In the realm of pedagogical communication, particularly in the context of intercultural interactions, the foundational element for effective teaching and learning lies in the preliminary transactional analysis conducted by the primary agent of the instructional process — the educator. This analysis pertains to the teacher-learner relationship within the classroom conflicts. It serves as both a conflict resolution tool and a wellspring for the fruition of pedagogical actions, facilitating seamless exchanges while mitigating the risk of cultural discord. To achieve this, self-awareness is imperative, resulting in the mastery of one’s gestures, body language, and mental disposition as the initiating self. Additionally, a contemplative examination of the intersecting cultural universes, closely interdependent to the extent of forming the bedrock for prognosticating the potential cultural reactions of the learners, is essential.
This article engenders a meticulously crafted discourse stemming from an exploration of a cross-section of literature, pedagogical practices, and scientific contributions within the Algerian university setting. Themes such as the classroom as a realm of communication and meditation, the cultural milieu of both learners and educators, the nexus of teaching-learning and enculturation, and finally, intercultural pedagogy, are meticulously examined herein. This examination is informed by authors’ readings and experiences in the domain of foreign language didactics.
Understanding one’s learners is a necessity driven by the twin desires of effective pedagogical delivery and successful learning outcomes. This compels educators to be morally inclined towards delving into the socio-cultural universe of their learners, particularly from an intercultural perspective. Consequently, this involves uncovering elements that would enrich the foreign language learner while guarding against any form of deleterious deculturation.
The aim is to instill in the language learner a desire for communication, underscored by sufficient mastery, facilitating a secure acculturation, as outlined by Claude Lévi-Strauss:
“The value of an object is determined by its ’relation to others’… What is desperately desired only holds value because someone possesses it. An indifferent object becomes essential due to the interest others have in it: the desire to possess is primarily a social response. And this social response must be understood in terms of power, or rather powerlessness: I want to possess because if I don’t, I may not be able to obtain the object if I need it in the future; ’the other’ will always retain it. Therefore, there is no contradiction between ownership and community, arbitrariness and arbitration.” (Levi-Strauss in Barsotti 2002-1)
Interactions between foreign language educators and learners often foster an open atmosphere, assuming the absence of cultural disruptions arising from communicative deficits stemming from ignorance or a complete lack of awareness of respective foundational values. This primordial deficiency must be prevented from evolving into mistrust, or even distrust, between the educator and the learner. As Bernard Barsotti emphasizes:
“Representation is communicated…; this formula encapsulates the alchemy of exchange. Genuine communication of my representation only occurs when I convey it to others, expressing it through the exteriorization of language.” ( Barsotti 2002-1)
Guiding learners towards forming opinions, worldviews, and honing reasoning skills alongside communication entails instilling values while simultaneously enabling them to disseminate these values, thereby cultivating actionable principles. This necessitates the educator’s role as a conscious educator-facilitator who comprehends their role as a mediator. In transmitting diverse collective and individual representations, the educator must transcend their own representations to convey societal representations, which inherently shape educational endeavors.
This endeavor necessitates an active and differentiated pedagogy. This pedagogical approach encompasses the recognition of representational disparities, allowing the educator to transcend their own universe and delve into the learner’s realm. This symbiotic process enriches the learner through the reflective actions of the educator, fostering a positive attitude towards engagement with the other.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry aptly observes : “If you differ from me, brother, far from harming me, you enrich me.” (Saint-Exupéry in A.N.P.A.S.E -1986 -7) This realization, that the other enriches oneself, embodies trust in both oneself and the other — a “co-protector” of values, principles, representations, and prejudices — not necessarily to adopt, but to better understand. This dimension is inherently incumbent upon the foreign language teaching and learning process.
The notion of a typical learner is void, as each learner stands out in their uniqueness. This is due to their distinct pre-school social upbringing, leading to variations in acquired learning strategies stemming from diverse extra-curricular environments. Learners differ in terms of their acquired knowledge, behaviors, work pace, interests, and pedagogical profiles. Consequently, it becomes the educator’s role to propose, observe, and regulate their didactic-pedagogical actions without relying solely on their own preconceived notions.
