Foreign Language Instructors‘ Understanding and Implementation of Intercultural Communicative Competence in Higher Education

Patricia Haberkorn, University of Wisconsin-Madison

4:00 pm – 4:30 pm (Room 232)



In today’s globalized world, intercultural communicative competence (ICC) is a
prerequisite for many careers. Although the importance of students’ ICC development is not
questioned, its practice and theoretical understanding by teachers show need for improvement. Researchers such as Ghanem (2017), Müller-Hartmann (2013), Garrido and Álvarez (2006), and Larzén-Östermark (2008) reported that foreign language teachers, regardless of their age and experience, felt unprepared and overwhelmed by the task of defining and teaching intercultural learning. Many colleges set up a language requirement for their students to raise global citizens. The development of ICC is, in these cases, primarily taking place in the classroom, which places heavy demands on the teachers. In the proposed presentation, the results of a study will be presented that investigated how target language experts (TLEs; young, international graduate students teaching their native language to undergraduate college students) and professors at a liberal arts college in the Midwest of the United States of America defined and interpreted ICC and implemented it in their language classrooms. Both experienced professors and TLEs were observed and interviewed. They also completed an online survey including qualitative and quantitative elements.

The following research questions will be answered in the presentation:
1. How do language professors and target language experts define and interpret ICC?
2. How do professors and target language experts integrate and implement their
understanding of ICC in their lessons?
3. How do professors’ and target language experts’ understanding and implementation of
ICC differ in the foreign language classroom?

The results showed that instructors considered ICC to be of great importance, but had
difficulties to define their own understandings. Survey results revealed that current video
material, listening to music, and using the textbook were the materials and activities most
frequently used to foster ICC in class. The observations indicated that TLEs followed a more
personal approach than professors. Both TLEs and professors did not always teach ICC in the
most optimal way and missed intercultural learning opportunities in class. Results revealed
instructors’ doubts, problems, and uncertainties, namely stereotypes, curriculum,
misunderstandings due to a language barrier, motivation and interest, and environment.