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An investigation of ELT students intercultural communicative compe-


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Contents lists available at SciVerse ScienceDirect
International Journal of Intercultural Relations
j our nal home page: www. el sevi er . com/ l ocat e/ i j i nt r el
An investigation of ELT students intercultural communicative
competence in relation to linguistic prociency, overseas experience
and formal instruction
Murat Hismanoglu

Department of Foreign Languages Education, Akdeniz University, Dumlupnar Avenue 07058 Antalya, Turkey
a r t i c l e i n f o
Article history:
Received 10 December 2010
Received in revised form4 May 2011
Accepted 30 August 2011
Keywords:
Intercultural communicative competence
Linguistic prociency
Target culture experience
Formal education
a b s t r a c t
This study aims at exploring how linguistic prociency, target culture experience, and for-
mal education are related to the learning of intercultural communicative competence (ICC).
It presents the theoretical underpinnings of ICC in the light of recent literature. Then, it con-
tinues with the methodology section that includes a quantitative research study in which
35 students at the Department of English Language Teaching (ELT) at European University
of Lefke (EUL) participated. The participants of the study had different linguistic procien-
cies ranging from waystage or elementary level (A2) to vantage or upper intermediate level
(B2). The paper concludes by stating the ndings of the research and also by making some
recommendations for language teachers to better develop the learners ICC in teaching
English as a second language (TESL)/teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) contexts.
2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction
Inrecent years, interculturalityhas become anincreasinglysignicant component inthe eldof foreignlanguage teaching
in that humans around the world are experiencing more and more intercultural transactions as a natural outcome of glob-
alization. Sakuragi (2008) states that intercultural communication has a paucity of literature when considering the study of
languages. However, the notion of communicative competence dates back to the study of Hymes (1972). This notion is later
expanded by Byrams (1991) and Kramschs (1993) conception of ICC that accounts for a comprehension of the variations in
interactional norms between speech communities and the ability of unearthing the other. In Byrams (2000) viewpoint, ICC
is the ability to interact effectively with people of cultures other than ones own (p. 297). To put it differently, ICC involves
awareness of different values and behaviors of the others as well as skills to deal with themin a non-judgmental way.
Relevant to foreign language classroompractice, ICC refers to activities related to behavior and speech patterns, such as
appropriate choices for conversation topics, opening and closing a conversation, criticizing and complaining, stereotyping,
reacting to cultural shock, personal space restrictions, and non-verbal communication. However, in a research project
conducted by Skopinskaja (2000, 2003) in Estonia, it was hypothesized that because foreign language syllabi across
different countries are mostly exam-centered, teachers merely concentrate on promoting their students linguistic abilities
rather than their intercultural competences. Consequently, the majority of learners cannot learn during their classes
about intercultural dangers resulting from an inappropriate selection of conversation topics, dissimilarities in non-verbal

