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Durham University

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Publication details

Byram, M. (2020). The Responsibilities of Language Teachers when Teaching Intercultural Competence and Citizenship - An Essay. China Media Research 16(2): 77-84.

Author(s) from Durham


All teachers have responsibilities towards their learners, especially if their learners are children. They make decisions about what to teach, how to teach and what kind of person they expect their learners to become as a result. Language teachers are no exception as they decide such matters as whether learners should attempt to imitate native speakers. The decisions have become more complex as language teaching has embraced intercultural competence and citizenship education as a major focus, together with linguistic competences such as syntactic and semantic competence. Teaching intercultural competence includes encouraging learners to critique social norms and beliefs in one’s own and other societies, and this raises major moral issues for language teachers. When language teaching also contributes to education for citizenship, as is increasingly expected in curricular documents, then the moral issues become even more acute. One response is to hide behind a relativist stance but it is argued here that ‘values pluralism’ (Isaiah Berlin) offers a better position, and one which is especially appropriate to language teaching. Language teachers do not need to become moral philosophers but dealing with moral issues should be included in teacher education.