The nexus of language and culture: a review of literature on intercultural communicative competence in foreign language education


The issue of intercultural communication has garnered more attention than ever as the world changes with increasing mobility both physical and virtual. Such change not only transforms how we communicate but also foregrounds cultural differences and the implications of intercultural understanding. Scholarly debate on the nexus of language and culture has ignited considerable research effort to contextualise foreign language education to accommodate such changing landscape. This article reviews both this debate and empirical effort with two aims. First, it aims to explore theoretical debates on the nature of the relationship between language and culture to identify the theoretical underpinnings of educational practice. Second, it reviews relevant empirical research to reveal how the issue of language and culture has been addressed in foreign language classrooms. In the theoretical overview, three highlights in the language-culture nexus debate are summarised, followed by the proposed dual focus on language and culture in foreign language education. Particularly, a model of intercultural communicative competence (ICC) is reviewed in detail as the paradigmatic example of addressing both language and culture in foreign language education. In the empirical review, scholarly works inspired by the ICC model are synthesised into three different themes, namely “Developing ICC: The traditional classroom approach”, “Developing ICC: The telecollaboration approach” and “Assessing ICC”. Insights and limitations of previous studies are discussed and future research directions are proposed at the end.

Cambridge Open-Review Educational Research e-Journal