Narrative and identity in the foreign language classroom: Reflections on symbolic competence

EVELYN VOVOU

The high rates of both social mobility and impelled migration and the technological changes in communication have led to the formulation of an extremely diverse linguistic and cultural landscape. As far as foreign language teaching and learning is concerned, this change has created the need for a revised pedagogical and didactic approach that better suits speakers and learners in multicultural environments. The paper discusses the weaknesses of the communicative and the intercultural approach to language teaching and supports an ecolinguistic turn towards language use. Based on this stance, the paper focuses on a discourse- rather than a user-oriented competence, namely symbolic competence, that is to be considered as a meta-competence, coined for language users in multilingual and multicultural settings. In order to make the transition from language user to language learner clearer, the paper tries to prove the usefulness of incorporating the notion of symbolic competence as an objective in foreign language teaching practice by introducing two examples of textual and visual stimuli that are analysed on the basis of discursive characteristics, genre, Self- and Other-positioning, complexity and ambiguity of meaning, etc. These examples are selected from teaching of German as a Foreign Language materials and can be used both as teacher training material and as language teaching resources.

KEYWORDS: symbolic competence, narrative, discursive identity, foreign language teaching, foreign language learning, German as a Foreign Language

EVELYN VOVOU. PhD Candidate in German Studies, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (Greece). Research interests cover multicultural foreign language teaching, second language acquisition, and language ecology.

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