The article focuses on the current problems in forming intercultural competence which is a much discussed topic in the foreign language teaching discourse in recent years. The author answers to the question: “What prevents people from creating a good connection with people from different cultures?”
Статья посвящена актуальным проблемам в формировании межкультурной компетенции, которая в последние годы широко обсуждается в дискурсе по обучению иностранным языкам. Автор этой статьи ответит на вопрос: «Что мешает людям создать хорошую связь с представителями других культур?».
In today’s globalized world in order to be proficient in a foreign language it is not enough to speak it fluently. Foreign language learners should be interculturally equipped to enjoy a successful communication in the globalized world. To communicate successfully across cultural boundaries of languages, styles and values, the learners need to be aware of cultural differences and develop intercultural communicative competence. In this case, we see that the mission of English teachers is not only to teach the foreign language but also to teach students how to respect value and above all correctly interpret the cultures of other people. Language, like a mirror, reflects our interpretation of the world around us. This language mirror reflects the person, his mode of life, behavior, interrelation with other people, system of values and culture. Considering socio-economic developments and demands for multilingual citizens competently representing Kazakhstan in intercultural situations, intercultural competence is identified as a promising model.
Kramsh [1998:3] identifies three ways how language and culture are bound together. First, language expresses cultural reality (with words people express facts and ideas but also reflect their attitudes). Second, language embodies cultural reality (people give meaning to their experience through the means of communication). Third, language symbolizes cultural reality (people view their language as a symbol of their social identity).
According to the eminent researchers such as C.Kramsch, H. Brown, M.Byram, N.Seelye, K.Chastain, D.Larsen-Freeman, H.Stern etc., who made a significant contribution in the field of foreign language education, a foreign language cannot be learnt and taught without introducing the culture of the community where it is used. In order to understand a language fully and use it fluently, learners need not only linguistic, pragmatic, discourse and strategic competence but also socio-cultural and world knowledge.
As language and culture closely linked, the teaching of culture is seen as an integral and organized component of language courses [Chastain 1988:298, Seelye 1994:9, Cortazzi&Jin 1999:198, Byram 1989:3].
We see that communication is a difficult process, but intercultural communication is more complex. If both sides have no mutual understanding, normal communication is impossible. So this means that in this globalizing world anyway we will have many meetings with the representatives of other cultures. In order to avoid misunderstandings, ambiguities, stereotyping and culture bias we must be competent in intercultural communication and also teach our students. To reach that goal first we need to know the problems leading to intercultural ambiguities and misunderstandings.
It is a well-known fact that Kazakhstan is a multinational country with 125 representatives of different cultures, but many Kazakhs do not have a healthy communication with others. Additionally, most of them refuse to go abroad and see the difference because they have a fear of losing their cultural identity. This is one of the main problems of immersing ourselves in a different culture.
Lack of motivation in both teachers and students can be another challenge in forming IC. In many cases Kazakhstani students learn a foreign language just in order to pass a test, but not for going abroad or having a successful communication with people from other cultures. Correspondingly, teachers also prepare students for tests, teaching only grammar, vocabulary and 4 skills without understanding and explaining the linguistic and behavioral patterns of the target culture at conscious level. However Larsen-Freeman  views culture as a fifth skill in addition to listening, speaking, reading and writing. So here we see that if we want to develop IC in our classrooms first we need to start from educating teachers.
As we mentioned above, lack of motivation leads to a lack of strong language base. “A language is a part of culture, and a culture is a part of a language; the two are intricately interwoven so that one cannot separate the two without losing the significance of either language or culture” [Brown, 2000:177]. So the students who are not competent in English or any other language they are learning have a fear of communicating with foreigners. This shows us the strong connection between language and culture. If students had a greater knowledge of a foreign language; they would be open to experience the situations of cultural diversity and interpretation, and would be motivated to understand why people behave as they do.
Lack of exposure to outside cultures is another big issue. It results in a lack of curiosity, indeed in a belief that things function the same way as they do at home, just in a different language, different food etc. We need to give a clear explanation for realizing that «we» and «us» are just a little fragment of the greater world, and that multitudes of cultures are not sharing our same events, occasions or thoughts.
A firm belief that no other culture can be of use is an opinion that there is no sense in learning a language or culture if we are not planning to visit their countries. Commonly, Kazakhstani people start learning and being curious about another culture in case they are planning to visit that country. Since there are not so many foreigners in our country and different nations living in Kazakhstan are assimilated with local culture so people do not see a big difference. Our students start being intercultural competent mostly when they enter a university. The reason is that there may be professors or groupmates from foreign countries. But still this is not the same as immersing into different culture. In order to solve this issue we need to make it easier for our students to visit and see another country, live there and study. This is the best way to make them intercultural competent.
The above-mentioned points are all closely interlinked, and we need to rethink our teaching strategies, to get past the barriers erected in the minds of our students. We need to make language alive and associate with it the importance and need of understanding foreign cultures, linked with comprehension of the latter through language. We need to motivate our students into understanding the importance of stepping outside our cultural box, treading new paths, and gearing up to meet and greet and ultimately do business with cultures differing from their own.
To conclude we want to say that Kazakhstan’s English language education norms would need to be revisited and assessed from the perspective of English as an international language. English education should embrace a culturally appropriate way, with a focus on both local and international culture. This approach will assist teachers students in developing communication skills required for global interactions.
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