A pragmatic approach to teaching intercultural competence to trainee teachers and translators

Paula Josefina Liendo


Byram (1997)’s definition of intercultural communicative competence clearly moves beyond communicative competence, adding to Hymes’ central idea Van Ek’s (1986) six competences of communicative ability, Argyle's (1983) eight dimensions of non-verbal communication and Gudykunst's (1994) characteristics of a competent communicator. University undergraduates whose aim is to become English teachers and translators cannot overlook the importance of intercultural communicative competence in their future professional performance. As language professionals in a rapidly-changing, globalized world, they must be fully aware that the difference between native and non-native speakers has become blurred and obsolete, and that learning is now more about skills than about knowledge per se. Building human capacity has become a process, and flexibility and creativity (rather than content) are more desirable to cope with constant change (Graddol, 2006).

However, a diagnosis of trainees’ performance in their last year of studies at Universidad del Comahue shows that their command of intercultural competences does not match their linguistic proficiency. This gives rise to questions regarding the effectiveness of the materials chosen and the role of the participants in the teaching-learning process. This article explores the possibilities of introducing intercultural competence training to an advanced English course for future translators and teachers. It looks into the concept of pragmatic ability, understood as “being able to go beyond the literal meaning of what is said or written, in order to interpret the intended meanings, assumptions, purposes or goals, and the kinds of actions that are being performed” (Ishihara & Cohen, 2010) and it analyses how students’ intercultural competence can be contextually constructed, through both content and context.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5294/laclil.2012.5.2.8


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