Exploring languages and cultures
Exploring languages and cultures

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Exploring languages and cultures

1.4 Interview with Professor Byram

You will now listen to an interview with Professor Mike Byram, who has been very influential in the area of intercultural communicative competence in Europe. Working in collaboration with other scholars, as part of a project funded by the Council of Europe, he developed the concept of intercultural encounters.

Described image
Figure 2 Professor Mike Byram

Activity 7

Listen to ‘Interview with Mike Byram’. As you listen, think about the following question and write your answer in the box:

How does Mike Byram define an intercultural encounter?

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Transcript: Interview with Mike Byram

Mike Byram:
An intercultural encounter can be any situation where someone finds themself noticing that they are interacting with someone from a different social group. In other words, where the group identity, the ‘group self’, as some people call it, is salient and is dominating the situation. So my example of when I’m in the United States, I’m seen as British is a situation where my ‘Britishness’ is salient. But it might be the same if I’m in the south of England or the south-east of England coming from the north of England, and having lived for 30 years or more in the north-east of England, so my identity as someone from the north interacting with someone from the south, in some circumstances, will be the dominant, salient identity. And in that sense it’s an intercultural encounter within the same … within one society.
But we might have a similar situation with an intercultural encounter being between two people of different professions, who, in the situation in question, are talking about and interacting through their professional identities. And there again they have different values, beliefs and behaviours which they need to understand and which … where they need their intercultural competence to help them understand each other. The same thing happens with religious groups. I mean, one of the things which has happened to me over many years as a teacher trainer, as it were, I … being someone with a Protestant upbringing, I often went to see my students in Catholic schools who were, who were doing their teaching practice in Catholic schools. And I found myself in what seemed like a different environment, and I noticed differences in the environment, in the behaviours and the fact that, for example, prayers were said at the end of lessons in some schools, which I … which was not familiar to me, er, so it was a different religious culture. And I think I wanted to use that example within a society rather than taking the more obvious examples of, er, of the contrasts of going to another country where another religion is dominant, a completely different religion is dominant.
Interviewer:
OK. So it’s an encounter where basically you notice different values, beliefs and behaviours, and perhaps feel a little, what, uncomfortable about that?
Mike Byram:
That’s exactly so, yeah, yeah.
End transcript: Interview with Mike Byram
Interview with Mike Byram
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Answer

Byram defines an intercultural encounter as a situation in which someone interacts with a person from another social group and where group identity plays a prominent role. This means that different behavioural norms and different sets of values and beliefs are apparent and may be the source of some unease.

Activity 8

Listen again to ‘Interview with Mike Byram’. Which of the following examples of possible intercultural encounters does Mike Byram give? Select those that you hear.

a. 

Someone from the north-east of England has a meeting with someone from the south.


b. 

Two people of different professions interact with each other.


c. 

An Argentinian footballer is sent off by an English referee.


d. 

A Protestant teacher educator visits trainees in a Catholic school.


e. 

An exchange student from China visits the nightclubs of Newcastle upon Tyne.


f. 

A British academic visits the USA.


g. 

A singer from the USA is interviewed by a reporter from the north of England.


h. 

A Romanian visitor spends the night as a guest of the Queen at Buckingham Palace.


The correct answers are a, b, d and f.

Activity 9

In the interview Mike Byram gives four examples of intercultural encounters, each of them illustrating a particular type of difference. The first one he mentions is a British academic visiting the USA. In this case, his example illustrates national differences. What other kinds of differences do the remaining examples illustrate? Use one word to describe each.

1 Someone from the north-east of England has a meeting with someone from the south.

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Answer

Regional

2 Two people of different professions interact with each other.

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Answer

Professional

3 A Protestant teacher educator visits trainees in a Catholic school.

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Answer

Religious

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