Tel.: +90 242 310 60 83; fax: +90 0242 226 19 53.
E-mail addresses: hismanoglu@gmail.com, hismanoglu@akdeniz.edu.tr
0147-1767/$ see front matter 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.ijintrel.2011.09.001
Please cite this article in press as: Hismanoglu, M. An investigation of ELT students intercultural communicative compe-
tence in relation to linguistic prociency, overseas experience and formal instruction. International Journal of Intercultural
Relations (2011), doi:10.1016/j.ijintrel.2011.09.001
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communication, proximity, or negative stereotyping. This situation probably means that such learners may end up learning
about culture shock through personal, perhaps traumatic experience.
At this juncture, in connection with the current status of ICC teaching in Cyprus, it can be noted that certain needs become
inevitable in the Turkish Higher Education System(THES) necessitating a shift in ELT curriculumfromlinguistic perspective
to interculturality. In fact, Alptekin (2002) has foreseen this urgent need of a new pedagogic model in the case of English
as a means of international and intercultural communication. He replicated Hydes (1998) insights in such a way that ICC
are to be developed among learners of English as a second/foreign language. These learners of English as a second/foreign
language are to be equipped with linguistic and cultural behavior so that they can communicate effectively with others.
Moreover, they are to be equipped with an awareness of difference and strategies for coping with such difference. Yet, the
expected realization of ICC has always been neglected in Turkish Higher Education Context for years. However, during the
past two years, certain attempts have been made to develop especially ELT students (i.e. students studying to be English
language teachers) ICC through incorporating some specic courses into the curriculumand organizing cultural programs.
Hence, this study aims at exploring how linguistic prociency (i.e. the ability of a student to speak or perform in the
target language), overseas experience (i.e. the process of studying or working in English-speaking countries such as England,
America, Australia) and formal education (i.e. instruction in ICC that is compulsory and structured and is learned within the
context of a university) have inuenced the learning of intercultural communicative competence (ICC). It displays the theo-
retical underpinnings of ICC in relation to recent literature. After that, it continues with the methodology section involving
a quantitative research study in which 35 students at the Department of ELT at EUL participated. The paper concludes by
stating the ndings of the researchand also by making some recommendations for language teachers for promoting learners
intercultural communicative competence in TESL/TEFL contexts.
2. Literature review
The term communicative competence (CC) was initiated by Hymes in the early 1970s as a reaction to the Chomskyan
concept of linguistic competence (Chomsky, 1957, 1965). The viewwas further promoted and elaborated by researchers like
Canale and Swain in the early 1980s in the USA and by Van Ek in the mid 1980s in Europe. It was Van Ek who incorporated it
into foreign language learning and changed it into a key concept in the development of communicative language teaching.
In foreign language teaching, CC has been dominant for about three decades and most textbooks on the market currently
employed by students conformto this methodology (Aguilar, 2009).
However, the termCCwas reconsideredover the years bydifferent authors indifferent directions. While some researchers
relied largely on pragmatics (Celce-Murcia, Alcon, & Safont, 2007), others made their modications of CC stemming from
Van Eks (1986) model, which presented cultural and attitudinal features. Van Ek, aside from the linguistic or grammatical,
strategic, sociolinguistic and discourse competences put forward and/or redened by several authors (Canale, 1983; Canale &
Swain, 1980; Chomsky, 1957, 1965; Hymes, 1972), included sociocultural competence and social competence. Sociocultural
competence refers to the sociocultural context where a language is situated. It denotes the use of a specic reference form
that is partially dissimilar to that of the foreign language learner. Social competence includes not only the volition but also
the skilfulness to interact with others. It contains incentive, attitude, self-reliance, empathy and the capacity to deal with
social situations (Aguilar, 2009).
Savignon (2007) stresses that the terms native or native-like seem to be inappropriate in the evaluation of CC in
that most speakers of English in the world do not possess it as their mother tongue. Similarly, Alptekin (2002) states that
the conventional model of communicative competence is no longer suitable for explaining learning and employing an
international language in cross-cultural contexts because of its rigid link to native speakers forms. At this juncture, we
should go beyond the concept of CC and deal with the concept of ICC.
With respect to the concept of ICC, Byram(1997) indicates that when persons fromdifferent languages and/or countries
interact socially, they bring to the situation their knowledge about their own country and that of the others (pp. 3233).
Moreover, Byram(1997) notes that part of the success of such interaction will depend on the establishing and maintenance
of human relationships, something which depends on attitudinal factors (pp. 3233). Furthermore, it should be indicated
that both aspects, knowledge, and attitude are affected by the processes of intercultural communication, that is, the skills
of interpretation and constructing ties between aspects of the two cultures and the skills of discovery and interaction.
In Byrams (2000) viewpoint, ICC entails the following components:
1. Attitudes: interest and clarity, willingness to delay unbelief about other cultures and belief about ones own.
2. Knowledge: of community groups and their outputs and applications in ones own and in ones interlocutors country, and
of the common stages of societal and personal interaction.
3. Skills of interpreting and relating: capacity to understand a document or event fromanother culture, to expound it and link
it to documents fromones own.
4. Skills of discovery and interaction: capacity to get new knowledge of a culture and cultural applications and the capacity
to utilize knowledge, attitudes and skills under the restriction of real-time communication and interaction.
5. Critical cultural awareness/political education: a capacity to assess critically and on the foundation of distinct criteria
prospects, applications and outputs in ones own and other cultures and countries.
Please cite this article in press as: Hismanoglu, M. An investigation of ELT students intercultural communicative compe-
tence in relation to linguistic prociency, overseas experience and formal instruction. International Journal of Intercultural
Relations (2011), doi:10.1016/j.ijintrel.2011.09.001
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Byram (2000) stresses that a speaker who can communicate interculturally in a powerful way displays a degree of
competence in several aspects:
[. . .] someone with some degree of intercultural competence is someone who is able to see relationships between
different cultures - both internal and external to a society - and is able to mediate, that is interpret each in terms of
the other, either for themselves or for other people. It is also someone who has a critical or analytical understanding
of (parts of) their own and other cultures - someone who is conscious of their own perspective, of the way in which
their thinking is culturally determined, rather than believing that their understanding and perspective is natural. (p.
