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Book Review: Navigating the Intercultural Classroom by Tuula Lindholm and Johanne Mednick Myles (2019), TESOL Press

Christie Sosa
By Kara Mac Donald and Sun Young Park
Navigating the Intercultural Classroom (2019) effectively links theoretical  perspectives with practical classroom best practices in each chapter, so teachers have the conceptual background for the sample activities to be able to effectively implement them in their classrooms or adapt as needed to their students’ needs. At the end of the book, five appendices further address the theoretical perspectives to support teachers’ practical classroom implementation.

Lindholm and Mednick begin Chapter 1 by examining theoretical perspectives on culture, personal identity, language, cultural identity and culturally embedded behaviors. They then move on to discuss stereotypes and cultural awareness and intercultural communicative competence (ICC).  The chapter closes with suggested activities, teaching strategies and best practice for discussing culture at various levels in the classroom to develop ICC.

In Chapter 2, they link the fields of ICC and second language teaching and learning. Again they begin by presenting theoretical perspectives and move to considering how ICC can be integrated in the ESOL curricula. They examine three examples: The Canadian Language Benchmarks, The Massachusetts Framework, The Common European Framework and what can be learned for both integrating ICC in the curriculum but also how to effectively assess ICC. The chapter closes, as the one before, with classroom best practices and sample activities for fostering ICC.

Teachers as a cultural representative and classroom conflict are the principle topics of Chapter 3. The implication of culture, beliefs and biases of the instructor are considered as well as the extended role of the teacher to inform students of cultural practices. Examples of how the role of common cultural practices can be understood differently and lead to conflicts between the teacher and students, and among students are discussed and how such conflicts can be best managed through sample classroom activities.

Chapter 4 focuses on English for Academic Purposes Programs (EAP) and associated cultural expectations in the form of classroom participation, student-teacher communication and authority, and academic writing. Examples of cultural variables common in EAP are discussed, from expression of ideas in academic papers, understandings of plagiarism, familiarity with register variations in different written texts to social life on campus. Resources, activities and suggestions wrap up the chapter.

The focus, in Chapter 5, shifts to how to foster ICC in workplace-focused learning programs for ESOL learners. The discussion social cultural practices that are embedded in workplace interaction and communication and the importance of ESOLs being aware of these. Practical examples for the classroom like preparing for a job interview, negotiating appointments and others are offered.

Chapter 6 addresses technology and computer-mediated communication with respect to intercultural communication. The discussion begins with the importance of ESOLs’ understanding of the distinct language used depending on the social and cultural realms of use in online and electronic communication. For classroom implications, the chapter presents examples of how electronic communication and social media can be used to foster ICC.

In the Conclusion, the authors highlight their goal of not simply discussing the value of ICC, but rather assisting teachers to better tackle the integration of ICC in the ESOL classroom. Importantly, they note that ICC is an internal and personal developmental process that students will build over time. Yet to effectively do this, teachers need to reflect on themselves as cultural beings to better understand the needs of our students.

Five appendices provide additional information on the theoretical perspectives discussed to further support the discussion in the book’s chapters. Appendix A addresses the cultural preferences across nine dimensions. Appendix B presents two models of IC and a developmental model of intercultural sensitivity. Appendix C describes the six principles of culture. Appendix D looks a means to describe and analyze cultural behaviors. Appendix E offers a table for diagraming communication in the work place.

This is a great resource for both those familiar with ICC as well as though new to learning about the topic. The theoretical perspectives offer a good review of principle concepts or can serve the foundational introduction to key concepts around ICC. The suggested classroom practices and activities can be adapted with teachers more familiar with ICC and can be used as is for those just beginning to introduce ICC in their classrooms.