ICIS Newsletter

ICIS News, Volume 3:1 (December 2005)

by User Not Found | 10/26/2011
In This Issue...

Leadership Updates A Message From the Chair

Nancy Tumposky, Department of Curriculum and Teaching, Montclair State University, Tumposkyn@mail.montclair.edu 


Dear Colleagues:


It is an honor to serve, along with Piper McNulty, as the cochair of the TESOL Intercultural Communication Interest Section for this year. Many of us in ICIS met at last year’s convention in San Antonio, and I hope that even more are planning to attend TESOL 2006 in Tampa, where our interest section will be well represented. With the EFL Interest Group, ICIS has planned a joint Academic Session entitled “Whose culture? Whose pragmatics?” which is sure to be stimulating. We will be trying out a new schedule option for the Academic Session, breaking it up into two time slots on the same day, Friday, March 20.


We will also be featuring numerous ICIS individual sessions, InterSections, and Discussion Groups. As always, we will maintain a booth at the convention, where you can stop by, browse, chat, and connect with others who have similar professional interests. It is a great place to take a break during a busy day at the convention.


So, mark your calendars now, and consider becoming active in the ICIS leadership team.


Best wishes for another academic year.




Articles and Information News and Congratulations

News From HQ


At a recent meeting, the TESOL board of directors approved two new position statements: one addressing the assessment and accountability provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 in the United States, the second addressing U.S. visa policy. These statements can be accessed by visitinghttp://www.tesol.org/s_tesol/sec_document.asp?CID=1&DID=4755 and clicking on the appropriate statement. You are encouraged to use these position statements in any individual or local advocacy efforts. 



Armeda Reitzel was presented with the D. Scott Enright Award at the San Antonio convention.


First granted in 1993, the D. Scott Enright Award is given to those who have rendered extraordinary service either to a TESOL interest section or to the Interest Section Council. Recipients also are recognized for notable leadership, stimulating professional interchange, and the ability to foster and mentor professional development among the organization’s members.


Armeda was also appointed to the Transitional Leadership Committee of TESOL.


The Interest Section Leadership Council [IS-LC] is elected by the interest sections (ISs) and is responsible for coordinating issues between separate ISs and between ISs and the TESOL board of directors. There are four voting members on the IS-LC: the chair, the chair-elect, Member A, and Member B.


A Personal View of San Antonio

Ildiko Lazar, Department of English Applied Linguistics, School for English and American Studies, Eotvos Lorand University, Budapest, Hungary,lazar@ludens.elte.hu



As a first-time presenter at the TESOL convention in San Antonio, I was truly surprised by the size of the event, the thickness and richness of the program book, the professionalism of the organizers, and the quality of the presentations and workshops. Although the convention seemed overwhelming, especially for the first 2 days, and trying to figure everything out by myself almost resulted in culture shock for me, attending a great number of high-profile plenaries, discussion groups, workshops, and poster sessions was extremely beneficial both personally and professionally. However, being a teacher educator in EFL methodology and intercultural communication training in Hungary, of course I would have liked to hear more IC-related presentations and discussions and I would have liked to meet more international participants sharing the same interests.


Many Excellent Proposals Received for ’06 Convention

Piper McNulty, ICIS co-chair pipermcn@aol.com

TESOL received 83 intercultural communication-themed proposals for consideration as concurrent sessions by the ICIS for the 2006 convention in Tampa,Florida. The 83 proposals represented over 100 hours of conference time (workshops and colloquia are allotted 2-hour slots). The proposals covered a wide range of topics and many were of exceptional quality.

Unfortunately the convention center for 2006 is relatively small, and each Interest Section was allowed to accept less than one quarter of the proposals it received. The ICIS was given 22 slots (for 22 1-hour concurrent sessions), and in the end, sent in 17 proposals, including several for 2-hour colloquia and workshops. Additional proposals were identified for the convention committee as “potentials” (in hopes the committee could carve out more space, or to fill gaps if any of the accepted proposal writers declined). Another 10 proposal writers were invited to convert their topics into 45-minute discussion sessions (all of them accepted). A list of ICIS concurrent sessions, discussions, InterSections, and the ICIS Academic Session will be included in the spring ICIS Newsletter.

