AUTHOR: Byram, Michael
TITLE: From Foreign Language Education to Education for Intercultural Citizenship
SUBTITLE: Essays and Reflections
SERIES: Languages for Intercultural Communication and Education
PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters
Tünde Bajzát, assistant professor, Foreign Language Teaching Centre, University
of Miskolc, Hungary
This book has multiple origins and intellectual sources based on the author's
study, teaching, research, project, conference and supervising experience of
many years. Through fourteen chapters it illustrates Byram's personal
perspectives on foreign language education and the education for intercultural
citizenship, supporting the argumentation with many examples. It constitutes of
two parts. The first part describes the purposes, possibilities and perspectives
in nine chapters and can be read independently and in any order; therefore, the
author has provided some notes between the chapters to help readers locate them
in the book as a whole. The five chapters of the second part are intended to be
read together and in order and they present an argument for intercultural
citizenship education and suggest ways in which this might be planned, taught
The first chapter introduces the reader into the context of foreign language
education. It states that the three fundamental functions of education systems
and of compulsory education are to create the human capital required in a
country's economy, to develop a sense of national identity and to promote
equality. These have been the aims since the foundation of national education
systems in Western Europe and North America, and were exported to other parts of
the world in the 19th and 20th centuries. In the 21st century 'globalization'
and 'internationalization' have given new meaning and significance to foreign
language learning. The distinction between 'second' and 'foreign' languages has
become an interesting question, because the acquisition processes are identical;
however, the status of a language in a given society is important and the
distinction is significant. The shift of emphasis in foreign language education
is on communication. The growing importance of foreign language education in
social, political and economic terms leads to more attention being paid to its
The second chapter discusses the purposes for foreign language education.
Education systems have three main purposes: to socialize children, to ensure the
continuing existence of the country's 'human capital', to promote equality of
opportunity. The reasons for teaching and learning foreign languages have
changed because more emphasis has been put on human capital. Furthermore, now it
is not enough to acquire only linguistic competence, but cultural competence is
of crucial importance. The chapter describes the purposes and policies of three
countries: France, Japan and England, and gives examples for the previously
discussed purposes and calls attention to the missing points.
The third chapter focuses on the question whether language learning is possible
at school and examines this question by analyzing the policies of two countries:
Norway and Japan. The author compares and contrasts the policies, compulsory
education and its expectations, language learning possibilities outside school
of the two countries with the help of many examples. The conclusions of the
analysis are: many learners in both education systems reach the expected levels
(in that sense language learning in schools is possible); however, policy-makers
make heavy demands on schools with respect to the level of English.
The fourth chapter deals with the concept of the intercultural speaker, and
differentiates between 'acting interculturally' and 'being bicultural'. People
become intercultural as a consequence of learning under the direction of a
teacher. Acting interculturally means bringing two cultures into a relationship,
which also includes 'mediating' between oneself and others. However, bicultural
people need not involve the act of mediating. People become bicultural in a
natural way, as a consequence of living in certain situations. It happens
through the processes of primary and secondary socialization; individuals become
members of many social groups and incorporate their cultures. Byram describes
several case studies to illustrate the complexity of being bicultural.
The fifth chapter presents the question of teaching intercultural competence in
primary school. At present the vast majority of primary schools in the world
teach one or more foreign languages; this almost always includes English as a
foreign language. Attention must be paid to that fact that what is taught and
how it is taught is partly determined by the social, political and economic
position of the society in question. Several studies have already proved that
primary school children have some knowledge about the practices of their own
social groups, how to behave in specific situations, what is considered polite
and what is not, and they are capable of developing their knowledge in this
respect further. Accordingly primary school language teachers need further
training, especially fieldwork.
The sixth chapter describes the types of research in foreign language education.
Research in the sciences of education are categorized under three headings:
research that seeks to establish explanations in terms of cause and effect,
research that seeks to understand the experience of people involved in
education, and research that attempts to create change. The chapter focuses on
research into the cultural dimension of foreign language teaching. It presents
an overview of the different aspects and directions of the field.
The seventh chapter discusses the issues of nationalism and internationalism in
language education. The author explains the differences between 'foreign' and
'national' language teachers, their functions and duties; and gives several
examples to support his points. The theories of socialization and social
identity are described in the chapter, as well. Besides the well-known
classification of socialization as 'primary' and 'secondary', Byram introduces a
new concept: 'tertiary socialization'. 'Primary' and 'secondary' socializations
are descriptive concepts, whereas 'tertiary socialization' is prescriptive and
suggests purposes and objectives for education. Furthermore, the chapter
describes national and international identities, which are acquired through
socialization and the chapter's empirical data show their importance.
