Intermar in more detail

Presentation of the course HERE

INTERMAR offers innovative practices in foreign language learning within a maritime context. By developing intercomprehension (IC) processes, INTERMAR aspires to provide maritime professionals in Europe with IC strategies that assist language learning during initial or in-service training in the Navy or Merchant Marine.

The notion of IC, aimed at the development of plurilingualism, is one of the most productive concepts to have entered the field of language learning methodology during the late ‘90s. IC may be theoretically defined as “the process of co-constructing meaning in intercultural/interlinguistic contexts” (Capucho 2011) or, more specifically , as a form of communication in which each person uses his or her own language and is also able to understand that of the other(s) (cf. Doyé 2005: 7).

The innovative aspect of IC lies in the aforementioned idea of being able to understand a language despite never having learnt it. IC might thus be considered a natural form of communication, based on mutual cross-linguistic comprehension. Speakers of related languages, for example Scandinavian languages or Romance languages, can often understand one another. This natural ability may be transferred to the context of formal language learning in order to develop plurilingual comprehension skills in a quick and effective way.

One of the domains that would most benefit from IC strategies is the maritime sector. Seafarers come into frequent contact with different languages both on board and ashore. In addition they are required to live and work with colleagues from diverse cultural backgrounds. English is the lingua franca at sea. However, as a means of bolstering effective communication, plurilingual strategies and skills must be considered a bonus. An understanding of other languages and cultures will foster better human relationships, enhance the well-being of the seafarer and in general prove invaluable for the multilingual, multi-ethnic crews of the 21st century.

Double synergies may be developed between the learning of Maritime English and the construction of IC competences, paving the way to learning other languages using IC-specific activities and tasks. Enhancing competence in Maritime English whilst facilitating plurilingualism will lead to improved communication and greater levels of safety on board.

The aim of INTERMAR is to create a European community of maritime and naval institutions that share an IC approach to foreign languages. Drawing on existing materials, INTERMAR has developed new products and adapted others to create an effective course toolbox, which is accessible through an online learning platform . On this platform, teachers and learners alike will find uniquely designed modules focusing on themes relevant to maritime students making use of IC in Romance Languages, Germanic Languages, Baltic Languages and Russian, Intercultural Awareness and Maritime English. Modules contain task-based learning materials, many set in a maritime context. Teachers’ guidelines are also available. Assessment tools are provided to evaluate the learner during the entire process and at the end of each language module.

Blended 60-hour courses, where modules are used in accordance with the specific needs of each institution, are being piloted in 8 naval and maritime academies during the academic year of 2012 – 2013.

The results of the piloting will allow for evaluation, modification and adaptation of the materials and facilitate the detailed design of efficient course structures to be integrated in naval and MET[1] formal syllabi.

Experts in IC from a wide range of EU countries, specialists in the Redinter network, will be available to teach the INTERMAR courses or to give systematic pedagogical support on request to local teachers.

Free download of all materials is available on the project’s website at www.intermar.ax (i.e. this one!). Go to Sections/Materials!

The course modules are the following:

Module Nº of hours Learning modalities
Icebreaker (compulsory) 4 Blended learning
Intercultural Awareness (compulsory) 4 Blended learning
Interproduction (compulsory) 4 Face-to-face
Maritime English 20 Blended learning
Romance Languages 28 Blended learning
Germanic Languages 28 Blended learning
Baltic Languages and Russian 28 Blended learning

 

For the 60 hour- course, institutions will choose the compulsory modules (12 hours) and complete this with two of the other modules, according to the specific needs of their students and of local syllabi.

Progression in IC competences is to be based on the structure of the course.

Students will start with the Icebreaker module, followed by the Intercultural Awareness module. This will enable the development of minimum skills in IC and Intercultural Communication, which will support the Interproduction activities that will immediately follow.

After this first approach to IC, students will take at least one module of a specific language family.

In each module, the scenarios are built in such a way that they facilitate progression in an upward spiral, i.e. each activity is based on the acquisitions that have been previously made. This means that students will always be working in their “zone of proximal development” (cf Vygotsky, 1978, Zaretskii, 2009), actively building their competences with the help of the teacher or of peers. The competences that will be built in the specific language family modules may be re-used in the Maritime English Module. Therefore this module may be taught either simultaneously with the language family module or after it. Whenever students take two modules of linguistic families, synergies should be the result of taking both. In fact, our hypothesis is that IC competences are often based on strategic knowledge and heuristic capacities, and that many interpretive skills learnt within a specific language domain will be transferable to another one.

Assessment tools include Learning Portfolios that will show students’ progress and reflection on metacognitive processes and personal styles and motivations and formative and summative tests to be used in each module. Marking criteria and keys for expected answers are also available.

The learning regime (face-to-face sessions or distance learning) is highly dependent on each institutional context. Most of the partners of the Intermar project have revealed firm positions on face-to-face teaching – in Naval and Maritime Academies, the students have a very strict and demanding syllabus that also includes practical exercises and sports activities. As a result of this tradition, perhaps, many of the staff members from these institutions doubt the efficiency of distance learning and would prefer a more “classical” approach.

However, the course will keep a flexible structure that may facilitate its adaptation to the very different geographical, national, cultural and institutional contexts – most of the scenarios are thus adaptable to both regimes, and autonomous distant learning is possible IF the teacher remains available for tutoring.

The piloting phase and the analysis of its results will allow us to assess the course modules and activities in their present design. The structure that is presented now is hence considered as “work in progress”. The final structure of the course and an outline of expected progress for future courses will definitely be formulated after the end of the piloting phase and presented (on the learning platform and on the website) together with all the course materials.



[1]Maritime Education and Training



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