ICIS Newsletter

ICIS News, Volume 1:2 (September 2004)

by User Not Found | 10/25/2011

In This Issue...

Message From the Editor
Meet your Officers
Expanding TESOL's General Standards: Preparing Teachers in Intercultural Communication
Popular Culture and Intercultural Communication in Japan: Imagining the People and the Construction of ESL Education
New TESOL Position Statements
About This Member Community

Message From the Editor

By Andy Bowdler, bowdlerfamily@xalt.co.uk

Some, if not all, of you will have been wondering where this E-Newsletter has got to! As I am new to this activity, I could say that I have simply not been sure what to do--and I would have told the truth. However, when I attended the Editors' workshop at the 2004 TESOL convention in Long Beach, California, in the United States, we were told that there are some points during the year when the Publications Department is inundated by these submissions and we were asked to stagger them to reduce the workload. In view of the amount of work that many of us have in submitting items for NEXT year's convention, I thought that I would delay this to allow folks to submit here as well--but I am not sure how successful that has been. I hope to produce another one toward the end of November.

I have started off the newsletter with a series of short pen portraits of some of the officers and folks who hold posts in the community. I hope you enjoy these and feel that you know your leaders a bit better as a result. I have intentionally left them in the form in which they came to me. Hopefully, we will have others in future issues.

The main item came about as a result of something that Eunju Chung raised at the open meeting in Long Beach; namely, the idea that TESOL should include intercultural communication competence standards in its general standards. Alvino Fantini also spoke quite a bit about the importance of this. After the meeting, a small group worked with Eunju on the idea, and the next day she presented a proposal for the Intersection Council, which was passed by the Council. I hope that this will create some discussion on the e-list! The second paper is from David Willis, who explains his interest in the issue thus:

Although an anthropologist, I have recently been involved as a planning committee member in a serious, far-reaching English-language reform effort by the Kobe City Board of Education. In addition, I have taught English and intercultural communication at a wide range of private and public universities in Japan during the past 20 years. I would, therefore, like to comment on what I view as trends and possibilities in ESL and intercultural communication in Japan.

I believe that input from other disciplines is a valuable entry into discussion, so if you have any thoughts on either of these papers, please let me have them--and any other offerings--for inclusion in the next issue of this e-newsletter (by October 16, 2004, please).

Finally, with the developments in newsletters that are taking place, we are being asked to submit short (50-word) abstracts--articles will soon be hyperlinked rather than in full in e-mail format. Please help me by submitting such an abstract with any article you send. Thanks.

Meet your Officers

Piper McNulty, Co-Chair Elect: "Piper" = grandmother's maiden name, probably Pict/Irish? To relax? I cook! Moroccan, Korean, Indian, Cuban, Vietnamese … virtually any ingredient for any cuisine's available in Silicon Valley, California. Favorite TV: West Wing, As Time Goes By (English). Yoga. Contra dancing. Hiking in nearby foothills with husband, Yosemite National Park, beach walks, body boarding when I can get to warm enough ocean water (San Francisco-area ocean is freezing--no warm current!). Hanging out with my two girls, 17 and 19.

Nancy Tumposky, Co-Chair Elect: Like a lot of ICIS people, I love to travel, so I'm usually in motion during the summer months. This year I'll be in Russia on a literary tour with 17 others (friends and colleagues), which has been organized by the Global Education Center here at Montclair State University. Have been reading Crime and Punishment as preparation, and also a fascinating book called Natasha's Dance. Other interests: gardening, piano, cinema.

Armeda Reitzel, Past Co-Chair and Current Co-List Manager: Known as "The Recycling Lady" by third graders on the Hoopa reservation, "DOC" by her university freshmen students, and "The Wizard" by children who saw her in her latest community theatre performance; spends her weekdays on the Pacific Coast, where she lives in Redwood Country, and her weekends inland in the mountains near the Klamath and Trinity Rivers. One of the annual highlights of her life, in addition to the TESOL convention, is California State History Day, where she is the State Judge Captain for fourth- and fifth-grade poster entries.

