Research Theme 4

Education and Intercultural Competences in Latin America: Learning, Language and Communication in a Globalized World

Successful intercultural communication presupposes highly developed foreign language proficiency and intercultural skills on the part of at least one of the parties involved, preferably both. The awakening of Latin America as an important future player in the global arena raises two major issues in this regard. On the one hand, we find the question of how the European Communities, among them Denmark, develop the linguistic competences, cultural knowledge and intercultural skills necessary to meet the Latin American challenge. On the other hand, we have the question of how the Latin American countries are preparing themselves for the interactions required in a global environment. This is a matter not only of Latin American citizens learning English, although this is also an important issue, but also of how Latin American countries are dealing with the hundreds of minority languages that, despite their lack of recognition as official languages, are the languages de facto in use in many different regions. Both questions are of vital interest for the possibilities and success of virtually all the projects and enterprises on which Danish and Latin American companies and organizations collaborate. As part of the processes of democratization, in recent years most Latin American countries have begun to recognize the multicultural composition of the societies.

Many constitutions were re-written in the 1990s, and today central chapters are devoted to a constitutional recognition of indigenous languages, ways of life, legal practices and so forth, but many questions remain unanswered. Research questions: How are the educational systems designed in Denmark and in selected Latin American countries, respectively, with regard to the relation between foreign language studies and intercultural competences? How can foreign language pedagogy be developed to meet the challenge imposed by the new globalized world? What efforts are made in Latin America to preserve the linguistic richness of the continent? How can bilingual groups be integrated in society without losing their culture and their collective identity? What is the attitude of these bilinguals towards their heritage languages and to the official language imposed on them? What is the attitude of society in general towards bilingual citizens?