Intercultural Awareness through languages

Written by Alice Sinicato

A summary of an interesting research on Intercultural awareness being raised by language learning process in early childhood.

“Awakening to World Languages: Intercultural Awareness in Very Young Learners” by Erin Kearney and So-Yeon Ahn (2013)

The article talks about the effectiveness of early childhood language programs to establish positive attitudes toward languages and to create basis for future intercultural communicative competence.
Researchers argue that methods and the approach used are still not clear and they have not been discussed consistently yet. The intent of the article is then to describe “Awakening to World Languages” program as example of an intercultural awareness-raising method and its evolution. At the beginning, it basically consisted in two lessons per week of two- three hours held by “language partners” who prepare lectures and group- playing activities. The focus was mainly to teach pre-schoolers the basis (words, phrases, songs) of the chosen language.

Participants were responding positively to these activities, showing improvements enthusiastically. However, since many children seemed not to have the chance of continuing the study of that specific language after pre-school, researchers decided to “refine the goals of the program” (Kearney & Ahn, p.45) toward a intercultural awareness, involving more “exploration of linguistic and cultural diversity” (p.45).

For the same reason and to “include broader linguistic diversity” (p.45), the program was further modified organising different languages lessons on the same day in order to give already the idea of “co-existence of multiple languages and cultures in a diverse society” (p.46). With these changes, more support was given to language partners through seminars to understand intercultural awareness and collaborate with other teachers.

Overall, according to this research, “Awakening to World Languages” program appears to be effective on young learners that just start the language learning process. The focus on awareness-raising “is the most foundational building block in developing their intercultural communicative competence” (p.46).


Kearney E.; Ahn S. (2013) Awakening to World Languages: Intercultural Awareness in Very Young Learners. Learning Languages, pp. 44-48.