Linking learning objectives of linguistic savoir-faire and intercultural competence in mobility experiences of teacher trainees

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This paper presents a small-scale study to determine how the categories of Beacco’s (2004) proposals for intercultural competence compare with linguistic competence as specified by the CEFR. Implementing a broad intercultural perspective such as defined by Byram (1997, 2008 inter alia) into foreign language education is clearly a great challenge for curriculum planners and teacher educators. The Council of Europe’s (CoE) Common European Framework of Reference descriptors of communicative competence, widely used in curriculum design and teacher education across Europe, are benefitting from a high pedagogical and political legitimacy (Policy Forum CoE 2007). Hence, the formulation of intercultural learning objectives, related as closely as possible to the well-known level descriptions of linguistic proficiency of the CEFR, could be a valuable way of promoting the intercultural dimension on a broad basis. Beacco’s reference descriptions of cultural competences (“référentiel de compétences culturelles” 2004) is very promising yet not well known in this regard. In our chapter, we will focus on his description of linguistic savoir faire linked to intercultural competence of teacher trainees spending time abroad, as an emblematic curricular element promoting intercultural and plurilingual competence. We will first review and assess previous work and debates on the linguistic correlates of intercultural competence, with a focus on communicative activities (savoir faire). We then test our insights against a corpus of interviews which encapsulates the intercultural experiences of a small group of foreign exchange students at a Swiss teacher education college, combining approaches from discourse analysis, conversational analysis and interactional sociolinguistics, such as proposed, for instance, by Brown & Lewinson (1988), Bronckart (1997), Traverso (2004), and Kasper & Omori (2010). Through the analysis of our data, our aims are to pinpoint meaningful and concrete discursive features corresponding to a selected sample of Beacco’s descriptors, and to show, more generally, how linguistic analysis can contribute to enroot, in a systematic way, the dimension of intercultural competence in foreign language learning and teaching.


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