10)
Intercultural communicative competence plays a key role in foreign language learning. According to Kramsch (1993),
learners of a foreign language should operate perfectly in a context in which at least two languages and two cultures, their
own and another one, exchange. In such a context, they may nd themselves in no-mans-land or, what she terms a third
place from where to be able to comprehend and mediate between the home and the target language and culture. Hence,
learners shouldbe arbitrators whoare capable of administering communicationandinteractionbetweenpeople of dissimilar
cultural and linguistic backgrounds, coming out from their own outlook and adopting another. They should be competent
in dealing with different clarications of reality. They should be persons with a privileged position between the home and
the target culture.
In the literature, a number of studies focalized on classroom practices which have been considered good practices for
fostering ICC. Singhal (1998) states that cultural capsules and cultural problem solving are good classroom activities to
provide students with intercultural information. Henrichsen (1998) indicates that culture assimilators and cultoons are two
interesting methods of giving students comprehension about intercultural information.
In Garcia and Biscus (2006) viewpoint, the introduction of specic drama activities in a collaborative classroomcontext
can help students develop their empathic attitude and foster their cognitive and emotional competence, which are crucial
aspects in an intercultural perspective. According to Lazar (2007), language teachers should utilize intercultural games and
activities such as association games, role play, ethnographic tasks and projects to incorporate intercultural communication
training into their teaching and hence foster students ICC.
3. Methods
3.1. Participants
Atotal of 35 students fromthe English Language Teaching Department of the European University of Lefke participated in
this study. The subjects were randomly selected. Thirteen were males and twenty-two were females. The age of the students
ranged from18 to 22, with a mean of 20. Six students had overseas experience, whereas twenty-nine students did not have
overseas experience. Of six students with overseas experience, three of themaccommodated in America for three months in
2009 and they worked as cashiers at a restaurant. One student accommodated in America for three months in 2008 and he
worked as a sh cleaner at a sh factory. One student accommodated in America for three months in 2007 and he worked as
a waiter at a restaurant. One student accommodated in Canada for twenty years from1989 to 2009 and she got her primary
and secondary education over there. Of six students with overseas experience, three of themhad formal education regarding
ICC, whereas three of themdid not have formal education. Overseas experience, being able to operate beyond ones home
environment, is a key to fostering ICC for many students of English language teaching. Students can learn how to adapt to
and respect a target culture by studying or working in English-speaking countries such as England, America, Australia. In
the present study, students were not offered a range of options so that they could develop their ICC. However, they were
merely asked if they had been to overseas countries.
Ten students got formal education regarding intercultural communicative competence, while twenty-ve students did
not take formal education regarding ICC. That is, ten students took a 3 credit compulsory course entitled ELT 377 Cultural
Studies in the Fall Semester of 20092010 Academic Year. Of these ten students getting formal education regarding intercul-
tural communicative competence, while three of themalso had overseas experience, seven of themdid not have overseas
experience. As seen in Appendix A, having overseas experience in addition to getting formal education made so much differ-
ence. That is, while students with overseas experience gave average 7.00 appropriate responses to the eight communicative
situations, students without overseas experience gave average 5.71 appropriate responses to the eight communicative sit-
uations. This course, taught by a colleague of the researcher at the ELT Department of EUL, focused on the prominence of
culture in our daily lives and the ways in which culture inuenced communication processes. The course was designed (a)
to prepare students for situations used to test ICC in this study, (b) to increase their sensitivity to other cultures. The specic
course goals were as follows:
1. to increase students comprehension of the concepts of culture and co-culture;
2. to maximize students awareness of their own cultural backgrounds, values, beliefs and assumptions;
3. to increase students awareness of and respect for cultural diversity;
4. to understand howcultural differences affect interaction in intercultural contexts;
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Table 1
Equivalency between international English exams and the KPDS examscore (60) and the Common European Framework.
KPDS TOEFLCBT TOEFLIBT TOEFLPBT TOEIC IELTS CEFR
60 137 57 455 531534 5 B1
5. to describe obstacles that arise from cultural differences in intercultural interactions and learn how to overcome these
obstacles;
6. to promote intercultural communication skills;
7. to offer an opportunity to integrate theory with practice in the foreign language classroomvia media, cinema, published
works, computer based media and communicative activities.
In this course, the teacher showed students some useful expressions on how to ask for money from a family member,
order breakfast at a restaurant, ask someone to be quiet in a movie theater, ask to borrowa car froma friend, apologize to a
friend or colleague for missing appointments or being late, ask for directions in the target language. Moreover, the teacher
asked the students to role play the given situations and compare and contrast howto performthese speech acts in both the
native language and the target language.
3.2. Instruments for data collection
The data for this study were collected through a questionnaire consisting of two parts. The rst part contained a series of
demographic questions about students native language, gender, linguistic prociency, year of education, overseas experi-
ence and formal education. The second part included eight different communicative situations which students are likely to
encounter in real life contexts. These items were selected by the researcher on the basis of an extensive reviewof literature
utilized in different educational backgrounds (for example, Bardovi-Harlig & Grifn, 2005; Klc kaya, 2010; Rasekh, 2005).
The development of the instrument was guided by a number of experts working in higher education settings. This panel of
experts including one associate professor of applied sociolinguistics, three native speaker experts and two non-native EFL
teachers evaluated the instrument for content and face validity. They contended that the questionnaire was appropriate and
comprehensive for the context of the study. The students were asked to read the given situations and write what they would
say in such situations into the spaces provided under each situation.
When evaluating the (un)acceptability of the responses given by the students in relation to eight different communica-
tive situations, the researcher not only collaborated with a native speaker expert but also had a control group of native
English speaking respondents. The number of NS subjects was 5. The NS informants were English teachers working in the
English Preparatory School of the European University of Lefke. By the help of the native speaker of English, the researcher
determined whether the given responses by the students were acceptable (

