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Module:  Acquiring Intercultural Competence
Introduction & Acronyms
Syllabus Structure
Assessment Strategy


Module: Acquiring Intercultural Competence


Appendix: module as presented
for validation at the University of
Central Lancashire

within the context of the period of residence abroad

Background to the module

Intercultural preparation for the PRA is the focus of the work carried out by the HEFCE / FDTL "Interculture" project. The project is led by Lancaster University, in cooperation with the University of Central Lancashire, Sheffield University, St Martin's College, Lancaster and Homerton College, Cambridge. It is one of three FDTL projects on the Period of Residence Abroad.

Interpretations and formats of IAR currently practised in UK institutions are very varied. Whilst many institutions run preparation courses which range greatly in duration and intensity, it is clear that many HE language teachers fail to make the distinction between learning about another culture and acquiring intercultural competence. Cormeraie (1998) underlines a dangerous tendency in modern language teaching to view "Culture2" from an ethnocentric perspective and states categorically: "Teaching about other cultures as a strategy for reducing prejudice does not work. Nor does it address the issue of cultural bias which can be detected in those selected aspects of the other culture that teachers ethnocentrically choose to indict or advocate in their course reinforcing in so doing stereotypes and polarities" .

The role of the Modern Language teacher and the responsibility for building "cross-cultural capability" into the HE curriculum is a recurrent element in the intercultural debate.

The starting point for this module is the argument that the approach to intercultural preparation for the PRA must be interdisciplinary and that "capability in one's own culture is a necessary starting point for developing cross-cultural capability" (Jordan 1998).

The aim of this module is to equip students with the tools which will enable them to gain greater awareness of their own cultural values and of intercultural issues, to develop a "working knowledge" of life in the "target culture" (1999 sub-project report) for the periods preceding, during and following Residence Abroad. The transferable skills acquired will be of benefit not only in terms of employability but will become an important part in the process of the personal development of the students concerned.

As a framework, the module uses the four Savoirs composing Byram and Zarate's (1997) model of Intercultural Competence:

  • Savoir apprendre Understanding otherness; using and creating opportunities for observation, analysis and interpretation.

  • Savoirs Cultural knowledge, including sociolinguistic competence; awareness of non-explicit references points such as values, beliefs, meanings.

  • Savoir ętre Understanding how an identity and a culture are socially constructed; setting aside ethnocentric attitudes and perceptions; openness and interest towards others; inter-cultural mediation

  • Savoir faire Integration of the other three into L2 land interactions

The module spans over the 3 stages of preparing for, experiencing and returning from the Period of Residence Abroad (PRA). For accreditation purposes it is divided into two parts. Part One corresponds to the semester before the period abroad. Part Two

corresponds to the period of residence abroad and to the half semester following the PRA.

Since Intercultural Awareness Raising (IAR) is its focus, it is suggested that this module run concurrently with existing workshops and activities for the PRA rather than replace them. Elements of general Preparation for the Period of Residence Abroad (PPRA) will be incorporated with the module at stage one and feature in the portfolio component.

The specialisms of the tutors involved will reflect the inter-disciplinarity of the module. Four workshops (three Before and one After) will be led by a counsellor from Student Services with a background in intercultural issues, one will be led by a lecturer in Careers and the remaining workshops by foreign languages lecturers. Students will be expected to use the Web as a forum for discussing intercultural issues.



Module Code:        AL 2601
                                AL 2602

Module Tutor:         S.Toll

Module size:           ,module in 2 parts
                                 part 1: 10 credits (2.5 under present Uclan rating)
                                 semester prior to the period abroad
                                 part 2: 10 credits
                                 period abroad and half semester of final year


It is possible to opt for part one of the module only: AL 2601

AL 2601 is a pre-requisite for AL 2602


Aims and Objectives

  • to enable the students to understand the concept of intercultural awareness

  • to enable students to recognise the origins of their own cultural values, assumptions and attitudes and the way in which their values affect their perception of others

  • to enable students to identify causes of intercultural misunderstandings

  • to enable the students to explore how their perception of their own character, attitudes and behaviour might influence their cultural learning

