The power of interactional competences in a second language

May 27, 2019 | Research/Cooperation Global

MDH establishes itself on the language research map when researchers from over twenty countries gather to discuss interactional competences in a second language – an emerging field of research and an important competence for the future, in the classroom as well as in the labour market.

Interactional competences in a new language are what people use to communicate with one another in an effective way. In addition to the formal structures for mastering a language, such as vocabulary and grammar, interactional competence (IC) encompasses communicative resources such as gestures and facial expressions as well as semiotic systems such as turn-taking.

– Put simply, it is a set of skills and interactional resources to pursue mutual understanding and to solve troubles in social interaction, says Olcay Sert, Senior Lecturer in English at MDH.

By developing IC in a new language, you gradually socialise into a new cultural environment. This can be the case for students in Sweden who want to learn English or French, as well as for newcomers to Sweden who want to socialise into Swedish society.

– The interactional routines that you start using in a new culture and language, by time, help you become a member of that particular community, says Olcay Sert.

MDH a research hub

At MDH a new research group within the field is currently forming and during the last few days of May a large academic conference is going to be held at the University, where cutting-edge research on interactional dynamics of second language use, teaching, and learning will be presented and discussed. 

– In a multilingual, networked and glocal (not global) world, better understanding of these dynamics through carefully designed research is the key for the development of effective teaching and learning environments. These findings will feed into future classroom practices.

Starting off with the conference, and with the emerging research from MDH, Olcay Sert wants to make the University an important centre and an academic hub in this line of research.

– We aim at making MDH an attractive research centre for postgraduate researchers at an international level. This centre will be founded on the premises of IC-informed education and teacher education, and will strive for excellent research that feeds into practice, he says. 

Skills for the future

– There is an even greater need for bridging research and practice now, as concepts like IC will become parts of the skillsets of our students and teachers, who may need to understand better and compete with automation and artificial intelligence in the near future. What many researchers refer to as soft skills, although I don’t like the term itself, will be integrated into the compulsory curricula in the future, and IC is one of those skillsets, says Olcay Sert.

He describes it as the beginning of a new era for teaching. New types of courses for teacher candidates and PhD students are under development, and from next year a course on classroom interaction will be taught at MDH.

– The holistic IC research approach that we are taking, the one which covers learning, teaching, testing and teacher education, will hopefully merge local development in education in the region with a global perspective.

Conference page

Interactional Competences and Practices in a Second Language