our words make worlds

Intercultural Competence and Foreign Language Learning in HE: Present and Future Directions

The Department of Modern Languages at the University of Exeter is hosting an online conference to bring together researchers, professionals and practitioners with expertise in integrating Intercultural Competence in the teaching and learning foreign languages in Higher Education.

Intercultural competence can be broadly defined as a wide range of cognitive, affective, and behavioural skills that lead to effective and appropriate communication with people of other cultures, and thus the ‘ability to interact with ‘others’, to accept other perspectives and perceptions of the world, to mediate between different perspectives, to be conscious of differences’ (Byram, Nichols, and Stevens, 2001: 5). Intercultural competence is essential to operate in our multicultural world and language learners are in an ideal position to engage actively with cultural diversity. During their academic experience, they experience and reflect on how communities of people engage through other languages in different social practices grounded in their own values and beliefs, and make sense of the world they live in.

The process of languaging is a social one and it is inextricably interwoven with the mechanism of making sense through language learning of ‘the supercomplex variety of human experience’ (Bennett, 2000). It is through this process that we are able to understand better also our own culture and identity. Although the centrality of the development of intercultural competence in language learning makes Modern Language and Foreign Language programmes ideal sites of intercultural expertise there is a need to articulate more clearly and explicitly its richness and value as well as its contribution to the Internationalization and Global Citizenship Educational HE agenda and its future directions.

Plenary Speakers:

  • Troy McConachy (Associate Professor in Applied Linguistics) University of Warwick.
  • Prof Prue Holmes (Reader in International and Intercultural Education in the Department of Education and MA Programme Director) Durham University.
  • Prof Amy Rossomondo (Director of Spanish – Accesso digital learning environment) The University of Kansas.

The themes of the online event are intentionally broad so as to encourage the sharing of expertise and ideas.

  • Innovative approaches to the teaching of intercultural competence in language teaching with specific focus on syllabus design, developing resources; marking criteria and testing;
  • Internationalism, employability and intercultural competence in the formal and informal curriculum of all undergraduate programmes – examples of good practice;
  • Developing Intercultural Competence online: New opportunities;
  • Intercultural competence and the decolonization of the language syllabus;
  • Theoretical discussions and practical examples of how Modern Languages Departments and Foreign Language Centres (can) play a key role in the Internationalization and Global Citizenship Educational HE agenda;
  • Intercultural competence training of language teachers within a non-essentialist approach to cultures.


To register, please visit the conference eventbrite page.

For further information, please contact Prof Sonia Cunico (S.Cunico@exeter.ac.uk). The conference is organised by the University of Exeter with the support of the AULC (Association of University Language Communities in the UK and Ireland) and a grant from Language Acts and Worldmaking.