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Improving intercultural competence through online joint-seminars with university students from the U.S. and Sweden
Dalarna University, School of Humanities and Media Studies, Japanese. (KIG)
The University of Alabama at Birmingham.
2015 (English)Conference paper, (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

There have been quite a few studies regarding the development of intercultural competence through online exchanges (Helm 2009, Chun 2011, Schenker 2012, Kitade 2012, etc.). Most of these exchanges, however, are between native speakers and learners of that language. The benefit of such exchanges may be maximized if both parties are learning the same foreign language and have the opportunity to utilize the language they are learning during the interaction. As defined by Byram (1997) and Liaw (2006), 'intercultural competence' is not just learning about the target culture, but also about becoming aware of one's own culture, and connecting students from different countries who are studying the same target language and culture would be an ideal setting in order for the students to evaluate both their own and target cultures critically.

It is often said to be difficult or almost impossible for students in distance courses to develop intercultural competence because of the lack of opportunity to study abroad or the lack of an international atmosphere in the classroom (Tyberg 2009). Thus another goal of this study is to investigate the possibility of providing opportunities for all students, regardless of their circumstances, to develop intercultural competence.

During the spring semester 2012, a group of fourth level (intermediate to advanced level) Japanese students from Gettysburg College in the United States and from Högskolan Dalarna (Dalarna University) in Sweden took part in a study of how Japanese learners from different countries benefit from communicating with each other in Japanese. Throughout the term, the students exchanged ideas and views regarding the topics surrounding the issues of “identity” via blogs and joint-seminars using an online video conferencing system. The topic “identity” was selected since both parties can discuss the issue from different perspectives such as 'foreigners in Japan', 'foreigners in the U.S./Sweden', 'Japanese people living in the U.S./Sweden', as well as from the students' 'own identities.'

The student survey showed that the students from both Sweden and the United States found the project to be fun, interesting and a new and positive experience. One student epitomized the comments from the majority of the participants. – “We were actively discussing identity with students raised in another culture in a class setting, which lends an air of understanding and interest to the discussion.”

The results from this study suggest that through interactions with university students from other countries who study Japanese at the same level, the students can gain not only Japanese skills, but expand their horizons and deepen their understanding of another culture as well as the topics discussed during the meetings. Not everyone has an opportunity to study abroad, but today's technology allows every student to be a part of the internationalization process, develop his/her cultural-literacy and reflect on his/her identity.

In this session, the process, benefits, and limitations of our online exchanges will be discussed and some suggestions on how one should conduct and what are required for in ordered to have a successful international online exchanges will also be presented based on our experiences.

The target audience of this session are teachers and educators as well as administrators who recognize the importance of acquisition of intercultural competence, not limited to but especially, in language education, and those who are considering the possibilities of allowing students to participate in the internationalization process without traveling abroad.

References:

Byram, M. (1997). Teaching and assessing intercultural communicative competence. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.

Byram, M., Gribkova, B., & Starkey, H. (2002). Developing the intercultural dimension in language teaching: A practical introduction for teachers. Strasbourg, France: Council of Europ.

Chun, D. M. (2011). Developing Intercultural communicative competence through online exchanges. CALICO Journal, 28 (2), 392-419.

Helm, F. (2009). Language and culture in an online context: what can learner diaries tell us about intercultural competence. Language and Intercultural Communication, 9 (2), 91-104.

Högskoleverket. (2008). En högskola i världen: internationalisering för kvalitet. Högskoleverkets rapportserie 2008:15R.

Kitade, K. (2012). An exchange structure analysis of the development of online intercultural activity. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 25 (1), 65-86.

Liaw, M-L. (2006). E-learning and the development of intercultural competence. Language Learning &Technology, 10(3), 49-64.

Schenker, T. (2012). Intercultural competence and cultural learning through telecollaboration. CALICO Journal, 29(3), 449-470.

Tyberg, E. (2009). Internationalisering: perspektivbyte, förhållningssätt och fredsprojekt. In Martin Stigmar, (Ed.). Högskolepedagogik: att vara professionell som lärare i högskolan, Chapter 12. Stockholm: Liber.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015.
Keyword [en]
Japanese, Online conferencing, Intercultural competence, Language education
National Category
Specific Languages
Research subject
Intercultural Studies
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:du-17997OAI: oai:DiVA.org:du-17997DiVA: diva2:822989
Conference
7th COIL Conference, Ney York, 19-20 March, 2015
Available from: 2015-06-17 Created: 2015-06-17 Last updated: 2016-04-01Bibliographically approved

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Citation style
  • apa
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Output format
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