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Durham University

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Byram, M., Holmes, P. & Savvides, N. (2013). Intercultural communicative competence in foreign language education: Questions of theory, practice and research. Guest editorial I. The Language Learning Journal 41(3): 251-253.

Author(s) from Durham


Language teaching and learning has undergone a ‘cultural turn’ since the emergence of ‘the Communicative Approach’ and ‘Communicative Language Teaching’ in the 1970s. The earlier study of language, which involved the study of literary and other texts, had neglected the need for ‘communicative competence’— the ability to use language in socially appropriate ways, often operationalised as ‘politeness’. However, perhaps as a consequence of globalisation, new technologies, and mass economic and refugee migration, it has become clear that communicative language teaching too, with its focus on sociolinguistic appropriateness and politeness, is inadequate to the task of teaching for communication. This new social context requires consideration of the ways in which people of different languages — including language learners themselves — think and act, and how this might impact on successful communication and interaction. The ‘cultural turn’ – the introduction of ‘intercultural competence’ to complement ‘communicative competence’ – has further refined the notion of what it is to be competent for communication with speakers of different languages. Teachers and learners now need to be ‘aware’ of other people’s ‘cultures’ as well as their own, and therefore, the term ‘intercultural (communicative) competence’ has emerged, along with other terms such as ‘cultural awareness’ and ‘transnational competence’.


Special Issue: Intercultural Competence I