Reflection on Michael Byram’s text, The Intercultural Speaker and the Pedagogy of Foreign Language Education, chapter 18 of Intercultural Competence in Foreign Languages.
“The weakness in education for citizenship is the assumption that the focus of attention should be local and national, that political literacy means knowledge about processes and institutions within one’s own school, neighborhood, and state/country, and activity should be focused at one or more of these levels. There is nothing surprising in this sense education systems are usually national and were formed with the intention of creating identification with nation-states. But this is now a weakness in the contemporary world of global economies and international organizations, both civic and political” – Michael Byram
The intercultural speaker is a speaker that possess a linguistic proficiency but also an intercultural competence when engaging cross-culturally, thus has no connection with the term native speaker. Michael Byram has created a 5-dimensional model (beneath) to showcase the desired skills of the intercultural speaker (or learner). The categories are divided as follow:
- Skills of interpreting/relating
- Skills of discovery/interaction
- Critical cultural awareness
Worth stressing is, the final dimension mentioned, critical cultural awareness, can be compared to the German educational tradition Bildung aiming of encouraging learners to reflect critically on the society, and this is also one of the most important elements of intercultural citizenship education, thus the category/dimension is placed at the centre of the model, as it is absolutely essential to ensure language teaching has an intercultural – It is essential and ensures that language teaching has an intercultural educational purpose.
Model: Michael Byram’s ICC (Intercultural Competence)-Model
The additional dimensions don’t require a specific priority of the teacher, rather an individual “when it makes sense” implementation.
Worth noting is that Rathje (2007) and others criticise the term intercultural competence as there isn’t any officially-agreed definitive definition, which makes the teaching of it, too soft and unsystematic, thus the models or definitions thereof becomes a contradiction of itself according to Rathje.
“The problem with taking a national culture and identity as the basis for teaching intercultural competences is not, therefore, the problem of essentializing or reductionism. The problem lies in the exclusive focus on one identity and the assumption that, in interaction in a foreign language, it is the only identity present.” – Michael Byram