Promoting Intercultural Competence in English Language Teaching: A Productive Bilingualism Perspective

  • Xuan Zheng
  • Yihong GaoEmail author
Reference work entry
Part of the Springer International Handbooks of Education book series (SIHE)


Over the past 50 years, scholars studying intercultural competence generally agree on the complexity and fluidity of this construct, but tensions still remain regarding what it is, how to develop it, and especially the role English language teaching plays in its development. While the goal of English language teaching has undergone changes from imitating “native speakers” to becoming an intercultural communicator, pedagogical implementations have not been fully realized in classrooms, especially the ones that enable students to communicate globally while at the same time help them maintaining their native/traditional languages and cultures. This chapter first reviews some major approaches to promoting intercultural competence in English language teaching. These approaches have been proposed from different theoretical perspectives, situated in different contexts, and thus have different emphases in promoting “intercultural competence.” However, we feel that the dominant models of intercultural competence from Western contexts are inadequate to guide students in contexts such as China, where a firm identification with one’s “home cultures” is particularly important while becoming global. Therefore, we advocate for an updated model of “productive bilingualism,” which is particularly concerned with simultaneous and mutual enrichment of “native” and “additional” linguistic and cultural identities. Then, we describe a four-step pedagogy that cultivates the “productiveness” of intercultural competence and their effects. The four steps are (1) learning about cultural differences, (2) deconstructing cultural differences, (3) reconstructing knowledge and attitudes, and (4) seeking creative solutions to communication problems. In the end, we provide suggestions for English language teachers to utilize their own expertise and interests to develop courses that promote intercultural competence.


Intercultural competence English language teaching Productive bilingualism Four-step pedagogy 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Linguistics and Applied Linguistics, School of Foreign LanguagesPeking UniversityBeijingChina

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