) or unacceptable () (see Appendix A). Besides,


before administering the questionnaire to the students, the researcher gave a KPDS exam(Prociency Examfor Academics)
consisting of 100 multiple choice type of questions to these students. In the prociency exam, vocabulary, grammar, transla-
tion, and reading sections were included. However, listening, speaking and writing sections were not included. In this exam,
while nineteen students getting a score 60 and above were grouped into high prociency, sixteen students getting a score
below60 were grouped into lowprociency. When grouping the students into high prociency, the parameters of overseas
experience and formal education were not taken into account. However, of nineteen students grouped as high prociency,
four of themhad overseas experience, six of themhad formal education related to ICC, however, nine of themhad neither
overseas experience nor formal education.
In this prociency exam, the types of questions designed to test students lexical, grammatical, and pragmatic knowledge
ranged fromchoosing the best choice to ll in the blank or to replace the underlined word(s) to nding the expression that
can be uttered in the given context. A sample question asked in the prociency exam
1
was as follows:
A Sample question
(a) Choose the best choice to ll in the blank or to replace the underlined word(s)
With the Soviet Union in decline in 1990, the United States emerged as the - superpower.
(A) excessive (B) accurate (C) sole (D) initial (E) adequate
The Council of Higher Education in Turkey determined the equivalency between the English language exam scores
obtained fromKPDS examand the English language examscores obtained fromvarious institutions abroad. Table 1 indicates
the equivalency between each international English exam and the KPDS exam score (60) and relates this to the Common
European Framework.
1
Interested readers can obtain the full prociency test fromthe author.
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3.3. Data collection procedures
The instrument required about 20min to complete and was administered in the students regular English class. Before
students lled out the questionnaire, they were told that their responses to the questionnaire would remain condential.
Furthermore, they were asked to give their responses as clearly as possible, which was key to the success of this research
study. As for the prociency exam, whichwas giventothe students prior tothe questionnaire, the allocatedtime was 120min
to complete.
3.4. Data analysis procedures
The data obtained via the questionnaire were coded for statistical analysis to nd out answers to the research questions
denoted above. The Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS, version 16.0) was employed for statistical analysis.
Descriptive statistics (frequencies, percentages, means, standard deviation, etc.) were utilized to obtain patterns of demo-
graphic information from the personal details part of the questionnaire and intercultural communicative competence. A
series of independent samples t-tests were employed to explore whether there were signicant differences in the learning
of intercultural communicative competence by linguistic prociency, overseas experience and formal education.
3.5. Hypotheses
This study was designed to explore how linguistic prociency, overseas experience and formal education are related to
the acquisition of intercultural communicative competence. It set out to prove the following hypotheses:
1. Students of ELT have a high level of intercultural communicative competence.
2. There are signicant differences in the acquisition of intercultural communicative competence among ELT students in relation
to linguistic prociency.
3. There are signicant differences in the acquisition of intercultural communicative competence among ELT students in relation
to overseas experience.
4. There are signicant differences in the acquisition of intercultural communicative competence among ELT students in relation
to getting formal education.
4. Results
4.1. The overall intercultural communicative success of ELT students
In the present study, thirty-ve students generally exhibited a high level of intercultural communicative competence by
giving acceptable responses to the given eight different communicative situations (M=5.20, SD=1.62). While the minimum
score was 2, the maximum score was 8. In the following section, NNS participants (un)acceptable responses related to
the given eight different communicative situations were illustrated. The NS participants responses were also included in
that these responses provided the baseline data for the researcher regarding the appropriateness of the NNS respondents
responses.
In the rst question, the participants were required to ask a good friend for some money. While NS participants used Can
you lend me some money? and I hate to ask you this, but would it be possible to borrow - $? I will pay you as soon as
possible, NNS participants used Can you lend me some money?, Could you lend me some money?, Would you lend me
some money?, Do you have any cash on you that I can borrow? as acceptable responses. As for unacceptable responses,
eight students (23%) gave unacceptable responses to this question. While six of these students (17%) were in the higher
prociency group, two of them (6%) were in the lower prociency group. Some NNS participants used Can you give me
some money? as an unacceptable response due to being under the negative inuence of their mother tongue, Turkish. That
is to state that there was a case of L1 transfer here. In Turkish, the verb vermek give is used both to let someone borrow
money or something that belongs to somebody else for a short time and to let someone have something as a present or to
provide something for someone. However, in English, the verb lend is used to let someone borrowmoney or something that
belongs to somebody else for a short time, whereas the verb give is used to let someone have something as a present or
to provide something for someone. In the questionnaire, some NNS participants preferred using the verb give because of a
negative L1 transfer here.
In the second question, the participants were asked to order a hamburger and a Coke at McDonalds. NNS participants
acceptable responses to this question (for example, Can I have 1 hamburger and 1 Coke?, Could I have a hamburger and a
coke?) were similar to the responses given by NS participants (for example, Can I have a hamburger and a Coke?, Could I
have a hamburger and a coke please?). However, some NNS participants utilized Can I take a hamburger and a Coke? and
Sorry, I would like you to prepare a hamburger and a Coke. forms as unacceptable responses because of the negative effect
of Turkish. Eight students (23%) gave unacceptable responses to this question. Of these eight students, while four of them
(11.5%) were in the higher prociency group, four of them(11.5%) were in the lower prociency group.
Please cite this article in press as: Hismanoglu, M. An investigation of ELT students intercultural communicative compe-
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In the third question, the participants were asked to warn a group of noisy teenagers to be quiet while watching a lmin
the cinema. NNS participants acceptable responses to this question (for example, Could you be more silent please?, Please
keep quite. I cant watch the lm) were similar to the responses given by NS participants (for example, Could you please
keep your voices down? I cant hear a thing., Could you be quite please?). However, some NNS responses to this question
(for example, Where we are! Where we are now. Please its just 2h) were reections of the effect of Turkish culture on
NNS participants. Six students (17%) gave unacceptable responses to this question, four students (11%) were in the higher
prociency group, whereas two students (6%) were in the lower prociency group.
In the fourth question, the participants were asked to borrowa magazine froma tourist on a coach trip. NS participants
used Hey! Do you mind if I look at this?, Would you mind if I looked at your magazine?, Do you think I could borrow
that magazine?, NNS participants used Can I borrow your magazine?, Could I borrow your magazine?, Can I take it
please?, Can I look at that magazine if it is possible? as acceptable responses. However, some NNS participants used May
