Children's Intercultural Interactions at an International Summer Camp

Yan Jiang, Zhu Hua

Birkbeck, University of London, United Kingdom


In the past twenty years, intercultural communication has been studied by the researchers from different disciplines: cultural anthropologists (cf. Hofstede, 2001), cross-cultural and social psychologists (cf. Berry, 2000) and sociolinguists (cf. Scollon and Scollon, 2001). However, very few studies have investigated children’s intercultural experience and their development of intercultural communicative competence (cf. Watson, 2003). As part of a larger research project that examines the short-term and long-term impact of children’s experience in a multi-cultural summer camp on their intercultural communicative competence, this study seeks to address the research question that what communicative strategies children from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds use to communicate with each other when there is disparity in the proficiency of their shared language (in this case, English). Naturally occurring child-child and child-adult interaction data was videotaped in an international children’s summer camp held in UK. The camp participants, 40 children in total and aged 11, came from 10 different countries including Japan, UK, Jordan, Philippines, U.S.A., Netherlands, Portugal, Norway, Spain and Germany. In this paper we focus on the children’s multi-party interactions in the games and activities organized by the camp. The analysis of the data shows that children employ a range of communicative strategies (e.g. code-switching, gestures, translation) to understand the rules of the activities and negotiate and achieve agreement on action despite the diversity in their language competence. Meanwhile, we conclude that multi-modality is an important feature in children’s intercultural interactions (Goodwin, Goodwin and Yaeger-Dror, 2002). Furthermore, this study sheds some light on how children negotiate and construct their roles and identities during their interactions in the multi-cultural setting.


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Goodwin, M.H., Goodwin, C. and Malcah Yaeger-Dror. (2002) Multi-modality in girls’ game disputes. Journal of Pragmatics. 34: 1621-1649.

Hofstede, G. H. (2001) Culture’s Consequences: comparing values, behaviours, institutions, and organizations across nations. London: Sage publication.

Scollon, R. and S.W. Scollon (2001) Intercultural communication: a discourse approach. Malden, Mass: Blackwell.

Watson, J. (2003) Intercultural understanding through personal contact: A longitudinal evaluation of the effects of participation in the multicultural educational programmes of a volunteer organization. Interspectives.19: 35-47.

Session: Paper session
Various Topics
Friday, April 4, 2008, 13:45-15:15
room: 16