University Of Tasmania
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Bridging the language/culture divide : fostering international understanding and collaboration to address issues of global concern

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posted on 2023-05-27, 11:41 authored by Zicus, SA
It is clear that we live in an age when a lingua franca is essential to address many regional and global environmental and social problems. It is also evident that there is at present, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future, a heavy dependence on English as the principal international lingua franca. This qualitative research focused on the processes and problems involved in cross-linguistic communication concerning global environmental issues, and their potential impacts on international collaboration. The goal was to illuminate ways in which international environmental outreach programs can become more effective in promoting understanding of the environmental and cultural issues involved, as well as improve collaboration and cooperation in the generation of solutions to environmental problems. The first research stage explored the experiences of individuals from 16 countries who were involved in international education, outreach and communication (EOC) about polar issues during the International Polar Year 2007-2008 (IPY). This was an in-depth investigation of how the IPY EOC programs functioned in relation to multilingual issues, with the aim of identifying potential commonalities and differences about what worked well in different cultural, linguistic and social contexts. Interview questions centred on interactions related to language and culture during group meetings, and the reasons for success (or lack of success) in international EOC programs that were conducted over a four-year period. Interviewees were also asked for their opinions on the positives and negatives of using English as a lingua franca to communicate on issues such as climate change, and for their suggestions about effective ways to communicate about these issues across cultural and linguistic boundaries. Analysis of the data obtained was used to refine additional research questions that were investigated in more depth in the next stage. The second stage broadened the focus to consider how the initial findings might benefit other global environmental EOC initiatives. Teachers and adult facilitators who were identified during the IPY interviews developed a joint school project with classes in Brazil, Chile, Greenland and Malaysia. Using an action research approach, they identified issues that were relevant and interesting to them, and worked collaboratively to seek solutions. My research in this stage focused principally on the communication strategies used by both teachers and students as they tried to work with peers in the other countries. I also investigated the impacts of English-language domination of scientific research on science education and communication at both international and local levels. The study concluded with a summary of some of the common issues identified, outlined some possible strategies for their resolution, and suggested areas for further research. This information may help others plan and deliver more effective international and intercultural programs in the future.


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