Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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An Investigation of Intercultural Teaching and Learning in Tertiary EFL Classrooms in Vietnam

posted on 2024-06-03, 23:21 authored by Ho, Si Thang Kiet

Intercultural competence has become an important goal of foreign language education in response to the need for learners to function effectively in an increasingly multicultural world. Language and culture are seen as interwoven and inseparable components and therefore learning a foreign language inevitably means learning about other ways of being and behaving. Many foreign language programmes around the world, particularly in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, have adopted an intercultural pedagogy which seeks to integrate into the language teaching experience opportunities for developing intercultural competence for language learners. This study investigates intercultural teaching and learning in tertiary EFL classrooms in Vietnam, a context in which intercultural approaches to language teaching and learning have not been widely considered.

The study consisted of three phases. The first phase involved a curriculum review in which I critically evaluated the extent to which culture and culture learning are represented in the curriculum frameworks for tertiary EFL programmes and in the national education policy on foreign language education in Vietnam. The findings showed that the importance of culture and culture learning is not emphasised, and the designation of culture to separate culture courses establishes a separate status, construct and treatment of culture and culture learning in the EFL programmes.

In the second phase of the study, I analysed the perceptions of fourteen Vietnamese EFL teachers and two hundred Vietnamese EFL students on culture in language teaching and learning, and their classroom practices. The findings indicated that the teachers' beliefs about culture teaching revealed a predictable priority for teaching language rather than culture. Their culture teaching practices were greatly influenced by their perceptions and beliefs regarding culture in language teaching. The students also treated culture as a subordinate priority in language learning. Overall, they found culture learning beneficial for their language learning and supported the teachability of language and culture in EFL classes. Both the teachers and students identified a number of constraints that restricted their opportunities and motivation to engage in teaching and learning culture.

The third phase of the study involved an empirical study investigating the effect of adopting an intercultural stance in English speaking lessons on thedevelopment of the learners' intercultural competence. Over a nine-week teaching period, eighteen English speaking lessons (90 minutes / lesson / week) for two equivalent, intact classes (seventy-one students) were observed. For one class, the lessons were adapted to reflect the principles of intercultural language learning. For the other, no changes were made. The results showed that the intercultural competence of learners in the intercultural class increased by significantly more than that of learners in the standard class. In particular, the students in the intercultural class were able to better articulate ethnorelative awareness and attitudes towards their home culture and the target culture. The findings also showed that the reflective journal was an effective tool to assess learners' process of acquiring intercultural competence, particularly affective capacities that are not easy to evaluate by other means.

Overall, the study provided evidence for the feasibility of intercultural teaching and learning in tertiary EFL classrooms in the Vietnamese context. It also showed that intercultural teaching and learning cultivated learners' affective capacities which are often overlooked in the EFL classroom. It is hoped that the study can inform the work of curriculum designers, education policy-makers as well as EFL teachers and students for the implementation of intercultural language teaching and learning in Vietnam and elsewhere.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Applied Linguistics

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies


Newton, Jonathan; Holmes, Janet