

All these factors undoubtedly important for developing learners’ intercultural communicative competence but all of them should be used on proper methodological basis, just on the base of integration of communicative, intercultural and learner – centered approaches, where the latter directed to develop learners’ potentials of understanding, interpreting and relating intercultural experience, skills of discovery, interaction and critical cultural awareness, which can’t be formed only in the classroom. The developing of intercultural communicative competence has to be integrated in the curriculum content, classroom activities, fieldwork and independent learning environment, where the learners could get necessary knowledge, develop skills of interpreting and relating different lingua cultural phenomena, improve the skills of discovery, interaction and critical cultural awareness. All this depend on learners’ experience of native language and culture, social experience, which is a ground for revealing differences between native and foreign cultures, forming ability to interpret these differences adequately and then develop the skills of proper interacting with foreigners by means of cognitive, creative, and independent activity based approaches. The more native language and culture proficient is a learner the more successful he will be in the process of developing his intercultural communicative competence. That’s why the teaching learners to native language and culture, just Kazakh, must be leading and basic goals during all the period of education, it doesn’t matter is it a secondary or higher education, just the content and methods are different.

The process of developing the learners’ intercultural communicative competence is a very complex phenomena and multi aspect activity which depends on some factors: social and economical, social and pedagogical, methodic, social and cultural, and individual ones, which must be represented by Kazakhstani concept of foreign language education, defining strategy of foreign language education, curriculum and syllabus with intercultural content, proper teaching sources (manuals, course books), peculiarities of social and cultural context of language learning environment, used methods and techniques in teaching, intercultural competence of language instructors, and the most important – the learners interest, motives and their language and cultural experience in developing intercultural communicative competence as personal and professional quality.



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Magazine: KazNU BULLETIN
Year: 2016
City: Almaty
Category: Philology