A cross-cultural pragmatic approach to enhance learners’ intercultural communicative competence
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In the light of the rapidly-changing world characterized by globalization, the concept of intercultural communicative competence is introduced to Foreign Language Teaching. This new construct has been propounded to supersede that of communicative competence in order to cater for the needs of learners to function effectively and appropriately with people from other cultures. Learners of English are required not just to develop their communicative skills, but also to adopt new attitudes of tolerance, empathy and acceptance of culture-specific norms and behaviours. These requirements are not systematically addressed by the teaching of English at Algerian universities. Particularly, and as a direct result, students at Mohammed Seddik Benyahia University, Jijel, are presumed to be not adept in managing intercultural contact and conversations even at advanced stages leading towards their graduation. On these accounts, a threefold aim is concocted for this study. The first aim is to diagnose the teaching of culture and its position in the implemented curriculum. The second and third aims pertain to suggesting a cultural pragmatic approach for teaching English at the tertiary level and assessing its effectiveness in developing learners’ intercultural communicative competence. To achieve the set aims, two hypotheses are formulated and tested out. The first stipulates that present teaching curricula, though incorporating culture and pragmatics of communication, seldom bring them to the forefront of teaching and, hence, do not serve the achievement of the desired outcome of improving learners’ intercultural communicative competence. It is put to the test using a questionnaire and a Discourse Completion Task designed to both teachers (n=16) and students (n=110), respectively. The data obtained revealed that teachers, though aware of the importance of culture, do not fully integrate it in their teaching syllabi, and that learners are unequipped with intercultural communicative competence. The second hypothesis maintains that using a cross-cultural pragmatic approach to teach English would result in enhancing this competence. It is tested by handing out two alternate tests to a control group and an experimental group of students (n=52) before and after intervention, which consists in implementing a semester-long cultural and pragmatic syllabus. Results of the pretest revealed convergent performances in and between the two groups of students, albeit failing to achieve passing scores. By the termination of the treatment period, the experimental group has not only outdone the control group in scores, but performed very positively on every aspect of intercultural communicative competence. On the basis of these findings, pedagogical recommendations are suggested to syllabus designers and teachers to assign culture adequate importance, one that is similar to language skills.