Andy Bowdler, Newsletter Editor, is a teacher--initially of English and more recently of English as an additional language (EAL) within secondary schools in the United Kingdom. I am involved in a number of activities within the church we attend--Ecology, Overseas Mission, and homelessness. I am currently coming to the end of my practical training as a Dad--assuming that our two daughters (aged 19 and 17½) don't decide to live at home for the rest of their lives. It will then be Applied Parenting? I try to keep fit--with some soccer, running, cycling--but am finding it hard to keep motivated.

Bill Ivey, Co-List Manager: My life is kids: teaching ESL and rock band (and next year, middle school Humanities) in an all-girls school, where my wife also works, coaching and cheering my son's baseball and basketball teams, parenting and uncle-ing ... it's a good life. In my copious (not!) free time, I like to go running, read, and play music with my friends.

Expanding TESOL's General Standards: Preparing Teachers in Intercultural Communication

By Eunju Chung, eunju_chung@alum.wellesley.edu and Alvino E. Fantini, alvino.fantini@sit.edu


At the business meeting of the Intercultural Communication Interest Section held during the 2004 TESOL convention last spring in Long Beach, California, a lively discussion focused on the role of intercultural communication competency (ICC) in English language teaching. The result was a call to propose adoption of ICC by the Interest Section Council as part of TESOL's General Standards.

Every ESOL instructor knows that in addition to skills such as pronunciation and grammar, English language students must also be able to use these language skills to communicate interculturally in real contexts. Yet ICC components are often absent in teacher preparation programs and, as a consequence, in lists of skills for students as well. TESOL, as a professional organization, is well positioned to show leadership by articulating and supporting the role of ICC in ESOL classrooms.

About Intercultural Communicative Competence

Many language educators who prepare students for living, traveling, or working cross-culturally have long understood that intercultural communication goes far beyond language itself. In other fields, too (e.g., medicine, social work, development, multinational business, government, education) many now realize that effective interactions require sensitivity and understanding of cultural differences when dealing with people of various backgrounds. Indeed, everywhere in the world, successful intercultural marriages as well as relationships with friends and neighbours all depend on an ability to deal with differences in a positive way. From the arena of international business to the intimacy of family life, there is a need to be able to deal effectively and appropriately with ethnic, racial, religious, and cultural diversity.

Given this scenario, language educators--and especially teachers of ESOL--can play an important role in preparing students for these challenges. In fact, culture and intercultural preparation have increasingly assumed a significant and integral part of many approaches to language education. In these cases, culture learning and its counterpart, intercultural exploration, are no longer considered peripheral or supplemental, but are increasingly included as goals equal to that of language as communication--goals to be explicitly stated and consistently included throughout the language experience. Language teachers can do much to aid the development of ICC in their students.

To this end, the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL)--the professional equivalent of TESOL--disseminated in 1996 new "Standards for Foreign Language Learning" for U.S. public schools. These standards promote five goal areas (referred to as the five Cs): Communication, Culture, Comparisons (i.e., intercultural exploration through contrast and comparison of target and native cultures), Communities (connecting with speakers of the target language whether locally or abroad), and Connections (using the target language to reinforce other subject matter areas). These goals have important implications for ESOL teachers as well--in both the redesign and implementation of language courses. Consistent with this effort, TESOL added a volume on New Ways of Teaching Culture in its series of professional publications (Fantini, 1997).

The notion of ICC is still fairly new. Although researchers characterize ICC in various ways, three aspects consistently emerge:

  • the ability to develop positive relationships
  • the ability to communicate with minimal loss or distortion
  • the ability to attain compliance and cooperation with others

These abilities are displayed through effective and appropriate interactional behaviours as well as through traits such as empathy, flexibility, patience, humor, and tolerance for ambiguity, among others. ICC is greatly enhanced when we grapple with, and develop proficiency in, a second language; in this case, English.

