Exploring the Third Place: Developing Intercultural Sensitivity - LOTE Pre-Service Students Speak
With the growing multicultural makeup of Australia, intercultural sensitivity has become one of the new important attributes that teachers are expected to develop during their teacher education. The questions raised in this paper are: where do pre-service teachers learn about intercultural issues, how do they develop intercultural sensitivity, what cultural differences do they experience and how do they respond to them in a specific intercultural communication event? In other words, how do they experience the 'Third Place' that Crozet et al. (1999, p. 1) define as the point of intersection 'where interactants from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds meet and communicate successfully'. Kostogriz (2002) calls it the 'Thirdspace' and he locates second language literacy learning (including cultural literacy) on the fault-line between cultures because he believes that this space is the space of radical openness. Language Other Than English (LOTE) teacher education students are the only education students who are systematically exposed to another culture during their studies. Therefore, we expected that data gained from them on their cultural experiences would inform us on the future design of teacher training programs. The data were collected in two ways: through a short oral interview and through an extensive questionnaire from two cohorts of LOTE teacher education students from two universities in Queensland. The paper reports on the LOTE students' experiences with two cultures in two different situations: when they speak English to native speakers of their target LOTE and when they speak in the LOTE to native speakers of that language. Their responses indicated that in gaining distance from the own culture and in experiencing a new culture they changed their self-perception. They reported a growing understanding of the other culture. They also pointed out that a structured course about the culturally relevant features that affect intercultural communication would give them a more solid departure point in developing as culturally interested and sensitive teachers.
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