International Conference on Intercultural Competence
Concepts – Challenges – Evaluations

University College Dublin & National University of Ireland Maynooth

02 – 04  September 2010
in Maynooth

Intercultural Competence has increasingly become an issue in second language acquisition over the last two decades. The concept has been broadly welcomed by theoreticians and practitioners alike and has become an integral part of most 21st century foreign language curricula around the world, but it has also been challenged from various positions. Being quite vague and oscillating, the concept of Intercultural Competence is open to a wide variety of interpretations and adaptations; it has become a shibboleth for many of those engaged in second language teaching, curricular planning and educational policies. Although it is difficult not to be in favour of fostering Intercultural Competence in foreign language learning, in whatever form and shape, there are still open questions as to the precise conceptualisation of Intercultural Competence and its constitutive components, ways of conceptualising and implementing the teaching/learning process and forms of assessment and evaluation.

The conference aims to critically address these problems with the following focal questions

·         What exactly is ‘competence’?
·         How can Intercultural Competence be defined (e.g. against concepts like cross-cultural competence, multicultural competence, trans-cultural competence, critical cultural awareness, intercultural sensitivity and intercultural communicative competence)?
·         Is the concept of Intercultural Competence mainly a cognitive phenomenon, or does it include psychological traits such as attitudes, affective aspects and constructions of identity?
·         What does the acquisition of such competence entail, particularly for learners of a foreign language?
·         Can the acquisition of Intercultural Competence be conceptualised independent of the process of learning a foreign language, or are the two inextricably linked?
·         Can synergies be developed between academic fields which operate with the concept of Intercultural Competence (e.g. economics, social psychology, pedagogy, contrastive linguistics, didactics of foreign language teaching/learning)?
·         Can one conceptualise the acquisition of intercultural competence as a progressive or developmental process?


·         Does the concept of Intercultural Competence operate with essentialist and hence reductive categories (e.g. monolithic and simplistic conceptualisations of ‘culture’)?
·         Is it possible to teach Intercultural Competence in the foreign language classroom, or is it rather a question of learning and individual experience?
·         Which processes facilitate intercultural learning?
·         How are intercultural experiences processed by the learner?
·         If Intercultural Competence can be taught in a classroom situations, do the various limitations not inevitably lead to stereotyping and reductive procedural suggestions?
·         Is the classroom with its specific organisational peculiarities the most conducive environment to the teaching and learning of intercultural competence?
·         What is the role of language(s) in the development of Intercultural Competence?
·         What role can learning foreign languages in schools play in the acquisition of intercultural competence?
·         Should language teachers focus on teaching language as a system and ignore vague psychological constructs like Intercultural Competence?


·         Can (or should) Intercultural Competence be assessed, and if so, how?
·         Are there cross-culturally stable instruments available for measuring and assessing Intercultural Competence?
·         Are there language programmes in existence which show the usefulness of integrating elements of Intercultural Competence?
·         Is there empirical evidence that individuals have benefited in terms of Intercultural Competence from the exposure to a particular kind of teaching?
·         Is there evidence of a progression in the acquisition of Intercultural Competence?
·         Are there strategies within the framework of institutional language teaching which allow for the creation of a type of intercultural competence that goes beyond stereotyping?
·         How do intercultural experts (and/or students) conceptualise and evaluate their personal intercultural learning process?
·         How can teaching about intercultural topics be planned and conducted?

Abstracts (of 300 words maximum) should be sent to one of the contact persons to arrive no later than Wednesday, 31 March 2010.


Prof. Dr. Theo Harden
School of Languages and Literatures
University College Dublin
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Dr. Arnd Witte
Senior Lecturer & Head
Department of German
National University of Ireland Maynooth
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Prof. Dr. Theo Harden
SLL University College Dublin
Belfield, Dublin 4

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