The eighth chapter focuses on language learning in Europe, which is a unique
situation in the contemporary world. The goal of the European integration is
strived for by the European Union and the Council of Europe, which promotes the
development of plurilingual competence in multilingual Europe for both economic
and social reasons. Language knowledge is a precondition in the successful
evolution of European identity and society, where people are mobile and
integrated and, where all European languages are equally valuable. The author
suggests that learning another language has the potential to begin a third stage
of socialization, 'tertiary socialization'. The notion of European identity has
still many pros and cons and many implications for teachers to play a role in
The ninth chapter deals with the perspective of teachers and teacher trainers.
Recent studies argue that language teachers should develop in learners a
'critical cultural awareness', and language teaching should not only aim at
being 'useful' for the economic development of a country, but for a better
understanding of other people. For this reason teachers and teacher educators
should be trained accordingly. Teacher educators need to consider and experience
the same education in values and democratic citizenship that they want their
student teachers to pursue. Language learning should not be reduced to investing
in language skills, but it should be a rich and deep process taking learners
into new experiences and critical reflection on them.
The tenth chapter defines 'political education' from the viewpoints of different
scholars and describes the different principles and values. The chapter presents
Byram's concept of 'intercultural citizenship', where the focus is on
competences instead of identities and adds a new dimension by combining language
education with political education as a response to internationalization. Then
the concept of 'critical cultural awareness' is discussed in the chapter, and
the author gives suggestions and examples of how to use this concept in
political education. Moreover, the chapter discusses the issues of conceptual
and linguistic relativism, communication in transnational communities, and the
ethical dimensions of education for intercultural citizenship.
The eleventh chapter presents a framework of education for intercultural
citizenship that combines Himmelmann's approach to setting objectives for
citizenship education and Byram's approach to setting objectives for language
teaching for intercultural communicative competence. The chapter discusses the
evaluative, cognitive, comparative, communicative and action orientations of
intercultural citizenship. It gives a detailed description of the principles and
characteristics of education for intercultural citizenship.
The twelfth chapter further discusses the approach taken in the previous chapter
and considers in more depth the opportunities for intercultural citizenship
education. First, it focuses on the communities in which intercultural
citizenship is a crucial factor, analyzing England and Singapore in this
respect. Then educational policies and curricular programs of the European Union
and the Council of Europe are described.
The thirteenth chapter starts with an important point that the native speaker is
a model for linguistic competence, but it should not be a model for
(inter)cultural competence; therefore language learners need a different goal.
For this reason the chapter focuses on curricula for intercultural citizenship
education and describes the principles and characteristics of transnational
political activity in education. Then it gives examples for 'acting
interculturally' at different levels.
The fourteenth chapter presents the assessment and evaluation of intercultural
competence and intercultural citizenship. It starts with the problems of
terminological complications due to two official languages (English and French)
at the Council of Europe. Then it describes several portfolios and profiles that
are used for placement, education and assessment.
In the concluding chapter Byram emphasizes that foreign language teaching cannot
and should not avoid the questions of education and values in any education
system. Although traditions and values are different, it is important everywhere
for teachers to think about educational value and not only instrumental use for
languages. Furthermore, teachers should show learners how to engage with the
international globalized world in which they participate.
This book was written for teachers who wish to think about their teaching in the
wider context to clarify or renew their vision and their work in the classroom;
therefore, it would be hard to deny the importance of Byram's excellent book. It
is unique, because it views language teaching as a social and political activity
and it gives new insights into the topic of foreign language education. It also
offers further ideas for research and discussion; therefore, it is good starting
point both for teachers and researchers of the field. The abundance of examples
has a double merit in the book because, on the one hand, it helps in better
understanding the topic and, on the other hand, it makes the book more
interesting to read. Besides the above-mentioned advantages, the four appendices
(enclosed after the chapters) on the notion of intercultural competence, the
sources for teacher training for intercultural competence, the framework for
intercultural citizenship and the autobiography of intercultural encounters make
the book more thorough and interesting, which makes it more worth reading.
In short, Michael Byram's book is a worthwhile read and welcome addition to our
body of knowledge on foreign language education. The book is of manageable size
and scope and quite accessible to non-experts. At the same time, it is clearly
worded, interesting, useful and opens new avenues for future research and study.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Tünde Bajzát is an assistant professor at the University of Miskolc, Hungary,
teaching English as a foreign language. She is a Ph.D. candidate of Applied
Linguistics at the University of Pécs, Hungary. Her main interests are language
use at the workplace, intercultural communication, competences, foreign language
teaching, learning and acquisition.