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iCLT principle 1

iCLT integrates language and culture from the beginning

Example 1 | Example 2 | Example 3

The need to integrate language and culture shifts the focus from a study of the language to a study of the contexts in which the language is used.

The importance of context involves an increased focus on genre. A genre is a socially accepted type of communicative event, either spoken – like a phone conversation, a joke, a lecture – or written, like a newspaper report, a novel, an email – or pictured, like a tattoo, a costume, a photo.

Genres differ across languages and cultures in type, use, modes, and importance.

A focus on genre puts the spotlight on these differences in ways that contribute to the development of students’ intercultural communicative competence.

The examples that follow illustrate these concepts.

Example 1: Understanding culture through language

Year 11 learners of Japanese study a conversation between Ben, a learner of Japanese, and Takeshi, a native speaker of Japanese, who are discussing their holidays. The interaction reveals how the speakers construct linguistic and cultural meaning as they make sense of each others’ utterances and respond in particular ways.

The interaction illustrates an aspect of Japanese culture where the collective well-being of the family, company, and other allegiances, takes precedence over that of the individual. In the context of expressing opinions, this results in a tendency towards indirectness. This indirectness is shown in spoken interaction where speaker(s) often use expressions of agreement and/or nod their agreement.

This trait is evident in Takeshi’s responses. While Ben talks about where he went on his holiday and the things he did, Takeshi’s sole comment about his own holiday was that it was enjoyable. For the rest of the conversation he responds to Ben’s comments, expressing agreement, and showing support for what he says.


The shift to understanding culture through language requires teachers to teach about communication in more depth and to focus on the use of language in particular contexts for specified purposes.

Teachers can act as mediators to help students interpret and reflect on the forms of language presented in the text, and the cultural contexts in which they are located.

Teachers can help students to find meaning not only in what the speakers say, but also in how they structure their responses. Through this kind of analysis and discussion, teachers develop their students’ understandings of the relationships between different cultural value systems, and how these are expressed through language.

This process enables students to reflect on how they would interact in a similar setting.

Example 2: Focus on meaning and form

Year 11 German students receive an email from a class in Germany with information about the school. They are to respond to the email by podcast. This tasks requires the students to address matters of meaning and form.

With regard to meaning, the email describes aspects of the school environment that are normal and taken for granted in schools in Germany, so they are not explained, for example:

  • Projektunterricht, Klassenarbeit, eine Kantine, sitzenbleiben.

This lack of explanation involves the New Zealand students in making meaning from references to specific aspects of the education system, and interpreting the various ways that language incorporates cultural information that gives the text depth and meaning.

The students have to construct their personal meanings at the boundaries between the native speakers’ meanings and their own everyday life and experiences. As they prepare a reply, the students need to consider how the school system works in New Zealand, and what aspects will be of particular interest to their German readers.

With regard to form, spoken and written language can be contrasted with each other as a means of illustrating the relationship of form and meaning. Because the email is a written text, and the reply is to be a podcast, this task offers the opportunity for students to analyse aspects of the written language and to decide on how that language might be altered to be more appropriate for spoken communication for a particular audience. For example, what kind of language would be appropriate at the beginning and end of the podcast for the intended viewers?


The teacher exploited the rich meaning potential of this task using an inquiry-based pedagogy.

The inquiry led to deeper exploration of the email’s meaning based on the teacher’s belief that the construction of linguistic and cultural meaning is a social process that takes place both within and between individuals as they try to make sense of what they are reading.

As they developed the podcast, the inquiry led students to identify features of spoken language as distinct from written language; to structure their experience by means of grammar and vocabulary; to establish the personal relationship they wished to have with the class; to draw on their background knowledge and experience; and to decide what to leave unsaid.

Example 3: Beyond first impressions

Year 11 learners of gagana Sāmoa study a poster advertising the attractions of Sāmoa. The combination of written and visual texts market Sāmoa as a holiday destination. A photo contains features to attract people to come to Sāmoa: blue skies, coconut palms, white sand, and local style buildings.

The words on the poster express views of Sāmoa that some might consider romanticised or stereotypical. These combine to construct a sense of the “exotic” in viewers’ minds, as the style of building and coconut palms are not typical of New Zealand.

Each text is unique and tells its own story, but the visual image and written text also work together to present an even more convincing reason to choose Sāmoa.

For example, the placement of headlines on the photo creates powerful associations in the minds of viewers/readers as they construct meaning from what they see and read, linking it to the knowledge they already have of Sāmoa and other islands in the Pacific through direct or indirect experience.


The teacher drew attention to literacy processes involved in making meaning from a poster. Readers do not read the messages on a poster in the same way that they read a written text in gagana Sāmoa or English, that is, in linear fashion, from left to right.

Instead, they gather the information visually and through the written text in any order. The use of a visual image, and the choice and arrangement of different types of written text (headlines, quotes, questions, sentences, phrases, metaphors) offer different entry points for the reader.

The teacher sought comment on their literacy strategies from other students in the class who know languages that have a different print orientation, for example, Japanese.

The teacher then led the students beyond a surface interpretation of the poster’s messages by asking them to reflect critically on the purposes of these brochures, who they are for, why certain features of these countries have been highlighted, and what kinds of language they contain. Would the inhabitants apply the same descriptions to the countries they live in?

The teacher had the students examine the kinds of written and visual texts included in posters advertising the attractions of New Zealand. They examined other posters advertising the attractions of Sāmoa.

The teacher then set a task, which used the knowledge the students had acquired through their exploration of particular linguistic and cultural forms, meanings, and purposes in the context of a poster advertisement. They were to prepare posters advertising the attractions of New Zealand to readers of gagana Sāmoa.

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Last updated March 26, 2013