On behalf of the ICIS I would like to thank the many TESOL members who sent in intriguing, well-written, even push-the-envelope proposals on a variety of issues related to intercultural communication and TESL/TEFL. The depth and breadth was exciting to see. As an active member of the ICIS for the past 7 years I have seen a significant increase in the depth and quality of presentations on intercultural communication issues at annual TESOL conventions, and it is both my hope and my expectation that understanding of the importance of IC in the teaching of TESL/TEFL, and the training of teachers, will continue to grow.

I would also like to thank the many proposal readers for the ICIS who carved out time this June and July to navigate the OASIS software and post their scores and comments on the proposals sent to them. I’d particularly like to thank the readers who took the time to write comments about the proposals they’d been assigned (if you are a reader for next year, please do consider including comments explaining your scoring; they are very helpful!).

The ICIS Steering Committee encourages members whose proposals were not accepted this year to submit again for 2007, when there should be room for more concurrent sessions. Many fine proposals just barely missed the cut for ’06, so if yours was not among the acceptances this year, don’t be discouraged! Do submit again for ’07!

Newbie’s-Eye-View of ICIS

Sara J. Keyes, Center of English Language, Dallas, TX, ICIS Cochair Elect



True story, which I think speaks volumes about this wonderful interest section: I was so impressed at my very first ICIS business meeting that in a fit of enthusiasm I volunteered to be cochair for next year. How did that happen?


I wandered into EFL teaching entirely by accident, as many of us did. My academic and professional background is nautical archaeology (excavating shipwrecks and other submerged sites). I came home to Dallas to write my MA thesis and stayed to begin a history PhD. In August 2003, my best friend recommended me to substitute for a month at the Center of English Language. I fell in love with EFL and turned out to be a natural at it, so there I’ve stayed, delighted with my completely unforeseen career change.


In my various archaeological adventures, which included a stint in Morocco and marriage to an (East) Indian, I informally learned a great deal about intercultural communication. Since I began teaching EFL, I’ve tried to incorporate techniques for understanding others into every aspect of every class. The majority of CEL students are Koreans who have known only Koreans; for many of them, learning to interact with so many other cultures is the hardest adjustment to U.S. life. I realized instantly that teaching English itself is only a small part of our job, as language is only a fraction of communication.


While planning my first TESOL conference, I was the proverbial kid in the candy store. There were so many fascinating and useful presentations in each time slot, and only one of me—’twas a pity. I noted wryly that everything I’d circled, starred, or dog-eared was IC or sociolinguistics. You can take her out of the field, but you can’t take the anthropologist out of the girl! Delayed on the way, I arrived mid-afternoon Wednesday and was crushed that I’d missed the IC academic section, number one on my must-attend list.


So I went to the ICIS business meeting fresh from the road, as new as could be to TESOL and familiar with IC in the least formal way possible. But my first thought during the “cultural speed-bump” warm-up exercise was “I’ve found my people—this is where the social science types are!” I was on the edge of my seat, brimming over with enthusiasm, which must have showed during the elections. I was thinking, “If I were qualified (i.e., a university professor with IC background), I’d volunteer in 2 seconds,” and it must have showed. I’ve always had an awful poker face. Next thing I knew I’d been recruited as cochair elect, along with Susan Coakley from the University of Delaware.


Ever since Piper, Nancy, and Natalie sent me home from TESOL with a formidable reading list, I’ve been slogging dutifully through my Martin & Nakayama as well as various readers. I’ve dreamed of finding the money to go to the Summer Institute. I’ve considered going back for even more higher education. I look forward to serving you these next 2 years. I’ve discovered the discipline for me, and I can’t wait to see where I’ll take it from here.

Give a Man a Fish …

Ann C. Wintergerst and Andrea DeCapua


“Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime.”


