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Analysis of Intercultural Competence of Students Learning Two Foreign Languages at L.N.Gumilyov  Eurasian National University

Author: Mangytay Aidana Erlankyzy, 2nd course student of “Foreign Philology” specialty, L.N.Gumilyov  Eurasian national university


Index Terms — intercultural competence, cross-cultural communication, foreign languages, cultural differences, Kazakh, German,  English.

A lot of representatives of Kazakhstan  leaving for foreign countries face with certain cultural issues. It is inherent not only to the citizens of Kazakhstan, reasons of these problems can be regarded as a natural phenomenon. These problems can be prompted by different reasons, starting from lack of knowledge of cultural diversity ending with hostility or antipathy to another culture. When leaving the country, each individual seems to be a person who already has views and style of life of that country, where he is going. They start to judge other culture according to their own formulated cultural views. Intercultural competence does not include judge possibilities of other cultures. Indeed it includes acceptation, perception and adaptation of other culture’s values.

Generally accepted definition for Intercultural competence is the ability to communicate effectively and appropriately with people of other cultures. According to Ph.D. Janet M. Bennett, the structure of intercultural competence consists of:

  • Heart Set (Attitudes – Cultural self-awareness  Knowledge of cultural worldview frameworks)
  • Mind Set (Knowledge – Curiosity, Openness)
  • Skill set (Abilities – Empathy verbal and nonverbal communication)

Scholars has different definition and classification in view of the effective communication’ ability. Brian Spitzberg (1973) thought that communication ability of the individual embodies in the individual appropriate effective communicative behavior in specific situations in the context of intercultural communication; both parties have in common, differences, more communication, cultural differences affect the effective communication of variables such as language differences worldview values. Kramsch (1993) for a more specific definition of intercultural communication skills: ability to cross-cultural communication is individual has the intrinsic ability, able to handle the key problems in cross-cultural communication, such as cultural differences strangeness, this cultural attitude within groups, and the resulting psychological pressure, etc. Since Hymes (1971) put forward the concept of communicative competence, the scholars at home and abroad has not end their study for communication skills, especially on the discussion of intercultural communicative competence [1].

Despite of variety definitions, which scholars give us, we think intercultural competence should at least include grammatically composition of speech act and social accordance of verbal and non-verbal behaviors.

Language is an integral part of the culture, its main tool of assimilation, it is a reality of our spirit [2]. Language expresses the specific features of national mentality. That’s why some expressions, which allowable are considered polite in one nation, may be interpreted as a rude attitude to the interlocutor at the other. The results of the cognitive activity of previous generations are recorded in the language. For example, according to the norms of Kazakh speech etiquette, when you meet your friends, whom you have not seen for a long time, it is a normal question to ask: "Мал-жан аман ба? [Mal-zhan aman ba?]" in Kazakh society. Literally, it means "How are your housekeeping, wife and kids?". This is due to the fact that ancient Kazakhs were pastoralists. Actually it does not mean that a Kazakh speaker wants to know about your housekeeping, wife and children. It is just one of the forms of etiquette, which was formed long before our time.  This question is not tolerant in German and English societies, the languages of which are taught in our universities,   where people's communication is characterized with more formal shades.

There are different ways of thinking and value ideas because of cultural differences. The culture has influence to people’s world views and moral values. Cultural differences appear as obstacles in intercultural communication.

Relationship between language and culture is very close. Language plays an important role in human development. As Chinese scholar Wei Sun [1] confirms people make cultural choices, while they talk to each other. They choose words, make up sentences and express their feelings, emotions according to cultural norms.

In our current article we have considered the role of language in intercultural competence.  In order to highlight the “Foreign languages: two foreign languages and Foreign Philology” specialties students’  knowledge of culture of those languages which they are learning  we  informed fifteen students. They were given a test consisting of 10 situational questions. 5 situations are concerned to German society, 5 questions are peculiar to English culture. Each question had four answers.

The results of these tests showed that the students are recommended to pay equal attention to the culture with the language. The outcomes of this test show us that students’ culture knowledge is much lower than they know the language.   The highest percentage of correct answers is 60% out of 100%,  the lowest  rate is 10%.


Table 1

% of correct answers











Number of students












Scheme 1


Scheme 1 shows that quantity of person, whose answer has the highest rate is (60%), equal to one. It means only one person of fifteen questionnaires could correctly answer for 6 out of 10 questions. No one could answer correctly for 50%, simultaneously no one managed to 100%. For 40% of questions could answer 2 people. 5 questionnaires dealt with 30% of the questions and 2 people with 20%. And the lowest rate (10%) was showed by 4 questionnaires.

According to the answers, there are cons, which have been identified.

