Intercultural Competence

The process of developing intercultural competence during early foreign language learning subsumes both the educational aspect of social interaction with the Other and the communicative aspect of mutual communication through the medium of the foreign language. Even at this early stage it is possible and sensible to use targeted learning content and activities to sensitise children to intercultural issues, e.g. through:

  • ethnographic material relating to the target language culture (e.g. on festivals and customs)
  • contrasted materials from the other culture and from the child’s own culture, which can be used to sharpen the child’s perceptions (e.g. everyday objects, artworks).
  • materials suitable for raising the level of empathy with people of the other culture.
  • lifelike situations (role-playing) in which acting within intercultural situations can be trained.
Children gain familiarity with the other culture through having it presented to them in the foreign language, through images, texts or virtual means. In their perception of the Other, a key role is played by the simultaneous perception of what is familiar: for it is the integration of new information and impressions into what is familiar that constitutes the desired advance in learning.
    Recommendations

    Content and methodology should be selected so as to ensure that the children retain and deepen their natural openness to what is new, and over the course of the learning process acquire sensitivity in self-perception and perception of others.

    The learning materials should be selected as to enable the child:
    • in familiar things to discover the Other, and in the Other the familiar
    • to accept the Other as the Other
    • to learn to cope with the insecurity and fears that arise out of encounters with the Other.

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