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Durham University

School of Education

Research Projects

Publication details

Jin, T. (2017). Moving beyond ‘intercultural competence’ Interculturality in the learning of Mandarin in UK universities. Language and Intercultural Communication 17(3): 306-322.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

This paper reports on a study of the identity perceptions of undergraduate and postgraduate students of Mandarin at UK universities. Interviews with 26 students were conducted over a three-year period, most of whom were multilingual. Approximately half spoke English as an additional language. The remainder were native speakers of English. The paper shows how identities of learners of Mandarin are complex due to the varied experiences they brought into their studies. In light of the kinds of students found to be learning Mandarin, the paper advocates that approaches to teaching and learning Mandarin need to be more rooted in biographical, social and intercultural understandings of identity. To this end, the paper proposes interculturality in preference to the more traditional notion of intercultural competence as a conceptual frame for the learning of Mandarin. Perspectives based on interculturality question the limitations of traditional conceptualisations of otherness. Such perspectives attempt to locate interculturality within a more nuanced understanding of intercultural difference. The paper argues that in this way the teaching and learning of Chinese as a global language can more readily act as an effective means for learners to orient themselves to the Chinese society and ‘culture’, and to the wider world.

School of Education