In this light, educators question learning methods in relation to the communication of representations. Expressing their opinions and viewpoints on the world as educators, who are also influenced by their socio-professional environments albeit transformative, can prompt a departure from decontextualized teaching and learning approaches.
Hence, any teaching-learning program must account for the learner’s representations, as educators guide them while encouraging their exploration of other realms using their unique ideas and principles, in order to enhance and expand their socio-cultural universe. This, to some extent, addresses the discomfort experienced by educators: that of disconnection, rejection, and avoidance of academic failure - a manifestation often seen in their absenteeism.
The educator nurtures their learner, particularly their social id, by providing didactic support; tutorship pedagogy exemplifies a pivotal case. Through effective participation, the educator genuinely contributes to the learner’s development by instilling a linguo-cultural perspective of the world. As a result, a future citizen equipped with a representation of socio-cultural communication, both general and specific, is forged.
Cultural deafness must be eradicated in favor of attuning oneself to others. Learning the art of listening holds implications for cognitive, affective, and, above all, identity dimensions of an individual, to the extent that it significantly modifies their behavioral orientation. Therefore, every educator is prompted to contemplate the vital aspect of cultural listening. Such contemplation engenders innovative practices, shaping the contours of their pedagogical actions.
No representation shall be perceived as hegemonic until foreign language teaching and learning facilitate the coordination and alliance of all (educator-learner) representations, which ideally give rise to novel shared representations concerning pedagogical communication in the language classroom, especially within a well-thought-out curriculum.
An objective presentation of shared representations hinges heavily on the educator’s deliberate intervention in installing representations, with the collaborative participation of their learners. A supportive pedagogy must not imply individualization of pedagogical actions, which could sideline the second partner - the learner - marginalizing them. Contemporary pedagogy is, after all, focused on their development.
Teaching and learning foreign languages become an opportune occasion for enculturation, whereby through the medium of the French language, principles and values of belonging and reference become intrinsically traditional. In its primal sense, enculturation signifies:
“The process by which an individual acquires the culture of their group, class, segment, or society… This process is limited to the acquisition of behavior patterns, including language, metalinguistics, customs, values, role definitions, and other phenomena of the like.” (Spindler in André Thévenin 1980 -50)
In pursuit of this, the educator nurtures within the learner an affinity for languages, a desire to know the other through their language, and a yearning for human encounters. In this manner, both learners and educators lend their ears to differences, while drawing on principles and values derived from language, history, and culture.
In teaching and learning French as a foreign language, the goal is not to put on a spectacle but to create one; the educator transforms into a director capable of presenting an aesthetic of language, a cross-cultural savoir-faire. Thus, educators and learners become translators of feelings and emotions, adaptors of attitudes and gestures, while retaining their own socio-cultural framework. Since they are performers, artists of the educational stage, they establish a new cultural classroom, a realm of mediation between different cultures - individual and collective, foreign and shared.
This involves individuals who are conscious artists of linguistic allure. At its core, art signifies:
“A set of regulated means and processes aimed at a certain end “Art is especially”: The expression through works of art of an aesthetic ideal; the totality of human creative activities aimed at this expression.” (Le petit Robert 1990 -107)
Educators and learners employ this ensemble of physical means and linguistic processes to penetrate the cultural world of the other. These activities enable them to fully embrace their roles and to project themselves as characters in the comedy of interculturality. This comedy offers gratification to these ‘adventurers’ of the lost - or to be lost - world of cultures.
This endeavor of cultural construction inherently employs cultural pedagogy, conceived as a heterogeneous collection of knowledge, rules, actions, activities, professions, and plural know-how. While the educator’s profession is a central focus, the role of the learner’s profession is paramount. Thus, far from relativism, it entails a genuine introduction to engaging with the other.
When all that constitutes human learning, skills, and attitudes is considered in teacher training, educators, along with their learners, will more readily contribute to achieving facilitated intercultural encounters, especially through initial foreign language teaching-learning.