How do classroom practitioners structure their curriculum to include selected aspects of cross-cultural communication? Teachers, teacher-trainers, workshop supervisors, and students should be sensitized to the concept of culture, the notion of culture shock, the effects of nonverbal communication, the idea of societal roles, and the place pragmatics and communication hold in the language classroom. Each of these subject areas is best understood and appreciated when both theory and practice are combined. To have the theoretical without the practical or the practical without the theoretical presents an incomplete picture of the subject matter at hand for the classroom practitioner (DeCapua & Wintergerst, 2004).


Culture and Communication

Whether one views culture as the sum of the way of life of any group of people (Kohls, 2001) or identifies culture “as membership in a discourse community that shares a common social space and history, and common imaginings” (Kramsch, 1998:10), the term culture encompasses many elements that interact with each other, including but not limited to the shared beliefs, values, worldviews, behaviors, and attitudes of its members. Language and culture are truly interwoven. Culture influences how speakers perceive the world and how they use language to communicate, and language influences how speakers view the world and how they communicate. After all, language serves as the medium for the transmission of culture and the gaining of insights into a particular culture.


For this reason, effective cross-cultural communication is essential to avoid cross-cultural misunderstandings, which are often the result of an erroneous assumption that everyone shares the same frame of reference and the same social and communicative interaction as we do. Improved cross-cultural communication results when we encounter culture with minimal preconceptions or biases. Making our students aware of the myriad components of culture through a range of classroom activities will help prepare them for their cultural encounters.


Classroom Activities

The classroom is the place where cross-cultural misunderstandings can be remedied or at least mitigated. As teachers we need to make our students aware of the role that culture plays in forming our interpretation of self in the world around us. The end result will be greater tolerance and another way of seeing. To function better in the classroom environment, we must understand the individuals who share our environment. For example, if Americans value self-reliance or “thinking on one’s own two feet” and the Chinese tradition espouses teaching by “holding one’s hand,” then these differences can be addressed in the language classroom. Content-focused discussions based on such activities such as critical incidents can help students understand different cultural groups and their concept of social roles and expectations.


Culture shock is another area that can be addressed effectively in the classroom. Steps can be taken to diminish and master it if we recognize, understand, and accept this phenomenon. Our students need to become familiar with the customs, traditions, and rules of the culture in which they find themselves so that they can deal with these accordingly. In-class activities such as role plays, simulations, and critical incidents offer students the opportunity to experience culture shock and to gain a greater sense of cultural awareness and cultural understanding.


In light of the fact that nonverbal communication or body language encompasses more than 65 percent of a speaker’s message (Birdwhistell, 1974), it is crucial that students develop sensitivity to the nonverbal behavior of other cultures. Classroom activities such as making inventories of nonverbal behavior of the cultures represented by the students in our classrooms, discussing these nonverbal behaviors, and understanding their meanings can be helpful.


The role of language itself plays an important part in our understanding of a second culture. Ways of communicating are beyond the lexicon and syntax of a language. For that matter, we must open our eyes to see beyond our own cultural lens and see things from another perspective. We need to be aware of differing cultural frameworks—our own and that of others.


We need to become discriminating observers of behaviors, which is possible in the classroom thanks to media: television news broadcasts, sitcoms, or movies. We need to remember that not all types of activities are suitable for all learners and that we are creating a simple awareness of culture, not a radical transformation. Above all, we need to become more conscious of ourselves and of our own actions as we acquire the skills we need to develop cross-cultural awareness in others. We as teachers are in the classroom to make a difference. We are challenged by this goal. To be successful, we must teach cultural awareness effectively. As teachers ourselves, we have found that experiential activities allow students to develop their cultural awareness skills in a positive and constructive classroom environment. We describe three of these activities below.


Critical Incidents

Critical incidents are brief situations involving an encounter that reveal differences in cultural values and beliefs. The teacher prepares sets of two to four critical incidents and asks students in small groups to analyze what underlying cultural frameworks led to the cultural conflict and to brainstorm possible resolutions to the problem. Once the students have an opportunity to discuss these critical incidents in their small groups, the full class can compare the results of their discussions and examine how their findings relate to their own experiences. Critical incidents can be tailored to reflect particular cultural concepts. The sample below, for instance, draws attention to different conceptions of status, hierarchy, and societal roles.


