Understanding Other:

Residence Abroad and Perceptions of Fluency

Valerie Harkness

Leeds Metropolitan University, UK

The surge of interest in recent years in the capabilities constitutive of intercultural competence has offered some useful insights into the role of language awareness and attitudes in language learning and teaching.

The present paper focuses on the teaching of mother tongue abroad with particular reference to perceptions of fluency. Our purpose is twofold:

1. to consider the personal and professional development of teachers of mother tongue abroad in the light of three relevant areas of psychological theory and research: (i) the acquisition of skilful expertise, (ii) the development of social representations and (iii) sociocultural learning/activity theory. These sources indicate that active participation in a broad range of social and professional contexts in a given community of practice facilitates learning and development.

2. to discuss implications for future research into how residing abroad affects teachers' appreciations of the linguistic performance of their students. Changes in attitudes, growth in linguistic and cultural awareness and personal development are considered crucial because the way that teachers of mother tongue shape their identity and grow personally during their 'life' abroad may have a determining influence on their perceptions of fluency, hence on their teaching objectives.

This paper, which is intended to promote discussion among participants, also includes questions and implications relating to a research project starting in Summer 2000 and involving native speakers of French teaching their mother tongue in Great Britain.