In this paper, everyday knowledge of language is discussed. The current approaches to mental knowledge are criticized, and a dialogical alternative to the analysis of mental phenomena is proposed. In dialogism, the human mind is regarded as an inherently social and dynamic phenomenon which emerges in the process of interaction between the Self, the Other(s) and the Environment.
Everyday language awareness is typically based on lay concepts, with some overtones from educational systems. It is characteristically ethnocentric. Yet research suggests that language and thought, including discourse patterns, are culture specific. In cross-cultural encounters our implicit assumptions about language can give rise to cultural clashes, or more subtly to tacit disadvantaging or foreign-language speakers, including those with a good command of the L2.
These issues are explored in a study of exchange students in their foreign and domestic universities, based on interviews and participant observation, focussing on the way students and teachers see language at university, including students’ problems and strengths. It is shown that people hold two fundamentally different notions of language, one resembling a traditional lexicogrammatical view, the other a more layman-like notion of discourse. Moreover, the two university systems show striking differences in genres, but this is ignored by teachers to the disadvantage of foreign students.
Although ‘intercultural learning’ has become a widely used term in foreign language learning and education, until today it is not really clear what is meant by this concept. Aiming at a more precise application of the term, the author discusses the use of ‘intercultural learning’ in several publications. She insists, that ‘Fremdes’ und ‘Eigenes’ are inseparable categories in intercultural learning and intercultural studies. This should mean information about, reflexion on and criticism of the foreign culture and one’s own. The latter aspect leads to the integration of recent concepts, offered by Intercultural Pedagogics for multicultural societies, into intercultural foreign language learning and education. These concepts include the insight into common cultural features and the criticism of structures of dominance and dominant behaviour.
The recent burgeoning of literature in the English language by authors from outside Britain ort he United States has led to the attention of literary scholarship being increasingly focussed on this new area of writing. This shift in emphasis coincides – in the field of cultural theory – with the discovery of a phenomenon called colonial discourse, both of which combine to highlight the periphery’s growing self-confidence vis-à-vis the centre’s assumed superiority that gets deconstructed in the process.
The consequences of this development for the canon of English literature are obvious: Quite clearly one can no longer afford to exclude a large number of texts from the canon – as the champions of the traditional canon advocate – simply because they do not conform to certain Eurocentric notions of what literature should be like. On the other hand this does not mean that the newly discovered provinces of writing need entirely to replace the older texts. Given the hybridity of every colonial culture, of which the recently established critical discipline of postcolonial theory supplies ample evidence, the new literatures are a fascinating, palimpsestic overlay of the old and the new, of Europe and Africa or Asia, thereby requiring the critic to view the one in the light of each other.
The case of South African literature in English serves to exemplify these points. In order to demonstrate the full diversity of this particular branch of colonial or post-colonial literature, the emphasis is laid on one of its central discourses – the question of who rightfully owns the country, the white settlers or the natives. The ongoing concern with the right of possession typical of any colonial encounter has led – right from the very beginning until the present day – to a large number of literary encodings, the most important of which are presented in the following.
The article is on the one hand a rejection of Hartmut Heuermann’s ideas concerning the pathogenic effect of the media on young people’s mind and on the other a plea for incorporating fictional media products into the process of intercultural foreign language teaching.
It is wrong to assume a direct effect of fictional-aesthetic texts on the behaviour of recipients in real life situations. Empirical studies cited by Heuermann are very inconclusive in this respect. Popular culture shares with high culture a specific mode of being processed as a fictional world on the basis of both the recipient’s knowledge of the world and of the conventions of presentation. This is evident from empirical work known as audience watching a TV programme and conducting interviews with the recipients afterwards are the methodological tools employed to find out about the processes of circulating cultural meanings via TV and film. Pedagogical efforts should start from this observation and should concentrate on the processes by which students make sense of what they see on TV. In foreign language teaching this will further both foreign language learning and intercultural understanding.