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Teaching cross-cultural competence and CLIL: a CLIL approach in International Relations University Courses
Toffle, Mary Ellen
International relations professionals need cross-cultural competence and English language communication skills to function in the international arena (Graddol 1997). English language communication skills are necessary not only to communicate with foreign colleagues (Bocanegra-Valle 2014) but also to access the vast amount of knowledge transmitted in English over the internet (Ku, Zussman 2010). This work reports the use of CLIL and cross-cultural training in the University of Messina International Relations Advanced Degree Program as a method to raise students’ level of English as quickly as possible while giving them the essential intercultural skills for work in the international field. The researchbased course program combined cross-cultural communication training (Storti, 1997; Lewis, 1999; Gannon, 2004, Harris and Moran, 2007; U.S Peace Corps Training Handbook 2012,) and intercultural competence skill development (Bennett, 1998). Two objectives were proposed: 1) develop cross-cultural communication competence; 2) bring students up to a B2 level as fast as possible. The final exam demonstrated significant growth in the areas of cross-cultural competence as well as an increase in European Common Framework level ranging from .5 to 1.0 depending on the student. Students expressed their belief that what they had learned would be useful for their future career. Combining CLIL with intercultural competence building seems to be effective in meeting two objectives: increasing English language fluency and developing cross-cultural communication competence. More research is recommended to further document this method for increasing English communication proficiency while developing interculturally competent international professionals.
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