FACETS OF INTERCULTURAL LEARNING: STUDENT EXPERIENCES

Valdonė Indrašienė, Vaida Jurgilė

Abstract


In recent decades, the focus on intercultural studies has increased alongside the acceleration of globalisation and the resulting ability to move more freely from one country to another. Studies on intercultural learning in Europe started to emerge in the 1960s, with research in this field carried out both abroad (for example, Gill, 2007; Portera, 2011; Deardorff, 2011) and in Lithuania (for example, Virgailaitė-Mečkauskaitė, 2011; Bielskienė, Duoblienė, Tamulionytė, 2012; Chodzkienė, 2012; Norvilienė, 2014). It is important to note that intercultural learning is not a stable condition, according to Virgilaitė–Mečkauskaitė (2011), but “a complex construct, which is being developed all the time; it covers all socialisation factors, forms of formal and informal learning, lifelong learning strategy and an individual’s experience”. It is therefore continuous and dynamic, and to get a good grasp of such learning, it is not enough to know a foreign language; one also needs to have knowledge about other countries or, in rare cases, communicate with people from different cultural backgrounds. Therefore, Deardorff (2011) portrays it as an unending process with a continual development of knowledge, internal achievements and attitudes. According to the author, such education gives both internal and external results: internally, it changes an individual’s attitude towards different cultures, making them more open and tolerant towards others; and externally, it becomes easier for an individual to communicate, understand other types of behaviour and control different situations. The ability of learners to successfully adapt, communicate and collaborate in an environment of different cultures demonstrates their level of interculturalism and can help their development in the process of learning. Byram, Nichols and Stevens (2001) argue that the acquisition of intercultural competence depends on the environment in which cultural experience happens. There is an inevitable continuing dialogue in the process of this type of learning that encourages people to reject stereotypes or assumptions about other cultures. It is important, meanwhile, to note that the cultural environment can both promote and hinder intercultural learning. As a result, research is needed to enable a clearer understanding of the specifics of this type of learning and expand the view that it can be not only a form of learning, but also a tool that helps to prevent misunderstandings and creates understanding between cultures. Of course, intercultural learning can take place through indirect acquisition of knowledge about other cultures, as well as direct interaction with people of other cultures. Factors that can be analysed by highlighting a student’s individual experiences can help reveal the best ways of helping them learn and approaches that can promote his or her understanding. However, to make learning meaningful, students’ experiences must be taken into account. This study mainly addresses higher-education studies and aims to define the organisation of learning processes in an intercultural study environment: which factors promote or hinder learning in such an environment?

Keywords


intercultural learning, learning, national students, foreign students, cultural differences

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.13165/SMS-18-10-2-11

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"Societal studies" ISSN online 2029-2244 / ISSN print 2029-2236