The students in your class range from 18 to 50 years of age. Several of the older students have indicated to you that they think they should be in a more advanced class because they are older and that they don’t like working with such young students. At the same time, several of the younger students have let you know that they find it very uncomfortable to be in class together with older students. (DeCapua & Wintergerst, 2004, p. 91)


Closing the Distance

Other activities focus on more specific aspects of culture. To demonstrate people’s intuitive recognition of personal space, teachers can present “Closing the Distance.” Here the teacher asks for two volunteers and asks one of them to step outside of the classroom where that person cannot overhear what is taking place inside the classroom. The teacher instructs the volunteer in the classroom to walk toward the volunteer outside the classroom when that person returns to the room. The teacher then calls the volunteer from outside the classroom and asks that person to walk into the classroom. As the two volunteers approach each other, the rest of the class observes their behavior. Typically, the closer the two volunteers come to each other, the more uncomfortable they become. Class discussion can center on how close the volunteers came before they exhibited signs of unease; what nonverbal cues these volunteers manifested as their personal space was invaded; how close is too close; and what differences students may have experienced in their own lives (DeCapua & Wintergerst, 2004, p. 178).


“I am”

To illustrate how people’s self-identities are tied to their different social roles and relationships, students can be asked to complete 10 to 15 statements beginning with “I am _______.” They then share their statements in a small group or with the full class and reflect upon what their statements reveal about themselves, discussing such questions as what role context or location plays in shaping their current and past self-identify; how their roles have changed over time; and how each of these different roles influences their interactions with others (DeCapua & Wintergerst, 2004, p. 222).


The sample activities presented here illustrate how teachers can assist students to experience for themselves important cultural concepts and better prepare them for cross-cultural interactions. Rather than providing students with lists of dos and don’ts, we can help our students develop the tools to analyze and explore areas of potential misunderstanding and miscommunication by engaging them in reflective observation and abstract conceptualization. Instead of merely giving them a fish, we can teach them to fish.



Readers are invited to join the authors for a discussion session on culture and experiential learning at the annual TESOL convention in Tampa, Florida, on Friday, March 17, at 8:30 a.m. in the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel/Meeting Rm. 2.






Birdwhistell, R. 1974. The language of the body: The natural environment of words. In A. Silverstein (Ed.), Human communication: Theoretical explorations. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.


DeCapua, A., and Wintergerst, A. C. 2004. Crossing cultures in the language classroom. Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press.


Kohls, R. 2001. Survival kit for overseas living (4th ed.). Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press.


Kramsch, C. 1998. Toward a pedagogy of cross-cultural competence. In D. Lange, C. Klee, M. Paige, & Y. Yershova (Eds.), Culture as the core: Interdisciplinary perspectives on culture teaching and learning in the language curriculum. Minneapolis, MN: Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition, University of Minnesota.



Ann C. Wintergerst winterga@stjohns.edu is professor of TESOL in the Department of Languages & Literatures at St. John’s University, New York. Together with Andrea DeCapua she is the author of Crossing Cultures in the Language Classroom (University of Michigan Press, 2004). She is also the author of Second Language Classroom Interaction (University of Toronto Press, 1994) and editor of Focus on Self-Study: Evaluating Post-secondary ESOL Programs (TESOL, 1995). Her articles have appeared in System, TESL Canada Journal, The CATESOL Journal, and College ESL, among others.


Andrea DeCapua adecapua@optonline.net is an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning at New York University. Together with Ann C. Wintergerst, she is the author of Crossing Cultures in the Language Classroom (University of Michigan Press, 2004). She has also published in the areas of pragmatics, gender and language learning, and sociolinguistics in such journals as Multilingua, Journal of Pragmatics, Women and Language, Issues in Applied Linguistics, System, and The CATESOL Journal.


Book Review

Martin McMillan and the Lost Inca City.

