Intercultural communicative competence : assessing outcomes of an undergraduate German language program




Vanderheijden, Vincent Louis

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This study investigates possible contributing factors to the development of Intercultural Communicative Competence (ICC) in undergraduate language learners. Moreover, the study tests the viability of a survey instrument which can help language programs describe the ICC of their students. ICC has been determined to be a valuable—if not central—component of the future of language teaching and learning (Aguilar, 2007) because of the focus the construct places on “appropriate and effective” interaction between the learner and interlocutors from the target culture. A total of 108 lower-division German language students were surveyed as part of this study. They represented a cross section of all lower-division German language courses offered at the University of Texas at Austin in the spring semester of 2010. The Assessment of Undergraduate Intercultural Competence was used to collect student responses. The survey, an extensive adaptation of Fantini’s Assessment of Intercultural Competence (2006) for the undergraduate language learning context, gathered demographic data, such as nationality, foreign travel experience and nature of a participant’s intercultural relationships. Students were also asked to rank the applicability to themselves of an array of personality traits. Finally, students responded to 54 questions which addressed the core domains of ICC: Knowledge, Attitude, Skills and Awareness. These items, as well as the personality traits were rated on a 7-point Likert-type scale. The data collected were analyzed by quantitative methods The findings of this analysis determined that there was no connection between students progressing through the language program and the development of ICC. Additionally, though, a number of other factors, including the presence of intercultural relationships and a student’s willingness to adjust to new ways of living, were found to contribute positively to one’s ICC. The results of the study suggest that language programs consider ways to incorporate these factors into curricula. The findings also provide benchmark data for future studies of language learner ICC in the context of the American undergraduate experience.



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