Intercultural Challenges of Teaching in Multilingual/Multicultural Classrooms

Intercultural Challenges of Teaching in Multilingual/Multicultural Classrooms

Éva Csillik (NYC Department of Education, USA & PS58Q The School of Heroes, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8128-4.ch001
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Language and culture are inseparable entities forming an interdependent relationship within the multilingual classroom, which is both a melting pot of languages as well as a myriad of cultural backgrounds. In learning a common language, known as “lingua franca,” in the multilingual classroom, culture plays a critical role since the lingua franca makes communication possible between language teachers and multilingual students. Cultural connections and effective communication enables these students to engage in social and interactive activities and allows them to become active participants of the multilingual classroom. This chapter addresses some of the major intercultural challenges that both teachers and students of multilingual classrooms currently face within the “cultural jungle” of New York City. These multilingual students are simultaneously learning English as the lingua franca and participating in an intercultural educational experience in order to become linguistically and interculturally competent global citizens.
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In the process of identifying the intercultural challenges teachers and language learners might face, it is crucial to clarify the definition of culture since it is a wildly used and a highly complex term in the literature. There are more than 200 definitions of the word ‘culture’ that researchers have used before. One of the very early influential definitions was created by Taylor (1871, p. 1), who defines “culture or civilization, (…) is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, moral, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society”. Later, other scholars added to Taylor’s definition to improve the complex meaning of culture.

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