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iCLT principle 2

iCLT engages learners in genuine social interaction

Example 1 | Example 2 | Example 3

The need to engage learners in genuine social interaction shifts the focus from language forms to language use in particular contexts. Genuine social interactions take place whenever people communicate with each other using their own utterances in response to a real social purpose.

In iCLT, cultural meaning is created through the interactions of speakers in social contexts. Meaning is not given through what the speaker says – meaning is created in the minds of hearers by the inferences they make based on the words they hear.

In iCLT, the meaning of “genuine social interaction” is broadened to include literacy.

Readers and viewers of texts in another language are not merely mastering the written or visual language.

Meaning is not given through what is written or pictured in the texts – meaning is created in the minds of readers and viewers by the inferences they make based on the language they read and view, and the cultural references that they interpret.

They have to reconstitute for themselves their understandings of the context, infer meaning, and define their place in relation to those meanings they construct. In that sense, literacy is defined as “social practice”.

The examples that follow illustrate these concepts.

Example 1: Constructing cultural meaning

Damien, a year 12 student of French, is conversing with a French speaker, who asks him to name typical New Zealand foods.

Damien is challenged by the question. He first reflects on his knowledge of French culture, linking it to what he knows about New Zealand. He goes on to suggest pavolva, then quickly realises that the French speaker may not know what a pavlova is, so he puts a direct question to the other speaker:

  • “Vous connaissez la pavlova?” [Do you know what a pavlova is?].

During the rest of the interaction, he constructs his personal meanings of particular aspects of New Zealand culture, through reflection, hesitation, identifying, and reinforcing further examples.


Teachers can help students to explore how cultural meaning is created through this interaction. Damien finds himself in a space between two cultures.

In the intercultural space in which he finds himself, Damien is confronted with his own identity as a New Zealander and reflects on practices across cultures, identifying some differences in food associated with France and New Zealand.

Through this instance of genuine social interaction, and the challenge to the cultural meanings that he had taken for granted, Damien was able to construct new personal, cultural meanings and has come to understand himself better as a New Zealander.

Damien’s selection of typical New Zealand items challenges others who engage with the text as listeners or readers to explore their own views – and feelings – in relation to the dishes or foods they themselves would select as typical if they were in a similar situation.

Teachers can set tasks that enable students to make their responses explicit and demonstrate how they might react to the same question in that situation.

  • What would be the foods they would choose?
  • Why would they choose them?
  • How would they describe them?
  • How would they feel?
  • What connections could they make to foods in a specific French culture?

Teachers could adapt the question to other contexts, for example:

  • “Quels sont les sports typiquement néo-zélandais?” [What are typical New Zealand sports?].

Example 2: Responding to cultural meanings

Year 12 learners of Japanese study an interaction between Ben, a New Zealand learner of Japanese, and Takeshi, a Japanese international student. Ben and Takeshi have just returned from their term holidays and are discussing what they did over the break. The students notice that Takeshi uses Ben’s name in the interaction to avoid having to address him directly using the pronoun you:

  • ベンくんは?

Takeshi attaches the term of address くん to Ben’s name, recognising that he can use the more familiar termくん which is used with males.

The question attached to the use of Ben’s name: ベンくんは? also shows the use of incomplete sentences in conversations, where the meaning is clear in the context.


As a response to this text, the teacher had the students investigate how the Japanese equivalent of the English pronoun “you” is used – or not used – in a range of conversational texts in Japanese, as well as other forms of address, for example, くん .

The teacher, through this investigation, encouraged the students to make comparisons with how people address each other in interactions in English, and in the other languages they speak.

The teacher then designed tasks in which students could apply this knowledge when producing their own texts in Japanese (oral, written, visual).

One task required students to interact with speakers of Japanese in their school, offering them advice on how to become fit enough to be chosen for sports teams in their school.

With the students’ permission, they were to record their conversations and play these back in class for feedback and their own critical reflection on their linguistic and cultural competencies.

Example 3: Literacy as social practice

Year 12 students learning Spanish are to complete a written survey about holiday preferences. The survey is organised as a kind of an adventure with a surprise or promise at the end:

  • “Contesta a las preguntas y descubre tu lugar ideal”. [Answer the questions and discover your ideal destination.]

By participating in the survey, the respondents not only discover a destination. They also develop explicit knowledge about themselves and their holiday preferences.

These discoveries are made through characterising the survey and its responses as a “silent” conversation, that is, the survey asks the question, and readers respond, constructing their self-knowledge through their interaction with the text.


The teacher can lead the students to examine the text critically. The suggestions made for the final holiday destinations are clearly the writer’s personal choice, for example:

  • “Si has marcado más la letra (b) recomendamos la Costa del Sol.”

Another survey designer may have chosen different destinations. Students may or may not know the holiday destinations provided in the survey response analysis. They could investigate these and find out why they are so popular.

The categories of questions are chosen by the survey writer. Another survey may have included different questions. Teachers can help the students discuss their own reaction to the survey, their responses, and the self-knowledge they have gained through their participation.

Students could investigate other surveys in Spanish and note the format, the kinds of language they use, and the choice of topics. Students could design their own surveys in Spanish, making up holiday destinations for residents in countries in South America. Why would students choose these particular destinations?

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Last updated June 20, 2012