A Critical Auto/Ethnography of Learning Spanish: Intercultural competence on the gringo trail?, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

A Critical Auto/Ethnography of Learning Spanish

Intercultural competence on the gringo trail?, 1st Edition

By Phiona Stanley


182 pages | 10 B/W Illus.

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The premise that intercultural contact produces intercultural competence underpins much rationalization of backpacker tourism and in-country language education. However, if insufficiently problematized, pre-existing constructions of cultural 'otherness' may hinder intercultural competence development. This is nowhere truer than in contexts in which wide disparities of power, wealth, and privilege exist, and where such positionings may go unproblematized. This study contributes to theoretical understandings of how intercultural competence develops through intercultural contact situations through a detailed, multiple case study of three conceptually comparable contexts in which Western backpackers study Spanish in Latin America. This experience, often 'bundled' with home-stay, volunteer work, social, and tourist experiences, offers a rich set of empirical data within which to understand the nature of intercultural competence and the processes through which it may be developed. Models of a single, context-free, transferable intercultural competence are rejected. Instead, suggestions are made as to how educators might help prepare intercultural sojourners by scaffolding their intercultural reflections and problematizing their own intersectional identities and their assumptions. The study is a critical ethnography with elements of autoethnographic reflection. The book therefore also contributes to development of this qualitative research methodology and provides an empirical example of its application.


"A must have resource for anyone contemplating an edutourism experience with Spanish" - Barbara J. Merino, Professor, University of California, Davis

"This book brings fresh insights to our understanding of intercultural competence as a key aspect of language learning in a globalised world. Inspired by Stanley’s own experience as a backpacker learning Spanish in Latin America, and drawing on contemporary narratives of everyday people involved in language learning and teaching, it illuminates the field through a unique combination of critical ethnography and autoethnography. Stanley’s sharp eye for detail, and her rich theoretical analysis, make this volume a must for any language studies scholar interested in new ways of approaching intercultural connection and competence." - Roslyn Appleby, Senior Lecturer, University of Technology, Sydney

Table of Contents

1. Becoming Interculturally Competent in ‘Spanishtown’?

2. Theorizing Intercultural Competence

3. Research Processes and Intrigues

4. Learning Spanish in Latin America

5. Discourses of Others: Talking about ‘Them’ and ‘Us’

6. Learning From and Negotiating with Cultural ‘Others’

7. Voluntourism: Practicing on the Community?

8. Findings: Doing and Developing Intercultural Competence

9. Revisiting Methodology

10. Suggestions and Teaching Activities

About the Author

Phiona Stanley is a Senior Lecturer in Education at the University of New South Wales in Australia. Her research is primarily about intercultural identity constructions in international education. She has written about Western teachers in China, English language schools in Australia, qualitative research methods, and the lived experience of doing a PhD. She is now researching ‘language grading’, in which native English speakers attempt to make their own English more internationally intelligible. Dr Stanley's professional background is in English language education and she has worked in Peru, Poland, the UK, China, Australia, and Qatar.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
EDUCATION / Adult & Continuing Education
EDUCATION / Bilingual Education
EDUCATION / Research
LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Linguistics / General