Towards a Symbolic and Ecological Turn in Language Education – A Didactic Multilingual Poetic Experiment

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Today’s increasingly multilingual and multicultural classrooms present novel demands, challenges, and opportunities for foreign language teachers, educators, and learners due to their diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds, and personal interests. In response to these dynamics, language pedagogy in Western education has undergone significant evolution in recent decades, transitioning from a communicative approach (Halliday, 1975; Ellis, 1982) to an intercultural approach (Byram, 1997), and further embracing a multicultural turn (Conteh & Meier, 2014), before gravitating towards a symbolic (Kramsch, 2006; 2011) or rather an ecological turn (Kramsch & Whiteside, 2008; Kramsch & Steffensen, 2008; Vovou, 2019).

This chapter explores the didactic and pedagogical possibilities of the latter, the symbolic and ecological framework, by conducting an action scenario involving two groups of 8th-grade students in a Danish classroom context. The primary objective is to foster students’ symbolic competence, a term defined by Kramsch as the ability to manipulate language, or rather discourse, as symbolic system (Kramsch, 2011). The focus centers on students’ linguistic interactions with and creations of multilingual poetry, a genre that intertwines diverse languages and linguistic codes, entailing a cross-cultural effect and serving a symbolic, aesthetic and ethical function. This genre not only transcends the confines of specific language boundaries but also challenges the limitations of monolingual readings of texts and narrow understandings of the world (Jacobsen, 2018; 2021). Through this didactic experiment, we contribute empirical evidence of young students’ manifestations of their symbolic competence, while underscoring the imperative for further advancements in this field within the Danish school system.
TitelAction Scenarios in Intercultural Pedagogy and Education : Perspectives from Northern European Multicultural Societies
RedaktørerBjørn Ribers, Vibeke Christensen, Søren Sindberg Jensen
StatusUnder udarbejdelse - 2024
NavnRoutledge Research In Education


  • Læring, pædagogik og undervisning
  • flersprogethed
  • language education
  • symbolic competence
  • multilingual poetry
  • action scenarios