  • to enable students to recognise personal skills affecting their ability to adapt to living and working abroad

  • to enable students to develop attitudes and strategies which will help adapt to life in a foreign country and operate autonomously in that country

  • to enable students to observe, monitor and report on their own cultural learning

  • to enable students to transfer their intercultural competence into their employability


Syllabus and Content

Semester prior to Year Abroad

  • Using the diary as a tool for monitoring one's intercultural competence

  • Introduction to cultural identity
    Looking at the self and home culture
    Looking at other / foreign cultures
    Non verbal behaviour. Attitudinal issues
    Assessing one’s ethnocentrism
    Issues of conformity. Norms of behaviour.

  • Stereotypes and Intercultural Incidents. Identifying factors.
    Selecting and contrasting intercultural incidents in ICP databases.

  • Sociolinguistic Awareness and Competence
    Language in home culture
    Language in host culture

  • Expectations. Objectives. Motivation.


Year Abroad

  • Work / study placement

  • Sociolinguistic investigations


Semester following Year Abroad

  • Reflecting on learning process (workshop led by Student Services counsellor)

  • Preparation of workshops in tandem with foreign students

  • Audit of employability skills acquired during Year Abroad

  • Writing analytical account of the learning process


Teaching and Learning Strategies

  • Workshops: 

12 (one full semester) prior to PRA

6 on return

- workshops led by a Student Services counsellor
                                     foreign language tutor
                                     careers tutor

workshops to include activities such as:

-guided discussion,
-intercultural incidents
-exercises in critical thinking
-feedback from discussions, debates with EFL students, foreign nationals, FL assistants, tandem partners
-mini presentations (following fieldwork)

  • Portfolio: to cover the semester before the PRA

  • Diary: this will be a personal "learning log" reflecting on the impact of the course and the experience of the residence abroad. It will span the entire length of the module and form the basis of the analytical account below.

  • Analytical account of the learning process based on the diary / learning log

  • Informal de-briefing

  • Formal presentation on acquisition of intercultural competence

  • Feedback to students preparing to go abroad


Learning outcomes:

By the end of the module the students will:

  • have developed greater self-awareness - including awareness of their own function in their social and professional groupings

  • have developed greater awareness of their own cultural values and the influence of those values upon their attitudes towards "difference"

  • have acquired more sensitivity towards norms and values prevalent in cultures other than their own

  • have developed skills in critical intercultural analysis

  • have developed the skill to observe and analyse culturally defined situations without being judgmental

  • have acquired strategies for operating independently and competently in unexpected situations based in other cultures

  • have incorporated their learning into professional and personal situations abroad and at home

  • be able to describe the process by which they gained intercultural awareness


Assessment strategy:

Students will be expected to compile a portfolio of activities covering the period Before the PRA. As well as a brief report on the impact which the module has had on the intercultural learning process, the portfolio will contain evidence of searches on the ICP databases, of fieldwork undertaken in the area of sociolinguistics and of tasks connected to mainstream preparation for the period abroad.

An analytical account of the process of intercultural learning will be based on the learning log covering the length of the module B/D/A (2000 - 3000 words). It will also address the issue of employability. The account will be presented separately and assessed by the Student Services counsellor.

A presentation in the foreign language on acquisition of intercultural competence will be delivered at the beginning of the final year, within the context of mainstream classes.

Assessment will be weighted as follows:

AL 2601 : semester prior to period abroad
Portfolio (10 credits)

AL 2602 : on return
Diary based analytical account + presentation (10 credits)

Attendance Policy

Undergraduate students are required to achieve a minimum of 75% attendance level for all modules. Failure to achieve a minimum of 50% attendance will generate an automatic fail for the module. Attendance between 50% and 75% of classes will incur a penalty of 8%, which will be deducted from the final module mark.

For the period of residence abroad, the usual "satisfactory completion" forms will have to be provided by the employer or the host institution for work and study placements respectively.

