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Exploring Students' Intercultural Sensitivity in the EFL Classroom

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Junior Koch
Sapporo Gakuin University, Japan

Risa Takashima
Hokkaido University, Japan

It is widely accepted that effective communication between different social groups and cultures requires not only knowledge about English as a language, but also competence in communicating with different cultures. Intercultural sensitivity is described as one of the elements that comprise an individual’s intercultural communication competence, and it is linked to non-judgemental attitudes such as accepting, understanding and respecting cultural differences. Yet, it has been reported that mainstream EFL practice may not place enough emphasis on intercultural communication development. With an aim to promote the growth of students’ intercultural sensitivity, as part of their intercultural communication competence, we developed a set of activities that used a short story about cultural differences. A post-lesson questionnaire revealed that most students identified and commented on the cultural differences between the characters in the short story. While some students were more likely to judge differences from the perspective of their own culture, most students showed an awareness of such differences as they are, with several attempts to understand the differences from a perspective outside their own culture. We believe these activities succeeded in allowing students to reflect upon themes and situations related to their intercultural sensitivity by comparing and contrasting cultural differences in discussion, analysis and reflection, and it may be of interest to EFL teachers in various contexts.


Intercultural sensitivity, English as a foreign language, intercultural communication competence (ICC)