I look that magazine?, Could you borrowme a magazine? as unacceptable responses because of not knowing the suitable
modal auxiliary and the verb to be used. Twelve students (34%) gave unacceptable responses to this question. Seven of these
students (20%) were in the lower prociency group, whereas ve of them(14%) were in the higher prociency group.
Inthe fthquestion, the participants were askedto apologize to a friendfor forgetting a meeting andmaking him/her wait
for more than 20min. NS participants used I amso sorry. I cant believe I forgot again. Can we reschedule one more time?,
Oh God! I am really sorry. Can we meet tomorrow?, I am so sorry. I missed you. Can we meet again? as acceptable
responses. They utilized the prompts like again and one more time to indicate that this happened for a second time.
However, NNS participants used the second time instead of again because of the effect of their mother tongue, Turkish.
More specically, NNS participants used Imso sorry. I forgot it. I noticed that I had made this mistake the second time. I am
so sorry for this situation. Please forgive me! and Imsorry really, excuse me, I couldnt informyou that I had an important
job as acceptable responses. However, some NNS participants used Okey. Imreally unresponsible person. I accept it. Do
the same to me please!, Ive fallen in sleeping. I amreally really really sorry about it. I promise it wont be happen again.
Trust me. as unacceptable responses because of being under the negative inuence of Turkish. Seventeen students (49%)
gave unacceptable responses to this question. Nine of these students (26%) were in the lower prociency group, whereas
eight of them(23%) were in the higher prociency group.
In the sixth question, the participants were required to ask a classmate to lend them notes for the class they missed.
NNS participants acceptable responses to this question (for example, Can I take your notes?, Can I borrow the notes of
last week?, Can you give me last lesson notes?) were similar to the responses given by NS participants (for example, Can I
please borrowyour history notes?, Can I get the notes fromyou fromthe last class?). However, some NNS responses to this
question (for example, I was absent as I were ill. Can you borrowme your notes?, May I take the history notes which I cannot
come because of my illness?) were unacceptable in that they were reections of NNS participants not knowing the suitable
modal auxiliary and the verb to be used. Thirteen students (37%) gave unacceptable responses to this question. While seven
of these students (20%) were in the lower prociency group, six of them(17%) were in the higher prociency group.
In the seventh question, the participants were required to ask a student for the location of the college dormitory. NNS
participants acceptable responses to this question (for example, Excuse me, can you tell me where the dormis?, Sorry, could
you tell me where the college dormitory is?) were similar to the responses given by NS participants (for example, Excuse
me. Could you please tell me howto get to the college dormitory?, Excuse me. Could you please tell me where the dormitory
is?). However, some NNS responses to this question (for example, I dont know where my friends stay in. If I tell you her
name, can you showher dormitory?, Do you knowAys e?, Sorry, do you knowNazl?) were unacceptable in that they were
reections of the effect of Turkish culture on NNS participants. Twelve students (34%) gave unacceptable responses to this
question. While eight of these students (23%) were in the lower prociency group, four of them (11%) were in the higher
prociency group.
In the eighth question, the participants were asked to express a reason for not going to the party given by a friend to
celebrate the success of his/her thesis defense. While NS participants used Hey! I cant make it today. I am sorry. I just
have too many things to do, I am so sorry that I cant attend the party. So instead can I take you to lunch next week?,
Congratulations! I am sorry. I cant make it to your party. How about meeting upon . . .?, NNS participants used Im
really sorry I cant make it tonight. Lets do something this week together, Congratulations. I amsorry I couldnt come to
your party some personal reasons and I apologize for not coming to the party but believe me I had an excuse for this as
acceptable responses. However, some NNS participants used I couldnt come to your party. My mother was so ill and took
hospital sorry and My uncles uncle was dead. Sorry, I couldnt come to your party as unacceptable responses because
of not knowing suitable expressions to be used in this situation in the target culture. In fact, this was the only situation in
which lack of ICC is the main reason for not giving the appropriate answer. In all the other situations, it was mostly lack of
lexical competence as well as pragmatic competence leading to giving inappropriate responses to the given communicative
situations. Twenty-two students (63%) gave unacceptable responses to this question. While eight of these students (23%)
were in the lower prociency group, fourteen of them(40%) were in the higher prociency group.
4.2. The acquisition of intercultural communicative competence by linguistic prociency
To measure whether there were signicant differences in the acquisition of intercultural communicative competence
between ELT students with lower linguistic prociency (n=16) and those with higher linguistic prociency (n=19), an
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Table 2
Mean differences between students with lower linguistic prociency and students with higher linguistic prociency with respect to intercultural commu-
nicative competence.
Groups n Mean SD MeanDiffer. df t p
Students with lower linguistic prociency 16 0.61 0.208 0.04 33 0.679 .502
Students with higher linguistic prociency 19 0.66 0.200 0.04
Table 3
Mean differences between students without overseas experience and students with overseas experience with respect to intercultural communicative
competence.
Groups n Mean SD MeanDiffer. df t p
Students without overseas experience 29 0.60 0.180 0.03 33 3.421 .002
Students with overseas experience 6 0.87 0.158 0.06
independent samples t test was employed to compare the means of these two groups. As opposed to our expectations, there
were no signicant differences in the acquisition of intercultural communicative competence between ELT students with
lower linguistic prociency(M=0.61, SD=0.20) andthosewithhigher linguistic prociency(M=0.66, SD=0.20); t(33) =0.6,
p>.05 (shown in Table 2). However, based on the qualitative data, it can be stressed that level of prociency of students is
related with students responses to the situations and the type of grammatical, lexical and pragmatic errors that they make.
In this study, three students getting scores between 40 and 49 were classied as A1 level and these three students gave
average 5.00 appropriate responses to eight communicative situations. Thirteen students getting scores between 50 and 59
were categorized as A2 level and they gave average 5.08 appropriate responses to eight communicative situations. Twelve
students getting scores between 60 and 69 were classied as B1 level and they gave 5.33 appropriate answers to eight
communicative situations. Six students getting scores between 70 and 79 were categorized as B2 level and they gave 5.17
appropriate answers to eight communicative situations. One student getting a score between 80 and 89 was categorized as
C1 level and he gave only 7.00 appropriate responses to eight communicative situations. In the light of these ndings, it can
be stressed that students who are at high prociency level give more appropriate responses to communicative situations
than those students who are at lowprociency level.
4.3. The acquisition of intercultural communicative competence by overseas experience
To reveal whether there were signicant differences in the acquisition of intercultural communicative competence
between students with overseas experience (n=6) and those without overseas experience (n=29), an independent sam-
ples t test was conducted to compare the means of these two groups. As predicted, there were signicant differences in the