Indicative bibliography

Coleman J.A.& Crawshaw R. (1994) Discourse variety in Contemporary French. London: AFLS / CILT

Jordan S. (1998) "Starting with the self : capability in one’s own culture" in Killick and Parry (eds)

Killick D. & Parry M.(eds) (1998) Cross-Cultural Capability: The Why, the ways & the means: New theories & methodologies in language education. Proceedings of the conference at Leeds Metropolitan University, December 1997. Leeds: Leeds Metropolitan University

Offord M.H (ed) (1996) French Sociolinguistics. Multilingual Matters

Parker, G. and Rouxeville A. (eds) (1995) The year abroad : preparation, monitoring, evaluation. CILT

Romaine S., Bilingualism. Blackwell 1995 (2nd ed)


Detailed Syllabus and Content

A Semester prior to Year Abroad

  1. Introduction to the module (module tutor)
    Diary and portfolio as tools for monitoring one's intercultural learning

  2. Introduction to cultural identity (workshop led by counsellor trainer)
    Looking at the self
    Unpacking one’s assumptions
    Non-verbal behaviour

  3. Attitudinal issues (workshop led by Student Services counsellor)
    Self awareness: how constrained, how relaxed when going into other place / culture?
    Judgementalism. Assessing one’s ethnocentrism
    Issues of conformity; norms of behaviour

  4. Home culture. Subcultures. Micro-communities (module tutor)
    Reporting back on discussions with foreign students / FLA’s about "British Culture". Stereotypes?
    Personal sociogram

  5. Stereotypes and Intercultural Incidents(module tutor)
    Contrasting stereotypes of the British to stereotypical representations of others (including ICP databases)
    Selecting and contrasting intercultural incidents in ICP databases
    Discussing preferences: open ended? single solution incident?

  6. Factors in Intercultural Incidents. Language. Attitudes. Expectations (module tutor)
    Designing intercultural incidents based in home culture.

  7. Sociolinguistic Awareness and Competence: language in home culture (module tutor)
    Discussing samples of texts and their contexts. Medium.
    Participants. Age. Gender. Shared knowledge etc.
    Giving advice to potential students of English on where and how to learn to communicate in English. Reflecting on motivation behind advice.

  8. Sociolinguistic Awareness; language in foreign culture (language tutors)
    Discussing and analysing features of written and spoken texts in FL. Literature, business, music, sport, education, administration etc.
    Appropriateness of formality, familiarity.

  9. Sociolinguistic Awareness and Competence (specific language tutors)
    Reflecting on statements such as: "the only way to learn the language is to live in x", "you can’t learn the language by living in region x" 

  10. Expectations. Objectives. Motivation (module tutor)
    Report on findings through database activities
    Leeds pack" workshops
    Own expectations from YA. Others’ expectations (home / host institutions, employers etc...)
    Card game: defining priorities

  11. Presentation of 1st part of portfolio (module tutor)
    Setting Objectives for PRA
    Strategies for coping in foreign country (socially, linguistically

  12. Viva (with Student Services counsellor)
    Reporting on impact of course, on emotional, attitudinal shifts
    Surprises? expectations?
    Are objectives (for YA) defined more clearly?



  • Work / study placement

  • Continuation of personal diary

  • Sociolinguistic investigations


C Semester following YA

  1. Presentations in conjunction with mainstream classes (language tutors)

  2. Feedback (to Student Services counsellor)
    How useful was it to look at own culture?
    High / low points whilst abroad ?
    When did shift occur from "visitor " to "resident" ?

  3. Workshop with foreign nationals (module tutor)
    Comparing first impressions of being in the other country
    Comparing preparation, learning process

  4. Preparation of workshops in tandem with foreign students, for the benefit of outgoing students (to include setting up mailing list)
    Reflecting on / observing working methods, organisation etc. (module tutor / EFL tutor)

  5. Careers workshop (Careers tutor)
    Employability skills acquired during Year Abroad
    What do employers want from graduates?
    How do students create employability skills?
    Audit of own employability skills
    Translating employability skills into real life applications
    "Owning" and defining one’s skills
    Being selective about one’s skills 

  6. Diary ends. Write analytical account of the learning process, based on diary (2000-3000 words)
    (Assessed by Student Services counsellor)