LANGUAGE AND INTERCULTURAL EDUCATION FOR MOBILITY: INSIGHT FROM THE IEREST PROJECT
The increase in the number of students taking part in study abroad programmes worldwide has highlighted the need to offer intercultural preparation for this specific group of students. The IEREST European project (Intercultural Education Resources for Erasmus Students and their Teachers) has produced a set of teaching resources to help students benefit from their sojourn in terms of personal growth and intercultural learning. The theoretical approach underlying such resources is linked to a concept of interculturality that promotes the idea of multiple identities, and to the notion that identities are co-constructed in interaction (Holiday, 2011, 2013). Furthermore, the learners are taught to recognize the subjectivity and instability of worldviews. In this sense, the activities are culture-general, and can be taught to students regardless of their specific destination. This paper presents the activity “Meeting people abroad”. Although originally not designed for the language classroom, it was adapted for use in an Englishlanguage course for a group of future Erasmus students. Central to the activity is the learners’ engagement with other mobile students through the task of carrying out an interview from potentially non-essentialist perspectives. The target language is thus seen not as an aim in itself, but as the means to develop the learners’ intercultural communication skills and understanding. In their new format for the foreign language classroom, the activity was tested at the University of Bologna in September 2014. Feedback was collected through focus groups at the end of the course, and was used to evaluate the materials and reflect on ways of introducing the intercultural in foreign language education (Byram, 2008), in particular in the context of student mobility.
International Burch University