Expanding TESOL's General Standards

Any growth/trend must combine both grassroots and top-down efforts. More than likely, classroom language teachers may already be incorporating ICC in their classes, knowingly or not, but often in immeasurable increments. Teachers can benefit greatly from better preparation in the field of intercultural communication, an area currently highlighted primarily within a single TESOL interest section. Yet given the relevance of this field to language teaching, intercultural preparation needs to be elevated and cited explicitly within TESOL's General Standards--as applicable and important for all ESOL teachers.

Explicit inclusion of intercultural communication and ways to foster intercultural competence on a profession-wide level offers exciting possibilities. Inclusion of ICC in the Standards will help drive instructional curricula for teachers and language students. The study of intercultural communication and its implications and applications for developing ICC offers such a promise.

The Resolution and Its Status

Whereas intercultural communication competency is intrinsic and essential to English Language Teaching, and

Whereas research has shown that intercultural communication competency has played a relatively small role in language teacher preparation programs, and

Whereas national and international professional organizations, such as ACTFL, NAFTA, SIETAR, and others, include intercultural communication competency as a part of their standards, therefore be it

Resolved that TESOL recognize intercultural communication competency as a distinct area to be explicitly articulated and included in its General Standards.

This resolution was unanimously passed, with many in attendance stating the importance and need for TESOL to show leadership by its adoption of this resolution as part of the organization's General Standards.


Fantini, A. E. (Ed.). (1997). New ways in teaching culture. Alexandria, VA: TESOL.

Eunju Chung is a consultant for various ESOL programs.

Alvino E. Fantini served on the 11-member Advisory Board that developed national standards for foreign language education in the United States. He is Professor Emeritus at the School for International Training in Brattleboro, Vermont, in the United States.

Popular Culture and Intercultural Communication in Japan: Imagining the People and the Construction of ESL Education

By David Blake Willis, dwillis108@hotmail.com

Popular Culture and ESL Education

What does popular culture mean in the context of ESL education and intercultural communication in Japan, another world of popular phenomena and trends? How might we research the diversity of learners/learning experiences related to ESL and culture in the Japanese context, another setting that offers a mirror to reflect on our own understandings and practices?

Popular culture and education, a recent approach to curriculum and pedagogy that has sought deeper understanding of the education of young people, may help us here (Strinati 2000, Storey 1994, and Popular culture and education [Special issue], 2003). Evoking images of the impact of the mass media and fashionable trends on the youth of developed countries such as the United States, England, and France, popular culture plays a role in the ESL classroom as well. We cannot underestimate its influence on students, teachers, and the learning experience.

Young Japanese, like their counterparts in all cultures, bring cultural knowledge from a vast array of media to the classroom, from print, to television, to music, to an endless stream of material goods beckoning in their midst. For English teachers in Japan these images include television comedy or variety shows; manga, those thick comic books of teenagers; and the J-Pop music of artists like SMAP, Amuro Namie, and Utada Hikaru, all of which frequently use English words. The actual impact on learning and teaching of this vast array of information is an important question.

It is clear that there are at least three competing versions of what constitutes popular culture and its impact on ESL education and intercultural communication in formal and informal settings in Japan.

Competing Versions of (Popular) Culture and (ESL) Education

The first version is popular culture in ESL education as commodification and consumption, that set of images of popular culture which is generated by the mass media for both mass markets and specialized niches, such as elementary or middle school students. These are what we would call tatemae (surface) cultural images. Successfully marketed, they may lead to the creation of certain behavioural and linguistic patterns or fashions that are suddenly and overwhelmingly adopted by young people (although the impact of most of them is quite fleeting). These cultural images are often located on the margins of education in the context of schooling, making them, in fact, even more real for young people and having a dramatic impact on what students do or do not learn in terms of ESL. The authorities are constantly communicating their own version of what constitutes ESL education, but the students themselves are deciding what they will and will not accept as modes of communication

The cell phone is a particular case in point. The range of English expressions being used in text messages by young people, which may even be greater in frequency and depth of communication than voice messages, are an attractive alternative mode of communication for young people that frequently employ English, albeit in abbreviated forms (one of the main attractions, of course). The amount of time young people spend on this kind of communication is phenomenal.

