From Intercultural Competence to Intercultural Citizenship - Foreign Language Teaching in 'Interesting Times' - 30. November 2017

1. Michael Stuart Byram

Michael Byram studied languages at King’s College Cambridge, wrote a PhD in Danish literature, and then taught French and German in secondary and adult education. At Durham University since 1980, now Professor Emeritus, he is also Guest Professor at the University of Luxembourg. He has trained teachers and researched linguistic minorities and foreign language education. In the 2000s he was Adviser to the Language Policy Division of the Council of Europe. He is now involved in the CoE’s work on Competence for Democratic Culture. His most recent monograph is From Foreign Language Education to Education for Intercultural Citizenship (2008). He is also editor with Adelheid Hu of the second edition of the Routledge Encyclopedia of Language Teaching and Learning, (2013) currently being translated into Chinese and Arabic, and with colleagues in several countries, he is the editor of two books which demonstrate how foreign language and intercultural citizenship education can be achieved in practice.


  • 2016 Module leader ‘Information Management and Governance’ MSc Diplomacy and Information Management, Academy of Diplomacy and International Governance, Loughborough University London
  • 2016 Visiting Lecturer at Dubrovnik International University
  • 2015-2016 Visiting lecturer at LSE, Kings College, Birkbeck College, Loughborough University London,
  • 2011-2015  Senior lecturer and Communications Coordinator (part time contract) London Academy of Diplomacy
  • 2006-11 Head of Cultural Training, International House, London
  • 2001-6 Lead Trainer, CultureSmart Consulting, London
  • 1994-2010 Visiting Lecturer in Cultural Awareness , University of Westminster
  • 1978-1994 Editor, BBC English by Radio and TV, BBC World Service, London
  • 1971-78 British Council English Language Teaching Adviser to the Government of Benin (formerly Dahomey)
  • 1968-71 English Language teacher and Assistant Director, International  House, London


  • ‘The World’s Business Cultures: a Handbook’ 3rd Edition (Barry Tomalin and Mike Nicks, Thorogood Publishing 2014)
  • ‘Cross-Cultural Communication: Theory and Practice’ (Brian Hurn and Barry Tomalin, Palgrave-Macmillan 2013)
  • ‘Key Business Skills’ 2012 Harper Collins
  •  ‘International English for Call Centres’ Macmillan, India 2009
  • ‘Diverse Europe at Work’ Language Training London 2009
  • ‘CultureSmart France’ Kuperard Publishing 2002
  • ‘CultureSmart Germany’ Kuperard Publishing 2003
  • ‘CultureSmart Italy’ Kuperard Publishing 2004
  • ‘Film’ OUP, Oxford 2001
  • ‘Cultural Awareness’ OUP Oxford 1995

2. Abstract

In the last two decades, the aims of language teaching have in theory, and to an increasing degree in practice, been extended to include ‘intercultural’ or ‘transcultural’ competence, complementing linguistic/communicative competence. The phrase coined for this is ‘intercultural communicative competence’.

Intercultural communicative competence includes the notion that learners become ‘critical’ of their own cultural groups and cultures as well as the new ones they may meet through learning a foreign language. ‘Criticality’ or ‘critical cultural awareness’ is an important educational aim in teaching ICC. In work based in Durham University but spread through a research network across the world, we have enriched this notion further by experimenting with ‘intercultural citizenship’.

Intercultural citizenship combines theory and purposes from foreign language teaching and teaching for citizenship. It has educational significance but also political significance. Language learners are encouraged to become political with an internationalist perspective.

As the times become ever more ‘interesting’,  this perspective on language teaching becomes ever more significant, as do the responsibilities of language teachers. The task is to help learners to live in societies which are ‘multi’: cultural, lingual, ethnic, faith etc.

I will illustrate these developments with experiments in teaching intercultural citizenship, and discuss links to the Council of Europe’s new Reference Framework for Competence in Democratic Culture.

3. Pictures