E. Russell.(2005). Solon, ME: Polar Bear and Co. 124 pp. US$10, CDN$14.


Martin McMillan and the Lost Inca City is a delightful, multicultural adventure story that will keep young readers at the edge of their seats, and may well provoke interesting class discussion. Twelve-year-old Martin and his teenage sister Jenny both feel cheated and distressed when their parents announce that their idyllic life in grandmother’s house in Silverton, Illinois, is over, and that the family must head for an archeological dig in Peru. Martin and Jenny had been dragged around all over the world in this fashion before. But for the past 2 years, they seemed to have found a normal American life in Silverton, where both mom and dad work at the local university. Martin and Jenny like their American home and their American schools. They have made friends and feel at home. Martin is an expert skateboarder. Jenny is popular at school. Why on earth must they move again?


Their protests, however, fall on deaf ears, as the enthusiastic archeologist parents pack up possessions and children to head for a promising dig in Peru. Arriving in a camp right above the Amazon rain forest, Martin and his sister are at first bored and dismayed, but Jenny soon discovers handsome Paolo. Martin stops being grumpy as he makes friends with adventurous, bilingual Isabel, who drags him off to the village where they meet 16-year-old Pedro, who leads them on a secret path to a skateboard adventure that will end in the capture of thieves and the discovery of an ancient Inca City still functioning in its original culture.


This story of exploration, friendship, and intercultural communication will lead young readers to contemplate their own lives and their own cultural placements. Highly recommended for middle school groups.


Natalie Hess, Natalie.Hess@nau.edu

Questions & Answers

Mary Huebsch came up with this idea, and takes first go. If you would like to contribute answers you have given to students, please send them to her, with the original question, for editing. Her e-mail is Huebsch_Mary@sac.edu.


Student question: This is YY. I have two questions about chapters 1 & 2. There are many American Values referred to in chapter 1. I don't understand one of them: "openness." Isn't it contradictory to privacy??


Maybe I don't understand well what openness means.


And in chapter 2, there is a word, "ethnocentrism." Actually I looked up the meaning of that word in the dictionary, but I still don't quite get it.


Do people who are ethnocentric mean they cling to their culture?


Or does the textbook say people can remain ethnocentric even after they adjust themselves to a new culture?


Please answer these questions when you have time. (after you take enough rest this weekend!!)



Mary Huebsch's answer: I'll answer your second question first because it's easier! A person who is ethnocentric thinks his or her culture is superior to all other cultures. Obviously, a person with this kind of attitude will have difficulty adapting to a new culture. As for your second question, I agree that it is strange that Americans value privacy and yet also value openness. I think for us privacy has more to do with personal space than it has to do with personal business. We are often quite open when talking about our personal lives. For example, people talk freely about their families even among complete strangers. I was quite shocked one time when I was in line at a bank and a woman started talking about how her daughter was an unmarried teenage mother. Perhaps Japanese people are less concerned than Americans about having private space. On the other hand, maybe they are more concerned about keeping their personal lives private. What do you think?



Here are 2 other questions that readers might like to provide possible answers for:


1.  When my friend and I were on the college campus,there were so cute babies in the baby carriage. There were people who took care of the babies there: I thought they were nursery school teacher. And then my friend touched the baby's cheek without asking the teacher because the baby was very cute. I saw that the teacher seemed to be very surprised. I thought why the teacher looked at us with an amazed look..


2.  I haven't understood thoroughly how Americans interpret friendship.  For instance, I have run into the situation where I met and American and although they seemed friendly, I felt as if they were kind of distant. My question is why don't Americans want to get involved in true friendships with immigrants?


Community News and Information This Is Your Community

The current leadership of the ICIS is as follows:


Piper McNulty, Cochair


Nancy Tumposky, Cochair


Susan Coakley, Cochair-Elect


Sara Keyes, Cochair-Elect


Natalie Hess, Past Chair


Armeda Reitzel, Past Past-Chair


Andy Bowdler and Mary Huebsch, Newsletter Editors


Rebekah Muir, Webmaster


Sallee Prieto, Secretary/Historian


Don Snow, Donna Fujimoto, Victoria Tuzlukova, and Eunju Chung, Members-at-Large


Why not log on to the ICIS TESOL website at http://www.tesol.org/s_tesol/seccss.asp?CID=919&DID=4022 and see what you can do to get involved?