The second version is popular culture in ESL education as the vehicle of nation-state/ethnic society building (more or less coterminous in Japan), those received and officially sanctioned views from government and the Education Ministry of what is allowable as education, the reasons why schooling in English exists, including ESL education. These views extend into the classroom from the administrators' side, as public school workers are officially civil servants. ESL teachers and administrators, including foreign guest teachers, are all made well aware of their important role in this not-so-hidden curriculum by a powerful and centralized Education Ministry. For the students themselves these images are pro forma, something they have to give in to and follow if they want to go along with the flow of the society.

In the main, ESL in Japan has been designed with only two purposes in mind: a) to enable Japanese students to read and interpret English language books and documents (furthering the economic goals of national development) and b) to facilitate preparation for university entrance examinations, where English is widely used along with a parallel test in kokugo (the national language, Japanese) to determine who gets which slots in which universities. The former has been described as the grammar and translation approach to ESL whereas the latter is solely concerned with juken (university entrance).

These first two versions of what constitutes popular culture and education are received images from the government and the media, both of which control substantial daily information output to the people. It does not mean that they control the will to action and actual activities of the people, however, who actually decide what they will and will not accept as part of their learning. These two received images of popular culture and education are clearly not actively interested in ESL or intercultural communication, but rather see English language learning as a tool to promote and market their own (other) agendas.

The third version is popular culture in ESL education as the people (by the people, for the people), what the people themselves are actually thinking and doing, as opposed to state culture or commercial culture (Gramsci, 1971). Hardly just passive, obedient consumers of mass media marketing or of government depictions of a mass population in synchronicity with bureaucratic planning, the active resistance and creation of a truly popular culture in education in Japan has deep roots. It provides us with an alternative vision of Japan and Japanese education. It is the honne (the real core) when it comes to discussions of popular culture in ESL education in Japan. Most recently in ESL education it has manifested itself in the movement for what has been called (intercultural) communicative competence, something akin to the ICC mentioned in the article by Chung and Fantini in this newsletter. Truly a grassroots phenomenon, this movement has spread rapidly wherever there are teachers and students who see the importance of actually communicating with people of other cultures, of having two-way dialogues with others who are different.

The dialogue that these people have among themselves (and with their interculturally significant "Others") shows them to be the real producers, consumers, and researchers of popular culture (and ESL education is only a small part of what is really a larger picture). This popular culture represents a vast undercurrent of cultural creation and social maintenance that goes little noticed by the mainstream market or governmental organs, with their incessant trumpeting and blathering about products and nation. These cultural creations are by the people, and what more direct representation of thepopular is there?

ESL/Intercultural Communication as Popular Culture/Education

There is no more important popular culture than the people themselves and the actions they have (and have not) taken. This is where the people, as a vividly imagined (intercultural) community is constructed by the actors themselves (Anderson 1994). It is, more often than not, here that we find ESL education on the cutting edge of intercultural interaction. Imagining the people and the construction of citizenship then take centre-stage in the drama of popular culture in ESL education. The extraordinary importance and salience of this imagining and constructing cannot be underestimated either, alive as they are with the real, the actual people themselves, their actions and activities in the unfolding drama.

In a nation seemingly obsessed with its homogeneity as Japan, the vast diversity of cultural (and now intercultural) engagements that Japanese learners have actually brought to their ESL education has escaped the attention of researchers, particularly in the post-war period, when the requirements of economic sacrifice and group effort downplayed difference and resistance. Gender, or more specifically that discussion of gender concerning women, has been the most suppressed discourse of all and is only beginning to peak through the bleak and hostile ground of centuries of treatment of women as chattel.

It is thus in the actions of the people that we see the meeting place of education and popular culture, not in how they are represented in the mass media or by government. What people have actually done, particularly where there has been active questioning and resistance, are sites for ESL research and contemplation. It is in the spaces in-between that we can see the intersections of popular cultures, real cultures of different peoples speaking different languages, not some manufactured simulacrum of big business and state government. ESL education, thus, is also about representation--who represents who and why.

