3.0 ILTE and the Norwegian partner's
Even if the foundation for the project was an academic and
pedagogic interest in the training of foreign language student
teachers in several countries and with a comparative dimension,
it was evident through all the different stages of the work
that intercomprehension would mean different things
in different national contexts. The individual national projects
were therefore developed in relation to the different needs
of the countries, but at the same time with a view to the
common understanding that had brought the network members
together and with a view to the common strands that crystallized
as the project developed.
For the Norwegian team it was important -
and necessary - to relate intercomprehension to the
national curriculum guidelines for compulsory education and
to the national guidelines for teacher education. Furthermore,
it was essential for us to see the national context in relation
to the context of European languages and cultures. And finally,
since the concrete result of the project was the development
of modules to be included in teacher training, it was of utmost
importance for us to relate intercomprehension to the
trainees' future work in the foreign language classroom.
Compulsory education in Norway (grades 1-10,
ages 6-16) is organized and run according to national curriculum
guidelines. Several revisions have been made over the last
decades, the latest two revisions in 1987 and 1997. In relation
to intercomprehension, the cultural dimension of language
learning, the role of the mother tongue, and the idea of enhancing
the pupils' overall language competence, implicit and explicit,
are of particular interest and importance, and it is appropriate
to consider first how these issues appear in the guidelines..
The 1987 guidelines were vague as regards
the role of the mother tongue in the foreign language classroom.
They stated that the pupils' insight in and knowledge of their
mother tongue should be exploited in the instruction of English,
without underlining the value of this insight and knowledge.
The role of the mother tongue as compared to that of the foreign
language was presented in the traditional contrastive analysis
and error analysis framework with emphasis on differences
and interferences rather than on similarities and transfers.
It could be argued that focus was on negative transfer of
language rather than on positive transfer.
In the 1997 guidelines the notion of pupils'
overall language competence is introduced:
The task of enhancing pupils' overall language competence
is common to all the language courses. The aims and approaches
of all the language syllabuses are therefore viewed as being
interrelated. First language and foreign language teaching
are thus based on a shared view of language, in which foreign
language learning is not only viewed as skills training
but also as an educational process, involving socialisation
and the development of language awareness and cultural awareness.
The syllabus in English is based on the language-learning
foundations laid when pupils learn their first language,
on experience pupils have already gained through contact
with other languages and cultures both at school and elsewhere,
and on text competence which pupils have acquired through
learning their first language.
(The Royal Ministry of Education, Research and Church Affairs,
Here, then, we see an explicit statement of conceptual and
practical links between the foreign language (English) and
the mother tongue. The question that remains to be answered,
however, is how this link is actually practiced in school.
The 1997 guidelines also emphasize that good knowledge of
languages is of utmost importance for successful contact,
cooperation, and communication with people in Europe and the
rest of the world. Learning foreign languages will facilitate
communication with people in other countries and thus provide
opportunities for becoming familiar with other cultures. Insight
into and knowledge of other cultures will be a basis for respect
and open-mindedness and lead to other ways of thinking. In
this way the pupils' understanding of their own cultural roots
will also increase and thus contribute to strengthening their
Therefore the cultural dimension is strongly
emphasized and viewed as an important element of all foreign
language learning. This is very clear both in the overall
philosophy of the guidelines and in their individual objectives.
Language learning, as compared to the traditional, narrow
view of learning a foreign language - learning its grammar,
vocabulary and pronunciation - is also very much a question
of learning the culture of the countries in which the foreign
language is spoken. For example one of the objectives for
1st grade pupils is to ..."start to learn about
how children in English-speaking countries live." (p. 240)
Language and culture are inseparable aspects of language learning;
language is not only structures and words; language is also
culture and communication.
The national guidelines for general teacher education had
to be revised as a consequence of the new guidelines for primary
and lower secondary school. The revised guidelines took effect
as of 1 August 1998. They are closely related to the curriculum
guidelines for compulsory education. One important element
in the revised guidelines is their strong emphasis on the
cultural dimension of foreign language learning. Cultural
awareness, social competence, and general educational competence
are crucial key concepts. This parallels the focus on culture
in the guidelines for primary and lower secondary school and
stresses foreign language learning as the learning of linguistic
structures, culture, and communication.
In today's Europe linguistic and cultural
diversity is more prominent and crucial to political and social
development than ever before. New countries join the European
Union in one way or other in a continuous process, and the
need to communicate across linguistic and cultural barriers
becomes more and more obvious and predominant.
In this process the national languages may
establish a position both as a national and as an international
means of communication. The major European languages, i.e.
the languages most taught as foreign languages in school,
will in the short run mean more to international communication
than the less taught and less spoken languages, but also these
languages will in the long run be in a position to contribute
because of their participation in the European community.
The European Language Portfolio (http://culture.coe.fr/lang/eng/eedu2.5.html)
may turn out to be a very useful tool to promote all European
languages. The various countries participating in this project
develop their individual frameworks for their portfolios.
In the French portfolio, for example, there is a section "Mes
contacts avec d'autres langues et d'autres cultures", which
is a form the pupils can fill in to make a survey of their
individual linguistic and cultural experiences. This seems
to be an excellent idea to make pupils aware of the knowledge
they already have. Such a survey may encourage them to develop
and broaden this knowledge and better prepare them for increased
contact with other languages and cultures. The English version
My Languages Portfolio also includes several good ideas
that can easily be adapted. (
To sum up, the Norwegian curriculum guidelines for compulsory
education and the national framework for the education of
trainee teachers provide the basis for developing teacher
training programmes for foreign languages that include the
notion of intercomprehension. However, as outlined
in 2.0, our vision of intercomprehension goes further: we
would like to see a more comprehensive view of language education,
including the first language, Norwegian, or Sami, or a migrant
language, and the foreign language(s) - even classical languages
where they exist. Our project deals above all with foreign
languages, but we see it as a first step towards a more comprehensive
view in the future. Today there is a place for mother tongues
in the foreign language classroom, but this is not going as
far as saying there is active cooperation in the teaching
of the mother tongue and the foreign language(s), or in the
teaching of one foreign language and another.
We see intercomprehension applied in education as wider,
or more explicit, than what is stated in the guidelines: We
see language learning - mother tongue and foreign languages
- as a process that incorporates all prior knowledge of language,
including skills and experiences, and paves the way for more
language(s) to be learnt. The teacher's role will then be
to understand the significance of this and apply it in the
classroom. The teacher-to-be, the student teacher, needs to
see and experience both the pupil's and the teacher's role,
and this is what we attempted to do when the modules were
compiled, cf chapter 6.
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The ILTE project - ideas, definition, aim