acquisitionof intercultural communicative competence betweenstudents withoverseas experience (M=0.87, SD=0.15) and
those without overseas experience (M=0.60, SD=0.18); t(33) =3.421, p<.05 (exhibited in Table 3). This result indicated
that overseas experience is related with fostering students ICC. Specically, this result suggested that when students gain
overseas experience, their intercultural communicative competence develops.
4.4. The acquisition of intercultural communicative competence by formal education
To evaluate whether there were signicant differences in the acquisition of intercultural communicative competence
between ELT students getting formal education (n=10) and those not getting formal education (n=25), an independent
samples t test was utilized to compare the means of these two groups. As predicted, there were signicant differences
in the acquisition of intercultural communicative competence between ELT students getting formal education (M=0.76;
SD=0.17) and those not getting formal education (M=0.60, SD=0.19); t(33) =2.18, p<.05 (shown in Table 4). This result
exhibited that formal education is closely connected with promoting students ICC. Specically, this result indicated that
when students get formal education, their intercultural communicative competence develops.
In this research study, ten students getting formal education carried out a number of ICC activities or practices in a
technology furnished classroomconsisting of ten computers with Internet access to help themto develop their intercultural
Table 4
Mean differences between students not getting formal education and students getting formal education with respect to intercultural communicative
competence.
Groups n Mean SD MeanDiffer. df t p
Students not getting formal education 25 0.60 0.199 0.15 33 2.187 .036
Students getting formal education 10 0.76 0.171 0.15
Please cite this article in press as: Hismanoglu, M. An investigation of ELT students intercultural communicative compe-
tence in relation to linguistic prociency, overseas experience and formal instruction. International Journal of Intercultural
Relations (2011), doi:10.1016/j.ijintrel.2011.09.001
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8 M. Hismanoglu / International Journal of Intercultural Relations xxx (2011) xxxxxx
communicative competences. In the following section, these different types of ICC activities or practices are described and
they are related to the questionnaire data in detail.
Activity 1
Aim: To learn howto ask for money froma family member
Level: Upper-intermediate
Skill: Listening, role playing, comparing and contrasting
Time: 40 min
Site: http://www.howcast.com/videos/248074-How-To-Ask-For-Money-From-a-Friend-or-Family-Member
In this activity, students visited the web site http://www.howcast.com/videos/248074-How-To-Ask-For-Money-From-
a-Friend-or Family-Member to watch a video on howto ask for money froma family member. Then, the teacher introduced
some useful expressions to the students such as:
Can you lend me some money?,
Could you lend me some money?,
Would you lend me money?,
I hate to ask you this, but would it be possible to borrow - $?
I will pay you back as soon as possible.
In pairs, students role played this situation in the target language by deploying the useful expressions given by the
teacher. After that, they compared and contrasted howto ask for money froma family member in both the native language
and the target language. In this study, although ten students getting formal education learned howto ask for money froma
family member, only six of these students were able to adapt the useful expressions that they learned to a similar situation
(asking a good friend for some money). Hence, while six students getting formal education (60%) gave an appropriate
answer to the rst question, twenty-one students not getting formal education (84%) gave an appropriate answer to the rst
question.
Activity 2
Aim: To learn howto order breakfast at a restaurant
Level: Upper-intermediate
Skill: Listening, reading aloud, memorizing and acting out a dialogue
Time: 40min
Site: http://www.audioenglish.net/english-learning/english dialogue restaurant ordering breakfast 3.htm
In this activity, the teacher asked the students to visit the web site http://www.audioenglish.net/englishlearning/english
dialogue restaurant ordering breakfast 3.htm so that they could see the sample dialogue between the waitress and Bill
Nichols concerning ordering breakfast at a restaurant.
Waitress: Good morning. Are you ready to order?
Bill Nichols: Yes, I am, thank you. Ill have three scrambled eggs with country ham, toast and jam, please.
Waitress: Would you like anything to drink?
Bill Nichols: Ill have a tomato juice and some iced tea.
Waitress: Anything else?
Bill Nichols: Could I have a slice of pumpkin pie?
Waitress: Sure. Coming right up.
First, students listened to the dialogue between the waitress and Bill Nichols. Second, they read the dialogue loudly by
working in pairs. Third, they changed their roles and read the same dialogue again. Lastly, they memorized their parts in the
dialogue and acted the dialogue out in front of their teacher and peers. In this study, because ten students getting formal
education were taught how to order breakfast at a restaurant, they adapted the useful expressions that they learned to a
similar situation(ordering a hamburger anda Coke at McDonalds) easily. Hence, while tenstudents getting formal education
(100%) gave an appropriate answer to the second question, seventeen students not getting formal education (68%) gave an
appropriate answer to the second question.
Activity 3
Aim: To learn howto ask someone to be quiet in a movie theater
Level: Upper-intermediate
Skill: Listening, role playing, comparing and contrasting
Time: 40min
Site: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofKs9vW14oM
In this activity, students visited the web site http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofKs9vW14oMto watch a video on how
to ask someone to be quiet in a movie theater. Then, the teacher introduced some useful expressions to the students such
as:
Please cite this article in press as: Hismanoglu, M. An investigation of ELT students intercultural communicative compe-
tence in relation to linguistic prociency, overseas experience and formal instruction. International Journal of Intercultural
Relations (2011), doi:10.1016/j.ijintrel.2011.09.001
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Could you be quiet please?
Could you please keep your voices down? I cant hear a thing.
Please be quite.
Please, keep quite. I cant watch the lm.
Keep quite!
Could you be more silent please?
In groups consisting of ve or six members, students role played this situation in the target language by utilizing the
useful expressions provided by the teacher. After that, they compared and contrasted how to ask someone to be quiet in
a movie theater in both the native language and the target language. In this study, although ten students getting formal
education were taught how to ask someone to be quiet in a movie theater, only seven of these students were able to
adapt the useful expressions that they learned to a similar situation (warning a groups of noisy teenagers to be quiet while
watching a lm in the cinema). Hence, while seven students getting formal education (70%) gave an appropriate answer
to the third question, twenty-two students not getting formal education (88%) gave an appropriate answer to the third
question.
Activity 4
Aim: To learn howto ask to borrowa car froma friend
Level: Upper-intermediate
Skill: Reading, discussing, role playing, comparing and contrasting
Time: 40min
Site: http://www.ehow.com/how 2097062 borrow-friends-car.html
Inthis activity, students visitedthe website http://www.ehow.com/how 2097062 borrow-friends-car.html to readsome
useful tips on howto borrowa car froma friend. Then, students discussed tips with their peers. Following this, the teacher
introduced some useful expressions to the students such as:
Can I borrow you car?
Could I borrow your car?
Do you mind if I borrow your car?
Do you think I could borrow your car?
In pairs, students role played this situation in the target language by utilizing the useful expressions provided by the
teacher. After that, they compared and contrasted howto ask to borrowa car froma friend in both the native language and
