Sustainable formation of multicultural competence in English Language learning at the Azerbaijan University of Languages

22 avqust, 2019

PhD., associate professor  Sevda Imanova

Azerbaijan University of Languages

[email protected]


Sustainable formation of multicultural competence in English Language learning at the Azerbaijan University of Languages

Abstract based on sustainable formation of multicultural competence to the students in English Language learning (ELL), to give some suggestions how, why and what to teach. English language teachers have a great opportunity to contribute in sustainable formation of multicultural competence to the students aimed to point out where the world of language teaching is in terms of the competences that learners are expected to gain. Teacher training program curricula must highlight multicultural communication in education. All educators, teachers of all countries must work cooperatively for creating modern school, university policy, programs, and textbooks. Teachers can do a lot of work also outside the normal curricula. It may be discussions, round table meetings, conferences on theme “Sustainable formation of intercultural competence to the students in ELL at the Azerbaijan University of Languages”.

Key words: sustainable formation, intercultural competence, English language teaching.


Intercultural Communication Competence (ICC) is the absolute necessity for education in the 21st century. Meanwhile, sustainable development of ICC competence has already become a new teaching concept, which will penetrate in all aspects of language teaching activities. Indeed, to facilitate language learners to develop ICC, language teachers, especially those teaching English should first be competent intercultural communicators with great confidence and sufficient experience.

Intercultural communicative competence builds on communicative competence and enlarges it to incorporate intercultural competence. So as to clarify the concept of intercultural competence to educators and teachers in the domain of foreign language education, the knowledge, skills and attitudes which together make up intercultural competence have been organized in a conceptual framework comprising five saviors (Byram, 1997).

Intercultural communicating means communicating among people come from many and various cultures face to face. For foreign language educators, to develop the learner’s intercultural communication competence is to know how to teach foreign culture. Culture teaching in foreign language teaching is a question countered by language teachers throughout all universities in the world. The relationship between language and culture is dynamic.

 Firstly, language is an important part of culture. It is the primary vehicle by which a culture transmits its beliefs, values and norms. Secondly, language is influenced by culture. Language is one of the most important carriers of culture and reflects the latter. If there is no language, culture would not be known.

On the one hand, culture is the basis and one of the most important attributes of language without roots. To maintain the diverse and multi-level contacts and forms of communication, it is necessary not only knowledge of the language, but also knowledge of the rules and regulations of foreign culture. Each participant of international contacts quickly realizes that one language is not enough for a full intercultural understanding, which requires knowledge of the process of communication, to anticipate possible incorrect understanding partners and avoid it. The gradual development of the qualitatively new relationship between the countries has contributed to the creation of great opportunities for both foreign languages learning and their use in oral and written communication within the country and abroad. Accordingly, at the present stage of English language fluency as a means of intercultural communication in academic and professional environments, in situations of solving social and economic issues is an integral component of professional competence of specialists of any profile. With the learning foreign languages we learn the culture that belongs to people who speak on this language. And in this case we come across the term “intercultural learning”. The process of becoming more aware of and better understanding one's own culture and other cultures around the world.

Basically, intercultural communication competence indicates: a) ability to communicate interpersonally, (b) ability to adjust or different cultures, (c) ability to adjust to different cultures, (c) ability to deal with different societal systems, (d) ability to establish interpersonal relationships and (e) ability to understand others. Thus, people with intercultural communication competence must not only know how to interact effectively and appropriately with people of different cultures and different environment of different countries, but also know how to fulfill their own communication goals by respecting and affirming the multi-level cultural identities of the interactants. The English language is always used by different people from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds to express their ideas and opinions. When English language teaching is used by diverse people from diverse cultural backgrounds, the diverse values, beliefs, world views, ways of thinking, and patterns of life embedded in the linguistic forms and the manner by which the selected linguistic forms are put into speech or text can also be brought to the intercultural communication awareness of the students.

English language teaching is an important channel for improvement of the students’ intercultural communication competence. First of all, English language teaching can provide the students opportunities to come into contact other cultures and people in the classrooms without going abroad, because the cultures in English-spoken countries are brought to the knowledge of the students through various English language teaching materials, class activities and personal interaction with foreign teachers and students from English –spoken countries. Needless to say, in the intercultural interaction through various types of English language teaching and English language learning, alternative ways of intercultural communication and ways of living (with their foreign language teachers) are unfolded and thus the ideology of cultural relativity will be gradually built up in the students with the enhancement of not only their intercultural communication awareness, but also their intercultural communication competence. Throughout the process, English language teachers and students are engaged in negotiation of definitions establishment or reestablishment of cultural identities in between their own linguaculture and that of others. English language teaching offers unique and important chances for the students’ intercultural experience. In sum, English language teaching is the most effective means of cultivation for the students’ intercultural communication competence.

