Autobiography / Course intercultural communicative competence

based on “Autobiography of Intercultural Encounters”, Council of Europe, authors: Michael Byram, download and

course offered by Professor Gerlind Vief-Schmidt

My name is jean-marie nau. I live in Luxembourg with the same nationality seeking world citizenship. I’m a member of the Bahá’í international community, male and happy to be mentioned in a publication. Kindly inform me beforehand.

It’s now been two semesters that I have the chance to be, interact and learn with over 20 students from all parts of the world. Some of them have settled in Luxembourg, some have just come to study here. I’ve had the opportunity to be with them in class and to listen to their way of talking, presenting ideas and concepts. What I hear is one thing, what they say is usually slightly different. Interesting is to find out the difference between what I hear and what they say.

Most courses have encouraged group work and this has been enriching. It has not been a priority to know where each student comes from, what he or she does and how he or she lives. My intention has been to discover these facts through what they say and through our interactions in the classroom.

Whenever there has been an occasion to present my beliefs, my views of the world, some students in turn have shared their views. Some of them visited our home near the university. Seeing and experiencing them in a different context gives additional insight in their way of being in the world.

Our two semesters spent together at the university in Luxembourg have been filled with mutual respect and tolerance for each other, with laughter and fun, with ‘cultural’ and linguistic misunderstandings (most of them being or becoming humorous). I have witnessed compassion, empathy and genuine help offered for those in need.

I wish to see each one of us, “as a protagonist in his or her own development and that of the community” (Act Now, 2005, p. 25). Among them are students open to change and improvement and to contribute towards a more just society. I hope that this course will have helped us to speak openly and frankly about our fears, hopes and aspirations.

New media has been a dominant factor in my research of relevant topics, while at the same, books, publications and printed material can be laid out on my desk and serve visually as reference points.

While we students are very different in many ways, (job orientation, age, cultural background) we are similar in many ways (understanding of concepts, vision of the future).

It has been such a pleasure to be with students and professors from various sociocultural backgrounds, with various educational backgrounds. This has been my professional environment for the last 11 years in Luxembourg, as a language teacher in adult education with multicultural and multilingual participants. Change is part of life, especially when engaged in interaction with others.

The experience has further encouraged me to seek ‘cultural’ solutions. We need to deconstruct our existing cultural models and seek new models that allow us to live peacefully and harmoniously together. I’m currently reading: Beyond the Culture of Contest, from adversarialism to Mutualism in an Age of Interdependence, by Michael Karlberg, (2004). He claims that

Adversarialism has become the predominant strand in contemporary western-liberal societies. Throughout the contemporary public sphere, competitive and conflictual practices have become institutionalized norms. In his analysis of present-day society, Michael Karlberg puts forward the thesis that our present ‘culture of contest’ is both socially unjust and ecologically unsustainable and that the surrounding ‘culture of protest’ is an inadequate response to the social and ecological problems it generates. The development of non-adversarial structures and practices is imperative. Dr Karlberg considers various historical and contemporary expressions of mutualism, including expressions within feminism, systems theory, ecology and environmentalism, communication theory and alternative dispute resolution, and presents a case study of the Bahá’í community and its experience as a working, non-adversarial model of social practice. The prescriptions and practices of the Bahá’í community provide a viable and workable alternative to the culture of contest.

Doing this task has encouraged me to propose this type of work with advanced language students. I also hope to gain more insights how autobiographic practice contributes to intercultural communicative competence.


Act Now. (2005). Act now for the millenium development goals, appeals from religious leaders and scholars. Justitia et Pax. Retrieved from

Karlberg, M. (2004). Beyond the Culture of Contest. George Ronald Publisher Ltd.

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