Interculturality as Collaborative Identity Management in Language Education

Keywords: interculturality, identity, intercultural language education, language-culture nexus, ELF


Just over ten years ago, Block (2007, p. 2) called the increasing attention that second language researchers—and social scientists at large—were giving to the construct of “identity” an “obsession.” Since then, the identities of those who use, learn or study a language have been investigated in greater detail (e.g., Benson, Barkhuizen, Bodycott & Brown, 2013; Clarke, 2008; Dörnyei & Ushioda, 2009; Edwards, 2009). It may seem that intercultural language education is lagging behind this tendency. However, a number of publications (e.g., Kramsch, 2009; Rivers & Houghton, 2013) suggest that, considering contemporary global societies, the intercultural goals of language learning and teaching can be better promoted by replacing the notion of “culture” with that of multiple “identities” or “subjectivities.” More specifically, language education can aim to make students capable of selecting the language resources available to them in order to express their (developing) desired identities and, at the same time, to recognise the multiple identities that their interlocutors put forth in a given context (Borghetti, 2016). To make the case for this “identity-related intercultural language education,” the article reviews and discusses a number of studies which, from different perspectives, have already argued for a more prominent role of the construct of “identity” in the field of second language education.

Author Biography

Claudia Borghetti, University of Bologna

Claudia Borghetti is Research Fellow in Language Learning and Teaching at the Department of Modern Languages, Literature and Cultures, University of Bologna, Italy. She researches on intercultural language learning and teaching, teaching Italian as a foreign/second language, language socialisation abroad, language learning and teaching in a sociocultural perspective, and (academic) writing. Claudia was the project manager of the IEREST Project (Intercultural Education Resources for Erasmus Students and their Teachers, LLP,