Multilingualism and Intercultural Communication

Multilingualism and Intercultural Communication

Course dates:
4 August, 2020 to 20 August, 2020
990 €
Multidisciplinary, Social Sciences
Application deadline:
Monday, 15 June, 2020
University of Helsinki
Helsinki, Finland

This course is suitable for Bachelor's and Master's level students interested in interculturality. Ideal academic backgrounds include anthropology, social sciences, social psychology, psychology, postcolonial studies, linguistics, area and cultural studies, and communication.

The three main themes to be covered during the course are:

Intercultural Communication as a field of academic reflection – foundation to working in an intercultural context
This theme will cover the historical background, and the reasons for current interest in the phenomenon of intercultural communication. It will also give definitions and general features as well as the main research themes currently covered in Intercultural Communication. Key concepts in the field will be introduced, including ‘language’, ‘multilingualism’, ‘culture’, ‘communication’, ‘miscommunication’, ‘misunderstanding’, and others.

Intercultural Communication in social interaction – Intercultural Communication in the workplace
This theme will be introduced by means of specific case studies which illustrate communicative features that mark multilingual contexts, as well as the linguistic aspects of intercultural, multilingual phenomena and communicative practices in the following four domains:

  • education, including choices of medium of instruction and how to integrate local (minority) languages, as well as global foreign languages such as English, French and Spanish.
  • public health care, including attention to accommodating minority language speakers in treatment
  • practising law, including courtroom communication
  • economic activity and business communication, including intercultural negotiation practices.

Theoretical approaches to the study of Intercultural Communication phenomena and methods of research in Intercultural Communication
This theme will, in the course of looking at specific social contexts, introduce a number of theoretical approaches and the associated methodologies within the field. These will include the contrastive approach; the interlanguage approach; the interactive-intercultural approach; pragmatic approaches; sociolinguistic approaches; ethnographic approaches, (critical) discourse analysis; and linguistic analysis (e.g., structural features of code-switching and pragmatic features such as irony and truism).

The course is lead by Christine Anthonissen, Professor Emerita, Stellenbosch University.


  • To provide a comprehensive overview of Intercultural Communication as a contemporary field of linguistic and scholarly interest;
  • To introduce theoretical and methodological approaches to studying currently interesting aspects of multilingualism and intercultural communication;
  • To raise awareness of the difference between popular (often overgeneralised) conceptions of intercultural difference and real experiences of success and failure in what is described as 'intercultural communication';
  • To encourage engagement with selected texts which count as core readings in the field of Intercultural Communication;
  • To allow critical reflection on linguistic practices in various multilingual contexts, such as the workplace or public state facilities, in which intercultural communication is the only means of verbal interaction.

The course will take the form of lectures, interactive discussion of texts and participant presentations. Social and linguistic practices highlighted in the course will be investigated and critically discussed with a focus on workplace interaction, and with a view to improving understanding of current, evolving multiculturalism and suggestions for improved quality of services in selected contexts.


  • Degree and PhD students: Early Bird 900 EUR (until 28 Feb 2020) / normal fee 990 EUR
  • Professionals: Early Bird 1400 EUR (until 28 Feb 2020) / normal fee 1490 EUR
  • Students of the University of Helsinki and the students doing their exchange at the University of Helsinki before or directly after summer school 1 ECTS=15 EUR
  • Helsinki Summer School and University of Helsinki
  • Alumni receive a 50 EUR discount of the course fee, provided they do not already study at the University of Helsinki.