Equipping the educator with the attitude of listening empowers them to listen to and hear their learners, irrespective of their constitutional differences. Martine Abdallah-Pretceille astutely observes in this regard:
“To listen to the other - and especially to truly hear them - one must first provide them with the context, the situation that allows them to express themselves without being immediately categorized, labeled, or confined by judgments.” (Martine Abdallâh-Pretceille 2017-201)
Indeed, by inculcating this listening behavior through training, educators subsequently enable their learners to express themselves freely without fear of negative classification or judgment. This freedom of expression is ultimately what the learner will acquire and respect in turn - an essential condition for encountering the other.
Classroom culture, encompassing diverse attitudes of both educators and learners toward the foreign language, metamorphoses into a work of art. It becomes an art of approaching the other without being swept away by them. This becomes a comprehensive culture, a mindset to establish within the classroom universe.
Intercultural pedagogy must be viewed as communicative exchange, where interactions among the different cultures present in the classroom serve as a backdrop. The goal remains the creation of meanings and values that educators and learners collectively embrace.
The alchemy of pedagogical exchange lies in transforming words into actions, realizing the fulfillment of those words. The utterances of partners engaged in the teaching-learning act of foreign languages must enjoy multiplicity of meanings in relation to the foundational symbols and myths of each culture. Simultaneously, these utterances must be collectively acknowledged by the participants as representative of the same symbols and myths within the classroom context. This acknowledgment entails reading, translating, and interpreting alternate behaviors, all in the legitimate pursuit of understanding the other and, consequently, understanding each other within the confined yet open universe of the classroom.
Genuine understanding implies comprehending the other, with whom I share a cultural space while remaining distinct from them. Therefore, the purpose of classroom debates and the dialogue they presuppose shifts from conviction and persuasion - characteristic of all communication - to solidarity and the alignment of ideas, producing a shared classroom ideology comprising individual ideologies. The shared ideology then assumes a read-and-interpreted stance, embodying a way of being and behaving in a foreign language classroom.
In this context, individualism must be eradicated, as we believe that any group identity, any identity within the community, should signify solidarity of assets and values. Thus, the pedagogical identity of both learners and educators is to be nurtured within the class group. By considering and accepting differences, an identity for the class group is forged, reflecting a composite nationality with diverse traditions and cultures.
The school environment is conducive to enculturation-acculturation exchanges, particularly interpersonal exchanges. These exchanges must be active and enable their protagonists to become actors in their alterity-based formation. This ensures the fulfillment of interaction, a phenomenon previously compromised by the absence of enculturation-acculturation.
No unequal power dynamics should prevail within this environment, for internal conflicts will create an asymmetry and an attitude of resistance, if not abandonment, among participants in the pedagogical communication act. Even as Pierre Bourdieu asserts, “It is known that, in general, formal equality within real inequality benefits the dominant.” (Bourdieu 2001 -96)
However, no dominance or domination should characterize behaviors and attitudes of participants within the language classroom, regardless of their cultural origins. The teaching and learning of foreign languages will be achieved through the collaboration of all members of the class community.
This is a transcendent condition for any communicative exchange, particularly within an intercultural framework. To advocate for intercultural encounters requires understanding the other and accepting their natural and cultural differences, enabling individuals to act in harmony, to be, to have, and to act as people, while transcending the babel of misunderstandings.
To deliberate on foreign language teaching and learning - both the container and content, theory and practice - necessitates considering the privileged partner that is the language learner, along with their history, language, and culture. Specifically, this is essential so that this teaching-learning process holds the same cultural significance, pedagogical sense, and aims toward the same didactic objectives, following the same pragmatic path and ideological trajectory.
As aptly underscored by Bernard Barsotti, “One might be tempted to qualify this shared sense as pre-reflexive (…) one should [then] speak of a pre-reflexive property of reflection.” (Barsotti 2002 -55)
In this context, Kant distinguishes three rules or maxims of common sense that constitute the art of dialogue in the exchange of ideas: “These maxims are as follows:
Think for oneself,
Think from the standpoint of every other,
Always think in accordance with oneself.” (Kant in Barsotti 2002 -55)
In essence, the existence, essence, and evolution of the pedagogical partnership in this foreign language universe, imbued with interculturality that preserves all identities, respects all otherness as a form of “interness”, and tends toward a guarantee of linguistic-cultural being, are shielded from any form of enculturation, synonymous with loss.