Internet technology as a means of developing intercultural communicative competence in ESL students

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №3 - 2011

Author: Larionova Irina, East Kazakhstan State University in honor of S. Amanzholov, Kazakhstan

The tendency toward integration in the sphere of education is the brightest one in modern society. It implies the necessity of joining the world education space. All over the world it arouses interest to computer communication, and in particular, to the possibilities of the Internet. Its usage is getting the necessary condition of receiving and transferring information on any specialization.

Modern means of communicating with partners, access to net information resources imply good knowledge of not only computer technologies and foreign language but also knowledge of communication culture.

One of the tasks in teaching a foreign language as a major at university language departments is developing communicative competence in students. However because of active introduction of information technologies into the educational process at Kazakhstan universities, and the necessity to widen aims of foreign language teaching it has become really important to develop intercultural competence in students. This competence provides developing abilities to cultural interaction.

Possibilities of Internet technologies for students’ intercultural education are quite significant. Representatives of various cultures participate in virtual foreign dialogue and they have a chance to compare and analyze their own and "someone else’s" world perception, match miscellaneous points of view, and overrun their cultural standards [1].

G.D. Tomahin [2] distinguishes two approaches to teaching culture in foreign language class – social-scientific and philological, and points out that the first approach is based on country studies. This subject is traditionally connected with foreign language study. Under the philological approach it is possible to differentiate two problems:

1) extracting culture studies information from language units;

2) teaching perception or presenting a language unit on the image background similar to that which is in the mind of a language and culture bearer.

Under such an approach to work at semantics and national-cultural component, language but not culture is brought forth for study, and country realia knowledge of the target language is to provide communicative aspect of intercultural competence.

Taking into consideration language faculty students’ major, philological approach seems the most suitable one for developing intercultural competence. In this case it develops simultaneously with language and speech material assimilation in the process of mastering a foreign language.

Having analyzed professional requirements, curriculums and programs of language majors we have defined the list of requirements to intercultural competence (for language faculty students). The requirements include keeping to communication culture in the intercultural dialogue, skill to master and deepen language and cultural knowledge, skill to search for necessary information in a foreign language while working at an intercultural project and etc.). So it is necessary to find out corresponding services, provided by Internet, to satisfy the requirements which can arise in ESL students in the process of mastering intercultural competence:

1) need for intercultural communication in a foreign language;

2) need for deepening language and cultural knowledge;

3) need for searching information in the course of foreign intercultural communication.

Following E.S. Polat [1] we have grouped all the educational services provided by the global network into broadcasting, interactive and searching (Picture 1).

Picture 1





- advertising pedagogical product (demos of educational foreign language software);

- electronic newspaper in a foreign language;

- electronic journal in a foreign language;

- electronic library of literature in a foreign language;

- electronic information collection



- e-mail;

- electronic foreign language conference;

- remotely teaching a foreign language;

- specialized systems oriented on free dialogue in a foreign language



-electronic catalogue;

-Internet Explorer;

-search systems

We will look into interactive services as the most efficient means of developing intercultural competence in ESL students [3]. E-mail includes the following facilities:

1) mailing (sending and receiving electronic letters in a foreign language);

2) receiving and sending conference materials in which debates take place. Electronic conferences can be subdivided into on-line and with postponed access to materials. All the materials of "postponed access" conferences are saved automatically. So such a conference remains to be open for connection to debates for a long time after questions have been already given;

3) specialized systems oriented on intercultural foreign communication on line (e.g. Internet Relay Chat) that is a powerful stimulus for students;

4) remote teaching a foreign language which provides possibility of "on-line teaching" conducted by language bearers;

5) worldwide network (World Wide Web) giving a chance of developing motivation to study a language and culture in students by creating their own Web-pages and free publication of their work (projects and so on).

The following possibilities [1] are referred to as important particularities of the services given above:

- developing communication culture in partners. Communication culture implies the skill to state one’s thoughts briefly and plainly, to treat a partner’s opinion with tolerance, ability to lead the debate and prove one’s standpoint with some reasons, as well as to respect a partner’s opinion;

- quick exchange of information, ideas and plans on the questions participants of the dialogue are interested in, increasing one’s cultural level;

- cultural development of students on the basis of the joining various cultural and ethical information;

- creating authentic language and cultural ambience;

- developing in students the skill to gain information from various sources;

- orienting foreign language teaching on communication. It wipes the borders between separate members of society and allows people to share some experience.