the target language. In this study, because ten students getting formal education were taught how to ask to borrow a car
froma friend, they adapted the useful expressions that they learned to two similar situations (asking to borrowa magazine
from a tourist on a coach trip, asking a classmate to lend them notes for the class they missed) easily. Hence, while seven
students getting formal education (70%) gave an appropriate answer to the fourth question, sixteen students not getting
formal education (64%) gave an appropriate answer to the fourth question. Similarly, while seven students getting formal
education (70%) gave an appropriate answer to the sixth question, fteen students not getting formal education (60%) gave
an appropriate answer to the sixth question.
Activity 5
Aim: To learn howto apologize to a friend or colleague for missing appointments or being late
Level: Upper-intermediate
Skill: Reading, listening, role playing, comparing and contrasting
Time: 40min
Site: http://www.talkingpeople.net/tp/usefullanguage/langfunc/sayingsorry.html
Inthis activity, students visitedthe website http://www.talkingpeople.net/tp/usefullanguage/langfunc/sayingsorry.html
to read useful expressions on how to apologize to a friend or colleague for missing appointments or being late. Then, they
listened to sorry sentences that they can use in conversations. Following this, the teacher wrote some useful expressions
on the board such as:
Sorry about missing appointment today.
I would like to apologize for (my) being late.
I would like to apologize for failing to arrive on time.
I would like to apologize for forgetting about our meeting/appointment.
Let me apologize/apologise for being so late.
Allow me to apologize/apologise for being late.
In pairs, students role played this situation in the target language by utilizing the useful expressions provided by the
teacher. After that, they compared and contrasted how to apologize to a friend or colleague for missing appointments or
being late in both the native language and the target language. In this study, because ten students getting formal education
were taught how to apologize to a friend or colleague for missing appointments or being late, they adapted the useful
expressions that they learned to two similar situations (apologizing to a friend for forgetting a meeting and making him/her
wait for more than 20min, expressing a reason for not going to the party given by a friend to celebrate the success of his/her
thesis defense) easily. Hence, while seven students getting formal education (70%) gave an appropriate answer to the fth
question, eleven students not getting formal education (44%) gave an appropriate answer to the fth question. Similarly,
Please cite this article in press as: Hismanoglu, M. An investigation of ELT students intercultural communicative compe-
tence in relation to linguistic prociency, overseas experience and formal instruction. International Journal of Intercultural
Relations (2011), doi:10.1016/j.ijintrel.2011.09.001
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10 M. Hismanoglu / International Journal of Intercultural Relations xxx (2011) xxxxxx
while seven students getting formal education (70%) gave an appropriate answer to the eighth question, six students not
getting formal education (24%) gave an appropriate answer to the eighth question.
Activity 6
Aim: To learn howto ask a person for directions
Level: Upper-intermediate
Skill: Reading, listening, role playing, drawing a neighborhood map,
Time: 40min
Site: http://www.eslgold.com/speaking/asking directions.html
In this activity, students visited the web site http://www.eslgold.com/speaking/asking directions.html to read some
useful expressions on how to ask a person for direction. Then, students listened to the recording related to asking for
directions. Following this, the teacher wrote some useful expressions on the board such as:
Can you tell me how to get to (the). . . ?
Do you know where . . . is?
Whats the best way to get to (the) . . . ?
How do you get to (the) . . . (fromhere)?
Can you give me directions to (the) . . . ?
How do I get to (the) . . . ?
Possible responses are:
Imsorry. I dont know.
Imfromout of town.
I dont live here. Imjust a visitor.
I really dont know the city very well.
Sure. Its not far fromhere.
Yes. Its quite close to here.
Its only about a ten minute walk fromhere.
Walk straight ahead until you get to Main Street.
Walk down the street. . .
Walk three blocks. . .
Walk up the block. . .
Turn right.
Turn left.
Keep walking in this direction until. . .
Turn left when you get to Maple Street.
In pairs, students role played this situation in the target language by utilizing the useful expressions provided by the
teacher. After that, they drewa neighborhood map with streets and avenues including several buildings such as a post ofce,
pharmacy, school, restaurant, gas station, etc. Then, they workedwitha partner andpracticedasking for directions andgiving
directions to different locations by using the expressions written on the board. In this study, because ten students getting
formal education were taught howto ask a person for directions, they adapted the useful expressions that they learned to a
similar situation (asking a student for the location of the college dormitory) easily. Hence, while ten students getting formal
education (100%) gave an appropriate answer to the seventh question, thirteen students not getting formal education (52%)
gave an appropriate answer to the seventh question. Based on these ndings, it can be stressed that students getting formal
education give more appropriate responses to communicative situations than those students not getting formal education.
5. Discussion
The results of the present study indicated that the students with higher linguistic prociency gave more acceptable
responses to the communicative situations than those students with lower linguistic prociency. At this juncture, the major-
ity of research studies that have analyzed the relationship between grammatical and pragmatic competence exhibit higher
prociency to be generally more successful in making inferences (Carrell, 1984), employing speech act strategies (Trosborg,
1995), and understanding illocutionary force (Koike, 1996). Takahashi and Beebe (1987), for example, indicated that their
higher-prociency learners were able to soften their refusals with modal adverbs, whereas the lower-prociency learners
were inclined to utilize direct refusals like I cant.
The results of this study regarding the acquisition of ICC by overseas experience correspond with those of Williams (2003)
inthat the students whohadoverseas experience generally exhibiteda greater increase inintercultural communicationskills
than the students who lacked such experience. Research reveals that intercultural knowledge is gained via experience and
interaction with native speakers of the target language. Communication with others is fundamental since people transmit
bothgrammatical structures andcultural messages during the act of communication(Johnstone, 2006; Miquel &Sans, 2004).
As Jular (2007) indicates, students frequently take part in all types of communicative situations of the specic social
activities and applications of the L2 country when they live in the target country. Perez-Vidal, Trench, Juan-Garau, and Mora
(2006) stress that social integration and involvement in the L2 fosters linguistic, communicative and cultural competence.
Please cite this article in press as: Hismanoglu, M. An investigation of ELT students intercultural communicative compe-
tence in relation to linguistic prociency, overseas experience and formal instruction. International Journal of Intercultural
Relations (2011), doi:10.1016/j.ijintrel.2011.09.001
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M. Hismanoglu / International Journal of Intercultural Relations xxx (2011) xxxxxx 11
According to Jung (2002), research has shown that L2 learning contexts present more fruitful input than foreign language
learning contexts and that learners are inclined to display continuous convergence to native speaker pragmatic behavior as
their length of accommodation increases.
Relevant to the acquisition of ICC by formal education, this study provided evidence in support of the assumption that