Narratives of power, money, and marketing--these echoes of the triumph of late 20th century radical capitalism--reflect a larger system bent on constructing compliant citizens and consumers. That these narratives have encountered resistance and a re-imagining by individuals of themselves as citizens can be seen in the case of Japan, too, a nation seemingly complacent in its fealty to the ideas and directions of mainstream posturing on economy and polity. And they can be especially seen in ESL education, where Japan has had a dismal performance record, with the Japanese often at the bottom of international measures of English communication, resistant to traditional measures of linguistic competence yet actively employing English in daily discourse.

Toward the Future: An Alternative Globalization

An awareness of a diverse, multicultural Japanese society is growing, yet there is also the growth of an apparent neo-nationalism, fuelled by politicians and the mass media. The first speaks for a compelling drive for more openness in Japan and is outward looking, democratic, and inclusive in its conceptualization of citizenship. The second is exclusive, inward looking, and based on images of a homogeneous canon for Japanese culture. Both have been introduced into school contexts, resulting in considerable tension and dissonance. Each also reflects aspects of popular culture in the education system, just as ESL education is on the front lines of this challenge.

One way that the changing times and the tide of globalization have been broached is to import diversity, as McConnell (2000) has so aptly put it. A large-scale program for importing foreigners, many of whom are inexperienced at teaching, to the public schools as assistant English teachers (or Japan English Teachers (JETs) as they were originally called) has been carried out so that most high schools and junior high schools now have access to a foreign, usually native, speaker. These teachers are expected to not only teach English but to help promote international understanding and global education--and intercultural communication. Their presence alone, like that of cell phone culture, questions the overt domination of the state or manipulation by the corporation of what the role of English is in the society.

Popular culture in the context of ESL education in Japan today thus implicitly means intercultural communication. New forms of ESL education emerge with the need to actually communicate rather than to simply passively understand. It is here that we have new beginnings in the field of ESL and its implications for an alternative globalization, one that is interculturally, even transculturally, human.


Anderson, B. (1994). Imagined communities: Reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism. London: Verso.

Gramsci, A. (1971). Selection from prison notebooks (Quintin Hoare & Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, Trans.) London: Lawrence & Wishart.

McConnell, D. (2000). Importing diversity: Inside Japan's JET program. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Popular culture and education [Special issue]. (2003). Harvard Educational Review.

Storey, J. (Ed.). (1994). Cultural theory and popular culture. New York: Harvester.

Strinati, D. (2000). An introduction to studying popular culture. London: Routledge.

New TESOL Position Statements

Abstract: TESOL strongly supports and values the role IEPs play in promoting high quality education, collaboration in a global community, and respect for diversity and multiculturalism.
URL: http://www.tesol.org/s_tesol/bin.asp?CID=32&DID=2147&DOC=FILE.PDF

TESOL Position Statement on Use of B-Visas

Abstract: TESOL supports the use of B-visas, the visa category used by the Department of State for tourists and business visitors, for short-term language study in the United States.
URL: http://www.tesol.org/s_tesol/bin.asp?CID=32&DID=2148&DOC=FILE.PDF

About This Member Community

Intercultural Communication Interest Section (ICIS)

Intercultural Communications promotes intercultural awareness, respect for all cultures and co-cultures, and increased intercultural competency among TESOL educators and scholars.

ICIS Community Leaders, 2004-2005

Chair: Natalie Hess, Natalie.Hess@nau.edu
Co-Chair Elect: Piper McNulty, PiperMcN@aol.com
Co-Chair Elect: Nancy Tumposky, tumposkyn@montclair.edu
Newsletter Editor: Andy Bowdler, bowdlerfamily@xalt.co.uk
Newsletter Co-Editor: Mary Huebsch, huebsch_mary@sac.edu

Discussion E-List: Visit http://www.tesol.org/getconnected/ to subscribe to MWIS-L, the discussion list for ICIS members, or visithttp://lists.tesol.org/read/?forum=mwis-l if already a subscriber.