To use all the above possibilities in practice it is necessary to develop in language faculty student readiness to cultural interaction via Internet. Taking into consideration the requirements to intercultural competence level we have defined needs that student can get in the process of its mastering as communicative, lingual-cognitive and instrumental.

We have defined the composition of the readiness under study as complex of communicative, lingual-cognitive and instrumental elements (picture 2).

Picture 2

Structure (components)

Composition (elements)

motive-personal component





Communicative element

- positive attitude to communication, contacts with culture and experience of other people;

- ESL students’ striving for speaking, reading and writing in a foreign language for contacts, receiving or sending information using Internet technologies as means of providing authentic communication and cultural ambience.

- idea of communication culture which is brought about via e-mail (organizing private correspondence in FL, sending and receiving materials of electronic conferences in FL) on-line and with delayed access to materials;

- knowledge of systems’ possibilities oriented on free intercultural communication in a foreign language.

- skill to state one’s thoughts briefly and plainly in the process of communication in virtual language and cultural ambience,

- treat partner’s opinion with tolerance

-ability to lead the debate and prove one’s standpoint with some reasons, as well as to respect a partner’s opinion;

- skill to use interactive services of network for intercultural communication.

lingual-cognitive element

- positive attitude to foreign stuff existing in virtual educational ambience, to studying characteristic of language signs.

- idea of remote language teaching service in network;

- knowledge of main types of ESL software and communication exercises;

- idea of lingua-cognitive activity structure when working with educational software provided in the global network;

- skill to work with educational software for remote foreign language teaching provided in the network;

- skill to use various types of foreign language software (demonstration, drilling, testing, modeling, requesting, language games) and exercises (gap-filling, multiple choice, matching, simulations);

- skill to reproduce the structure of cognitive activity (demonstration, drill, practice) within each new portion of language material.

instrumental element

- students’ positive attitude to mastering ways of gaining cultural and language knowledge nature via global network;

- striving for cultural development on the basis of joining various cultural and ethical information.

- idea of ways of receiving information with the help of Internet broadcasting and search services (electronic libraries, electronic catalogues, database, search systems giving information in a FL);

- skill to search for necessary information via network;

- skill to make a request with key words, to know how to use reference devices of electronic textbooks, in the text of electronic vocabulary or encyclopedic articles;

- skill to fix the information on flexible and hard disks;

- skill to integrate information into various attachments and use it within intercultural projects.

The communicative element implies readiness to speaking, reading and writing in a foreign language using Internet for intercultural communication, receiving or sending to personally significant information. The lingual-cognitive element is connected with readiness to mastering foreign culture existing in virtual communication ambience, to studying language signs characteristic. The instrumental element includes readiness to using the ways of gaining language and cultural knowledge and methods of assimilating definite language constructions via Internet.

Having defined readiness to cultural interaction in language faculty students as integrative personal quality developed in training process we have presented its structure as complex of motive-personal (motives, interests, attitudes), cognitive (knowledge) and technological (skills) components (picture 2). So each element includes complex of definite motive-personal attitudes, corresponding skills and knowledge.

The results of the analysis of all the components of the readiness of ESL students to cultural interaction has allowed us to define qualitative, quantitative and structured characteristic of intercultural competence and reveal possible ways of its development via global network Internet "opening window to the world" and allowing to bring students together on the basis of cooperation and get acquainted with culture, tradition, interests of other nations’ representatives.


1. Новые педагогические и информационные технологии в системе образования: Учеб. пособие для студентов педвузов и системы повышения квалификации пед.кадров/ Под ред. Е.С. Полат.- М.: Издательский центр Академия, 2002.-272 с.

2. Томахин Г.Д. Лингвострановедение: что это такое? // Иностранные языки в школе. 1996. №6. С. 22-27

3. Титова С.В. Электронная почта в преподавании иностранных языков: есть ли какая-то взаимосвязь?

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №3 - 2011

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