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      Intercultural Communicative Competence – a Floating Signifier : Assessing Models in the Study Abroad Context 

      Intercultural Communicative Competence in Language Education

      Peter Lang

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          Previous research on intercultural communicative competence is based on the experiences of Westeners working abroad in the 1950s. It was mostly motivated by perceived cross-cultural communication problems that made collaboration between individuals from different backgrounds more difficult. The scope of research was later expanded, ranging from studying abroad to international business contexts, such as expatriates living abroad or immigrant acculturation (cf. Sinicrope et al. 2007). Hence, the conceptualisations of intercultural communicative competence ‘are highly diverse in their disciplines, terminologies, and scholarly and practical objectives’ (Spitzberg & Changnon 2009: 4). This vast variety of definitions may enrich the potential of linguistic research but might also lead to significantly diverging judgements of people’s intercultural competence (cf. Busch 2009). Yet, even within one discipline such as the field of language education, a multitude of concepts exists. As a result, there are different answers as to what components and competencies intercultural competence consists of and how this competence can be learned and taught (cf. Rathje 2006: 2). The following discussion illustrates the diversity of models of intercultural communicative competence in the field of L2 education. Depending on the underlying theoretical approaches, some models emphasise psychological dispositions and capacities, while others stress knowledge and awareness, or acquired skills based on underlying attitudes. These implicit differences in objectives and outcomes of intercultural competence inevitably lead to a myriad of assessment methods.

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