Intercultural communicative competence plays a vital role for the cultivation of language and communication ability, intercultural communication is a new “edge” subject, which has a close relationship with English teaching. As the Azerbaijan University of Languages, the English teachers should undertake the new mission, combine the language teaching with culture teaching, and develop students’ intercultural communicative competence.

According to the relationship between university English teaching and intercultural communication, the characteristics of cultural background and language function of foreign language teaching, culture can be divided into knowledge culture and communication culture. Communication culture refers to two people from different cultural backgrounds when they communicate directly and impact on the information transfer, factors that may cause the deviation or error language and non-language culture, including greetings, thanks, addressing, idioms, euphemism and taboo. Foreign language teaching should turn to language education and cultural education, to cultivate students’ cross-cultural communicative competence. Culture teaching in English teaching objective is the accumulation of English culture knowledge, cultivating intercultural communicative awareness and competence. More and more teachers and textbook writers recognized the close relationship between language and culture. While the university English teaching requirements is defined by the English education should include culture knowledge, culture understanding, intercultural awareness and intercultural communicative competence, cultural awareness is also reflected in the social development and economic construction. Foreign language education in the university stage is an important process to foster language quality, we must cultivate the talents who are world oriented, have a profound understanding of foreign culture. This requires us to pay attention to intercultural education in university English teaching, improve the students’ English sustainable formation of intercultural communication.  Cultural awareness refers to the sensitivity to the similarities and differences between the foreign culture and the native culture, as well as in the use of language in the target language (such as English) cultural awareness to adjust their language comprehension and language production. The sensitivity and awareness can be cultivated, English teaching is not only to impart knowledge, more important is the cultivation of students’ communicative competence, and develop their applications in English intercultural communicative competence. People just learn a foreign language pronunciation, grammar rules and vocabulary does not mean learning the language well and communicate effectively. In intercultural communication, if the communication between the partners cannot enter the same cultural background, it produces misunderstanding, so that the communication fails.

At present, the economic development needs more and more university graduates who have a solid professional knowledge and can directly speak and communicate English with foreign experts’ investors and managers. There are cases with non-native students (Azerbaijani students) when they use English inappropriately in the foreign communication and make the “cultural mistakes. There are four kinds of mistakes related to culture and language: (1) From the perspective of sociolinguistics is not appropriate. “Where are you from?” If they meet foreigners on the road, they will ask “where do you come from?”; They refused foreign friends’ proposal with “I will think it over.” (2) Not acceptable in the culture and customs. If they invite foreign friends to participate in social activities but do not invite their spouses, use silence to answer foreign teacher’s question, expressing gratitude to say many many thanks. (3) The conflict of different value systems. If they meet the foreign friends after being apart a long time, they said “You have got no change at all.” And ask foreigners’ income etc. (4) Too simple or too general. Such as they think all Americans like to eat McDonald’s, all British people are quiet.

Cultural mistakes is more serious than the language errors, because it is easy to cause emotional unpleasant between foreigners and Azerbaijanis. Therefore, how should we use language correctly and appropriately is an important part of the intercultural communicative competence.

The classroom teaching is the important position of cultivating students’ intercultural awareness, and therefore the most important thing is to train the students’ intercultural awareness and ability in the classroom;

Take the culture as teaching objectives and content, set phases goals, convenient for teacher to operate; strengthen the cultural background information introduction, the students learn language and understand the culture from different angles;

By using a visual media experience foreign culture in different ways, teachers may find information and use multimedia, the students not only understand western culture but also through actual context to learn how to use the language by social application;

Pay attention to cultural differences, strengthen cultural comparison, raise cultural awareness, make good culture knowledge introduction, enhance students’ sensitivity to cultural differences. It is also a higher demand for teachers to cultivate intercultural communicative awareness and competence, teachers must spend a lot of time to find the corresponding teaching materials and teaching methods.

Intercultural communicative competence plays a vital role for the cultivation of language and communication ability, intercultural communication is a new “edge” subject, which has a close relationship with English teaching.

As the university English teachers in the new era, we should undertake the new mission, combine the language teaching with culture teaching, develop students’ intercultural communicative competence, enable students to become all-round developed students, help students to improve their English proficiency and intercultural competence in English Language Learning.


Byram, M. 1997. Teaching and Assessing Intercultural Communicative Competence.

Byram, M., & Flamming, M (Eds). 1998. Language Learning in Intercultural Perspective: Approaches through Drama and Ethnography. Cambridge: Cup