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Intercultural language learning

Intercultural language learning provides a framework for how intercultural understanding can be developed through language learning. The inextricable link between culture and language underpins the framework.

Getting started with intercultural language learning – A resource for schools produced for AEF's Asian Languages Professional Learning Programme (ALPLP) is about the theory of intercultural language learning (IcLL) and the practice of it together so that teachers can see the impact of applying the principles of IcLL in the classroom and across the school. 

You can also explore intercultural language learning by watching the Language Learning Space videos and viewing associated references and resources.

Intercultural language learning as a whole school initiative

Through participating in the ALPLP, several schools are implementing intercultural language learning as a whole school initiative to develop students’ knowledge, skills and attitudes to successfully interact within a diversity of languages and cultures.

The programme aimed to increase support for Asian languages within schools and to increase connections between languages and other learning areas by developing intercultural language learning as a whole school initiative. Phase 2 was designed and offered to school teams, comprising teachers of languages and other learning areas and school leaders.

In addition to changes in content and pedagogy, many schools are reviewing organisational aspects such as structures that enable Languages teachers to plan with other teachers in curriculum teams.

The following are examples of innovative programmes from three schools:

Clare Primary School, in country South Australia, set about a holistic approach to the implementation of IcLL. The school teaches Japanese at all year levels and has promoted Languages to its school community through its LIFE (Language Is For Everyone!) programme.

The Principal provided leadership to the school’s Languages initiatives. Committed leadership and a committed team of teachers led to the planning of a new sustainable intercultural language learning programme.

IcLL provided a new whole of school pedagogical focus for improving the learning of students by connecting Japanese language learning to the cross-curriculum essential learnings of the SA curriculum framework.

As a result of participation by the principal and teachers in the ALPLP, the school held a two-day, pupil-free, staff conference of IcLL and workshopped its integration into the curriculum and practices of the school. An implementation plan was developed that covered curriculum, pedagogies, school culture, policies and processes. Staff have been given the opportunity to learn Japanese at weekly ‘spotlight’ staff development afternoons. The school community has been engaged and is involved and enthusiastic.

The staff and the students are aware of the sorts of learnings that will be expected and evidenced through an IcLL approach and the value of the learning achieved.

Curriculum connections were established between languages and literacy and across the essential learnings incorporating, in particular, Identity, Interdependence and Communication.

Junior primary classes linked their focus on family and learning the literacies associated with family structure and interaction with Japanese. A simple, parallel-learning structure, creating connections and developing meta-cognition skills was established. Examples of this included:

  • writing about my family in English and writing about Japanese families in Japanese
  • saying greetings in Japanese and English and comparing their usage
  • using texts about grandparents, here, and in Japan
  • illustrating big books in English and Japanese
  • talking about the differences and similarities between Japan and Australia, and
  • thinking about 'self', 'identity' and 'interdependence' from an intercultural perspective.

Other classes are undertaking similar parallel curriculum work. One group has undertaken an extensive study of postcards; their purposes, structures, messages and the language used on them. Students researched Japanese postcards as well and discovered a significantly different purpose, usage and expectation about them.

Using the internet, they learnt more about the illustrative aspects of Japanese postcards and considered the use of electronic and digital postcards. Students compared the grammatical formalities of letter writing in Japanese and English. Students wrote postcards to students in Japan. They analysed the similarities, differences and idiosyncrasies of both languages and postulated their cultural origins. They learned a lot!

IcLL: A holistic approach

Intercultural language learning is not simply a 'method' of 'embedding' language, culture and learning, but rather an overall orientation, a way of thinking and doing, a stance and an overall perspective, which influences all decisions regarding curriculum. 

Given this and the integrated nature of curriculum, change in any area will result in change in another, for example: 

  • planning
  • teaching
  • resourcing
  • assessing
  • evaluating and renewing.

Ref: Liddicoat, A., Papademetre, L., Scarino, A. & Kohler, M. 2003, Report on intercultural language learning, p.57. Canberra: Commonwealth Department of Education, Science and Training

Our whole school has a vision and a rationale for connecting intercultural language learning across the curriculum and across the school.
— Teacher, Clare Primary School

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