Intercultural competencies of upper secondary learners of French
This thesis seeks to investigate the question of whether learners of French in the upper secondary sector acquire intercultural competencies which are commensurate with their linguistic competencies, during their two-year preparation for the examinations at 'Advanced' level which allow admission to university. The study has been undertaken in relation to existing literature in the disciplines of foreign language pedagogy, intercultural communication and motivation for foreign language learning. It examines the concept of culture within the teaching of upper secondary French, and recent developments which have led to the concept of the 'intercultural speaker'. In particular, it draws upon the work of Keesing and Gudykunst in the field of intercultural communication and theoretical foundations in the field of foreign language and culture pedagogy in the work of Kramsch, Zarate and Byram. Data were collected during a two-year longitudinal study among upper secondary students of French in the north-east of England. They consist of a questionnaire and three semi-structured interviews, together with a number of informal assessment activities. Their teachers were also interviewed. Data were subsequently analysed within the theoretical framework of savoirs proposed by Byram (1997b) in Teaching and Assessing Intercultural Communicative Competence. There was some evidence for the existence of certain of the savoirs and a disposition among the participants to develop others. It was clear from the data that experiences outside the classroom had been significant in this respect, but that certain pedagogical practices had probably also been helpful. The thesis concludes by recommending the inclusion of intercultural competencies in the specifications for foreign languages examinations in the upper secondary sector and offers some suggestions for a three stage development towards the status of intercultural speaker.