In the first part of my article, I will defend intercultural understanding against its critics and highlight its essential features. Constitutive for intercultural understanding are three elements. The first is the context of production and the perspective from within. We must comprehend cultural objectivations in the context in which they have been produced and learn to take the other’s perspective. The second is the context of reception and the perspective from without. The context of production is reconstructed in the context of reception and therefore will be influenced by the latter one. In addition, the significance of what we understand is considered in the context of reception. We must take the perspective from within and see things through the other’s eyes, but we must also take the perspective from without and see things through our own eyes. Intercultural understanding is a process of negotiating between these two contexts or perspectives and preventing one of them from suppressing the other. The third element is linguistic, interpretive, and argumentative abilities. In order to understand cultural objectivations, we must learn the others’ language, interpret their objectivations and defend our interpretations. In the second part of my article I will discuss what it means for German and American students to understand aspects of the Civil Rights Movement.
An important point in the actual debate about language competence and school achievement of immigrant children is the future role of the children’s mother tongue in the curriculum. Though empirical studies show the efficiency of programs where the migrant children’s first langue is used as a medium of instruction and/or taught as a subject, there is not much public support for bilingual education. In contrast bilingual education for majority children – another very efficient form of promoting bilingualism – is supported by the public, especially by parents, teachers, and school administrators.
It is argued that early two way immersion programs (e.g. the program of the Staatliche Europaschule Berlin) for minority and majority children are an excellent answer to this dilemma and that bilingual education for minority children deserves as much public support as bilingual education for majority children.
The paper contributes to the empirical foundations describing interactions between different languages in the mental lexicon of polyglot learners whose mother tongue is German.
Based on some empirical investigations made with about 20 students of various subjects at the University of Giessen, the article describes mental processes of learners, who try to develop listening comprehension in a Romanic tongue which they have never learnt before: Listening to Spanish news broadcasted by Radio International de Espaňa, the students do not only understand the essentials of the message, but they spontaneously develop their own hypotheses about the lexicon and the grammatical architecture of the new target language. During a first phase they form some kind of ‘inter-grammar’ made up by the relationships between corresponding elements of the languages mentally involved. During a second phase, they increase their knowledge about transfer and transfer processing. The procedure described will have some impact on the method of teaching a third or fourth foreign language. It leads, furthermore, to a reflection on constructive language learning and teaching operations.
The conception of culture as a text that can be read and interpreted has become an important approach in cultural semiotics and anthropology as well as in literary and cultural studies. The role of texts (in the widest semiotic sense), however, must not be underestimated: They do not only represent culture, they are themselves cultural elements. Integrating these two complementary notions (‘culture as text’ - ‘texts as culture’), the article tries to apply this conception to text didactics, describing the foreign language (FL) classroom as a discursive space marked by an interplay of texts and discourses from various cultures and languages. Quite similar to intercultural processes in the age of globalisation and migration, this interplay creates a hybrid space. Cultural elements and products (i.e. all kinds of texts) from the learners’ culture(s), from the target culture(s) and from transcultural discourses merge in the FL classroom and constitute a ‘third space’ (Bhabha) from which something new emerges. The assumption of three discursive spheres contributing to the hybridity of the FL classroom is developed into a didactic model that can serve to describe and to conceive the intercultural profile of curricula, of text combinations and of lessons for the FL classroom.