It may be claimed that intercomprehension is nothing new
and that it has existed as long as humans have felt the need
to understand and be understood in communication exchanges
with other humans speaking another language than themselves.
It may furthermore be claimed that intercomprehension is not
a new phenomenon in the classroom: Pupils striving to learn
a foreign language have always used whatever resources they
had to overcome difficulties when dealing with the foreign
language. However, what perhaps is a new idea, is that of
mobilizing one's general language and cultural knowledge,
skills and experience in a more systematic way than before,
by being encouraged by a teacher who acknowledges the significance
of this capacity.
Through experiments carried out with 12-year-old pupils dealing
with a German text, 15-year-olds working with a French text,
and student teachers working with a Spanish text, none of
whom knew German, French, and Spanish respectively, we saw
that these learners were fully capable of dealing with languages
they supposedly did not know. They mobilized their complete
range of resources and were able to decode the unknown language
on the basis of various clues: clues that we have argued for
and labelled "language", "culture", "genre" and "topic".
It is this capacity we think can be developed in the foreign
language classroom by working systematically with enhancing
the learner's language and culture awareness. We showed this
by working with teachers willing to experiment and take risks
and we learnt from these experiments some of the elements
which need to be included in a course of training for teachers.
For a student teacher it is vital to develop both his/her
own awareness and to be able to motivate and stimulate his/her
future pupils to build up their linguistic and cultural awareness.
Outside the classroom such awareness-raising will be valuable
in order to meet different nationalities and to function in
a society where plurilingualism will gradually become an increasingly
essential feature inside and outside Europe.
Next - 9.0 References