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Theorizing translingual/transcultural competence

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Title:Theorizing translingual/transcultural competence
Authors:Kramsch, Claire
Date Issued:01 Jan 2010
Publisher:Heinle Cengage Learning
Citation:Kramsch, C. (2010). Theorizing translingual/transcultural competence. The American Association of University Supervisors, Coordinators and Directors of Foreign Languages Programs (AAUSC), 15-31.
Abstract:“Translingual and transcultural competence” has been proposed by the 2007 Report of the Modern
Language Association (MLA) Ad Hoc Committee on Foreign Languages as the desired goal
of foreign language majors at U.S. colleges and universities (MLA, 2007). How can such a competence
be conceptualized? This chapter uses as a point of departure an international research
project on multilingualism/multiculturalism in which native speakers of French and native
speakers of English grappled with each other’s categorizations of events and their underlying
ideologies for an ultimate publication in French. The challenges of cultural translation encountered
in the course of this project serve as a basis to reflect on the three challenges posed by
the MLA Report: (1) the need to “operate between languages,” (2) mediation and translation,
and (3) the relationship of language and culture in discourse. After proposing a definition of
translingual/transcultural competence, the chapter draws on various theories in applied linguistics
and critical cultural studies to stake out an ecological theory of translingual/transcultural
competence that includes language and cultural relativity, the social construction and emergence
of meaning, the dynamics of intertextuality, and the fundamentally symbolic nature of
transcultural competence. The chapter ends with a concrete example of classroom discourse
in an upper-intermediate German course and examines to what extent each of the ecological
tenets mentioned above were or could have been activated.

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