Language Learning Duration and Its Role in Undergraduate English-Speaking Students’ Intercultural Attitudes and Skills in Aotearoa New Zealand
Tatlonghari, Kylsen Lubi
MetadataShow full metadata
Globalisation has increased multicultural contact and contact between different linguistic groups (Stavans & Hoffman, 2015; Weng & Kulich, 2015). To manage these differences, intercultural competence is of critical importance, enabling communication and interaction with others, regardless of cultural differences (Byram, 1997; Gallois & Li, 2015; Weng & Kulich, 2015). Intercultural attitudes and skills are the focus of the present study, as they are deemed the starting point for intercultural competence (Byram, 1997; Deardorff, 2006). Research indicates that language learning has the potential to facilitate students’ intercultural development, reflecting the entangled nature of language and culture (The Council of Europe, 2001); however, it appears necessary that the language is learned alongside cultural content (Parks, 2020). Communicating in another language can prove difficult if one lacks the cultural knowledge to be able to communicate or negotiate with native speakers (Belli, 2018). In Aotearoa New Zealand, despite having diverse linguistic groups, English remains the most prevalent language (Chan, 2020; Chen, 2015; Statistics New Zealand, 2018) and learning additional languages is not compulsory. Given the growing importance of intercultural competence and language learning's potential benefits (Council of Europe, 2001; Parks, 2020; Pinto, 2018), this study explores whether the duration of language learning facilitates intercultural attitudes and skills in undergraduate first language speakers of English in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand, which represents a contribution to Applied Linguistics and Intercultural Language Learning and Teaching. The study involves four groups of New Zealand European undergraduate student participants, based on the duration of their language learning at the time of the interview: None, Minimal (up to 1 year), Moderate (up to 3 years), and Substantial (up to 5 years). The study used semi-structured interviews, which included demographic questions and cultural scenarios, based on an interpretative epistemology. Participants were asked to respond to three cultural scenarios, as a means of registering their intercultural attitudes and skills. An analytical framework, underpinned by Deardorff’s (2006) Process Model of Intercultural Competence and Byram’s (1997) Model of Intercultural Communicative Competence, was used to identify instances of intercultural attitudes and skills. The findings suggest that duration of language learning does not influence the prevalence of intercultural attitudes and skills. Instead, it appears that there are other potential explanations for participants’ demonstrations of attitudes and skills, such as overseas travel and exchange experiences, personal experiences, customs, and preferences, and the design effects of the cultural scenarios, or cultural knowledge acquired from other sources (e.g., the internet or social media). Unfortunately, these were beyond the scope of the study, but provoked important questions for thinking about the relationship between the development of intercultural attitudes and skills, and language learning.