2. Framework of reference for intercultural communicative competence (ICC)
This section gives a brief description of the theoretical aspects of assessing intercultural communicative competence (ICC). It also presents the three dimensions of knowledge/savoir, knowing-how/savoir-faire and being/savoir-être (Lussier, 1997; 2003; 2005).
2.1 Theoretical aspects
It is common knowledge that culture is a mediating factor that is not easily defined or understood. There are more than 165 definitions in the Encyclopedia of Social Sciences but they are not necessarily relevant to the field of language learning/teaching and assessment. For this reason, it is important for the readers to refer to the definitions of intercultural competence, intercultural communicative competence and consequently of what is to be expected from an intercultural speaker (see Theoretical Background). In this section, the emphasis is on the terminology used in assessment.
Intercultural competence will be considered as the ability to interact effectively with people from cultures that we recognise as being different from our own, knowing that cultures simultaneously share and differ in certain aspects, e.g. beliefs, habits and values. To a large extent, «intercultural competence will be the ability to cope with one's own cultural background in interaction with others. In a wider sense, it involves the use of significantly different linguistic codes and contact with people holding significantly different sets of values and models» (Beneke, 2000). It implies the assessment of peculiar communication situations: the varied language, discourse strategies and behaviours people from different cultural backgrounds use in direct, face-to-face situations. The focus will be on how people handle differences in such situations and its various effects (Müller-Jacquier, 2000). Intercultural communicative competence will be based on certain attitudes, knowledge and skills in addition to linguistic, sociolinguistic and discourse components which define communicative competence (Canale and Swain, 1981). Attitudes implies curiosity and openness as well as readiness to see other cultures and the speaker's own without being judgmental. The required knowledge is «of social groups and their products and practices in one's won interlocutor's country, and of the general processes of societal and individual interaction». The skills include abilities of interpreting and relating, discovery and interaction as well as critical awareness/political education (Byram, 1997). Someone who has intercultural competence « has knowledge of one, or preferably, more cultures and social identities and has the capacity to discover and relate to new people from other contexts for which they have not been prepared directly (Byram, & Fleming, 1998). Consequently, the intercultural speaker will be someone « who crosses frontiers, and who can be to some extent a specialist in the transit of cultural property and symbolic values (Byram et Zarate, 1997: 11). He is able to mediate between two or more cultures.
In language education, learners have to mediate between two or more cultures. Interacting effectively across culture means accomplishing a negotiation between people based on both culture-specific and cultural-general features that is on the whole respectful and favourable to each. This implies the criss-crossing of identities and the «positions» to which they are summoned; as well as how they fashion, stylise, produce and «perform» these positions (Hall, 1996: 13-14). Learners should be committed to turning language encounters into intercultural relationships (Guilherme, M., 2000), which requires attributes such as empathy, flexibility, curiosity, openness, motivation, tolerance for ambiguity, and a willingness to suspend judgment (Fantini, A.E., 2000). These attributes need to be addressed as an integral part of ICC and clarified in terms of competencies to be developed and assessed. It requires certain attitudes, knowledge and skills, not considered in former conceptual frameworks. Thus, the need for new conceptual frameworks of reference in languages in order to evolve, first from linguistic competence to language communicative competence (Canale and Swain, 1980) and, now to intercultural communicative competence in the development of language curriculum. For this reason, the present chapter takes into consideration Byram's (1997), and Lussier's (1997; 2003) models in terms of the dimensions and sub-dimensions of ICC (the user/learner's competences) with consideration of the CEFR, (2001, Chapter 9 on Assessment).
2.2 Dimensions of ICC
The three dimensions in assessing ICC are:
(1) knowledge/savoirs. In terms of collective memory,
diversity in the ways of living and the socio-cultural context of the
societies and cultures of the communities in which a language is spoken.
It refers to intercultural awareness which involves the understanding
of the relation (similarities and distinctive differences) between the
world of origin and the world of the target communities,
next chapter: 3. Three dimensions of ICC