  1. The question what would you do if you lived in Germany with  a German family and a German housekeeper has advised you not to buy the package, which you need, it was an alternative: she wanted you to lend hers. Only 4 people responded correctly to offer a friendly German housewife lend her package. 5 of them would smile and would buy the package, 5 of them responded that they would be angry and would buy in a store bag, thereby offending the good intentions of the housewife and 1 of them was willing to say that “She is very economical”. In fact, the Germans are not very economical, they are practical and thrifty with money. Result: 4 questionnaires of 15 or in percentage 26% questionnaires know how to act right.
  2. In the second task we tested the religious awareness of questionnaires. The question was about the actions of the questionnaire if walking around the church, he or she wanted to eat. 6 people responded that they encroach on the bench near the Church because of the convenience; 3 responded that they did not know exactly; 7 that they would not eat at the church; and no one chose the option in which it was stated that they were to eat inside the church. Result: 7 correct answers of presumable 15 or in percentage 46%.
  3. In the 3rd case how they greet with a German of opposite sex: 6 answered with a firm handshake and maintain eyes; 6 would shake hands tenderly, 3 say “Hello” and pronounce the name. From our point of view more suitable answer is concerned to a firm handshake. Result:  6 correct of 15, or 40%.
  4. For a question “what could be a reason?” if you have a cat, but your German neighbors seem to be not satisfied with that. 6 people think that their cat could often spoil their peace with a visit.  1 is confident that Germans do not like cats, 2 people chose variant that “it is not normal to have only one pet. They think you should have two pets at least”, 6 thought “Germans hide their pets in another room to avoid from any infection”. Result: 2 correct of presumable 15, 13%.
  5. The question is “why in the hotel, where there are many Germans and the English, in the early morning in the pool there is no empty seats, and many have already been endorsed” by the following answers: 6 people think the British are very punctual, 5 think they sleep under the open air, 1 chose Germans take place during the night and 3 thought that for the citizens of Germany and England provided an electronic reservation. Result: 1 correct answer, or 6% correct of 100%.
  6. 7 people buy some flowers as a symbol and 4 questionnaires buy chocolate and wine 1 person warn about his/her intentions 3people invite them first, in either case they think, the English will not let you in the house. Result: it is enough to warn the English to visit them. 1 correct, or 6% correct of presumable 100%.
  7. Concerning the 7th situation  where informants were asked to answer what topic they would talk about when they are in guests, fortunately, it turned up, that 11 know what to say in English society. 3 consider proper topic to talk about the ancestors and their personal lives. One thinks of the work. 1 thinks of something very controversial, such as politics. Result: 11 corrects, or 73%. It is the highest rate.
  8. Living in UK, in London, 2 would abuse and banish the dog, 6 would try to explain their own points of disagreement if the dog of local family begins to sleep in  their beds. 1 would sleep even if he/she does not like its presence in his/her room. And 6 would tell pet’s owners about their resists. Actually, the English consider person’s interests and preferences. Result: 6 correct answers out of 15, or 40%.
  9. It would make uncomfortable 3 people, if an English of the opposite sex looks at her/him, smiles, then this person greets. 8 people would smile, no one would get acquainted and 4 say hello, too. We credit that “say hello” is more suitable answer than others, because it is fit in an English etiquette. Result: 1 correct of 15, or 6%.
  10. 3 students think the English like to allude. That is to say, they think that an English housewife wants her/him to waver the dishes. Actually, question is about questionnaires reaction to an English housewife’s way to wash the dishes. Most of the English do not waver the dishes, after they wash them with detergent. In this case, 6 people think, she forgot about it and they would mention her, 5 people are assured that they believe if they waver the dishes after some time, they become cleaner. Only one knows that they do not waver them. Result: 1 of 15, or 6%.

Summing up, knowledge of foreign languages does not mean to have enough cultural skills effectively communicate with others. In current situation questionnaires can experience culture shocks in the above-mentioned situations. Traditionally a "culture shock" refers to the reaction of anxiety in the unfamiliar surroundings of the inability to understand, monitor and predict the behavior of others[3].  Furthermore, they can seem uncivilized, unmannerly in connection with discrepancy of cultural values, and failure to report of culture in possession of language, from the point of view of locals. Insomuch as, competence includes cognitive (knowledge), functional (application of knowledge), personal (behavior) and ethical (principles guiding behavior) components, thus the capacity to know must be matched to the capacity to speak and act appropriately in context; ethics and consideration of human rights influence both speech and actions [4], thereat knowing foreign language is not sufficient to be  intercultural competent.



  1. Wei Sun, Theory and Practice in Language Studies, Vol. 3, No. 12, pp. 2245-2249, December 2013 © 2013 ACADEMY PUBLISHER Manufactured in Finland, p. 2246
  2. Issina G. I., Sushkov S.O. Karaganda State University, Aspects of Linguistic Consciousness in terms of Intercultural Communication, internet link: www.rusnauka.com/13.../7_135844.doc.htm
  3. Смолина Т.Л., Симптомы культурного шока: обзор и классификация  Электронный журнал «Психологическая наука и образование» www.psyedu.ru / ISSN: 2074-5885 / E-mail: psyedu@mgppu.ru 2012, №3, p. 2
  4. UNESCO/ Intercultural Competences/Conceptual and Operational Framework-Paris, 2013, p.12
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