formal education is closely connected with promoting students ICC. Several previous studies (e.g. Elorza, 2008; Genc &
Bada, 2005; Wei & Xiao-mei, 2009) also stressed the importance of formal instruction of ICC. Elorza (2008) indicates that it
is possible to nd samples of formal instruction of ICC which involve a wide range of methodologies fromtandemlearning
(Woodin, 2001) to radio broadcasting (Parmenter & Tomita, 2001). To foster ICC, many of these samples focus on students
attitudes and critical awareness regarding culture.
The ndings of the study done by Genc and Bada (2005) indicate that a culture class is remarkably useful with respect
to language skills, enhancing cultural awareness, altering attitudes towards native and target societies, and contribution to
the teaching profession. The participants in Genc and Badas (2005) study highlighted some kind of change in their views
and listed in the questionnaire six points as probable contribution of a culture class they received. These six points were
teaching language is also teaching culture, familiarization with the target society, enhancing communicative competence in L2,
expanding vocabulary, assistance in teaching grammar, and providing information prior to a visit to the UK or the USA.
Wei and Xiao-mei (2009) state that language teachers should utilize other powerful methods to foster students com-
municative competence such as enabling themto compare different cultures, giving students more chance for intercultural
practice and offering courses like Western culture to help themto comprehend howWestern people think, value and com-
municate. In the literature, a plethora of studies stressed the positive effects of using methods such as cultural capsules
(e.g., Huang & Xu, 2011; Singhal, 1998), culture assimilators (e.g., Henrichsen, 1998; Mader & Camerer, 2010), cultoons (e.g.,
Ahmed, 2006; Henrichsen, 1998), drama (e.g., Garcia &Biscu, 2006; Liu, 2002), culture comparison (Yang, 2005) and cultural
problemsolving (Singhal, 1998) on developing students ICC. In the present study, methods such as drama (e.g., role playing)
and culture comparison were utilized in ICC activities and practices to a great extent and these two methods helped students
to develop their intercultural communicative competence.
6. Conclusion and recommendations for language teachers
When the ndings of our study are interpreted, it can be indicated that students with higher linguistic prociency gave
more acceptable responses to the communicative situations thanthose students withlower linguistic prociency. This result
was in line with the results of previous studies conducted by Carrell (1984), Koike (1996), Takahashi and Beebe (1987), and
Trosborg (1995).
Similarly, overseas experience has helped the participants of the current study to develop their ICC. As the results of the
study revealed, the participants having overseas experience had a high level of intercultural communicative knowledge. The
results that were obtained from the questionnaire supported the idea that L2 learning contexts provide richer input than
foreign language learning contexts for learners exhibiting convergence to native speaker pragmatic behavior (Jular, 2007;
Jung, 2002; Williams, 2003).
Likewise, formal education has aided the participants of the study with enhancing their ICC. The participants getting
formal education at university had a high level of ICC. This result fostered the hypothesis that formal education is closely
tied to promoting learners ICC (Elorza, 2008; Genc & Bada, 2005; Moran, 2001; Wei & Xiao-mei, 2009).
Relevant to the relationship between formal education and promoting learners ICC, there are good classroompractices
through which language teachers can help the students to develop their ICC. The language teacher can foster the students
intercultural communicative awareness by having them watch videos of authentic interaction and feature lms where as
Alptekin (2002) states successful bilinguals with intercultural insights and knowledge should serve as pedagogic models
in English as an International Language (EIL) rather than the monolingual native speaker (p. 63). Thus, the students can
become familiar with under what circumstances successful bilinguals with intercultural insights and knowledge request an
action, make a promise, or give a warning, what structure(s) they use to perform these actions of communication, and to
whom.
Samples of discourse relating to native and native speaker interactions as well as native and nonnative speaker interac-
tions and nonnative and nonnative speaker interactions, whether gathered via out-of-class observation or brought into the
classroomvia audiovisual media, are animportant part of intercultural communicative learning. The language teacher should
give prominence to expose the students to samples of discourse regarding (non)native speaker interactions. As Widdowson
(1998) states, discourse depicting exclusive native speaker use should be kept to a minimumin that it is mainly inapplicable
for many learners in terms of potential use in natural contexts.
Since intercultural communication tasks are more related with participants intercultural social relationships and entail
intercultural communicative acts, the language teacher should try to give these tasks to the students in the foreign language
classroom. Students become engaged in a variety of social roles and speech events via the incorporation of activities, such
as role play, simulation, cultural comparison, and drama into the classroom. It is via these activities that the language
teacher can provide the students with the opportunity to practice a wide range of intercultural communicative competence
based skills that they may need in intercultural settings beyond the classroom context. In the present study, the language
teacher made use of role play and cultural comparison activities to help students develop their intercultural communicative
competence. The language teacher shouldalso utilize classroomactivities suchas cultural capsules, cultural problemsolving,
Please cite this article in press as: Hismanoglu, M. An investigation of ELT students intercultural communicative compe-
tence in relation to linguistic prociency, overseas experience and formal instruction. International Journal of Intercultural
Relations (2011), doi:10.1016/j.ijintrel.2011.09.001
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cultural assimilators, cultoons, games, association games, discussion, ethnographic tasks, projects, personalizing activities
which have been considered good practices for fostering students ICC and impeding pragmatic failure in intercultural
communication.
Finally, it shouldbestressedthat promotingICCis keytobesuccessful andpowerful communicators inthetarget language.
Since ICC development is just as much a prominent ingredient of language development as phonological, morphological,
syntactic and semantic improvement, ICC education should commence at the very beginning of foreign language learning.
Needless to say, ICC specic education is a necessary complement rather than a supplement that needs to commence even at
the initial stages of foreign language learning. Only then can we make our students sensitive to the signicance of exhibiting
appropriate (non)verbal behaviors whenemploying a variety of intercultural communicationspecic features andsuccessful
in communicating with the (non)native speakers of English in real life situations.
Appendix A.
Students prociency exam scores, Common European Framework levels, overseas experience, formal education and
responses to communicative situations in relation to ICC.
Subjects Prociency
examscore
Common
European
Framework
levels
Overseas
experience
Formal
education
Communicative situations in relation to ICC
Situation 1 Situation 2 Situation 3 Situation 4 Situation 5 Situation 6 Situation 7 Situation 8
1 64 B1


2 54 A2




3 58 A2



4 54 A2


5 56 A2





6 76 B2


7 46 A1


8 76 B2




9 58 A2







10 58 A2






11 50 A2




12 68 B1






13 66 B1




14 68 B1




15 62 B1




16 42 A1



17 75 B2




18 55 A2




19 68 B1



20 82 C1



21 58 A2


22 48 A1




23 68 B1






24 65 B1




25 70 B2


26 58 A2



27 68 B1








28 56 A2







29 68 B1



30 65 B1


31 60 B1







32 54 A2

33 56 A2

34 78 B2





35 72 B2




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