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Book review

Intercultural Twinnings. A Commitment for a Pluralistic Society

Edited by Nicole Carignan, Suzanne Springer, Myra Deraîche, and Marie-Cécile Guillot, 2022
Laura Rampazzo
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Intercultural Twinnings. A Commitment for a Pluralistic Society, edited by Nicole Carignan, Suzanne Springer, Myra Deraîche, and Marie-Cécile Guillot, 2022, xxviii, 328 pp.; $60, $198 (Ppb, Hdbk & e-book), ISBN (Ppb): 978-90-04-52452-1.

Texte intégral

1Intercultural Twinnings. A Commitment for a Pluralistic Society provides an interdisciplinary and thorough approach to intercultural communication in contexts in which people from different cultural backgrounds, ethnicities, languages, and religions coexist. The book, edited by Nicole Carignan, Suzanne Springer, Myra Deraîche, and Marie-Cécile Guillot presents a sequence of sixteen chapters divided into two integrative parts: the first, with seven chapters, focusing on the theoretical aspects of intercultural twinnings, and the second, with nine chapters, providing examples and discussions of the twinnings put into practice. The volume introduces us to the theoretical underpinnings of twinnings, making the case for incorporating the approach to the initiatives that attempt to integrate minorities into the mainstream society, while the members of the ingroup also learn to engage with and appreciate the Others.

2The book is the second of a series - the first one was published in French (Carignan et al.) - and resonates with the idea presented by the editors that in evolving and ever-changing pluralistic societies, the call for integration is urgent, despite very complex. As a way of tackling the issue, they argue for intercultural twinnings, an initiative that refers to the direct contact between people from diverse backgrounds, ethnicities, languages, and religions, and leads to a sense of engagement and shared responsibility toward pluralistic living. The first intercultural twinnings date to the beginning of the 2000s when professors at the Université du Québec à Montréal noticed that immigrants who had to learn French had little opportunity to talk to locals, who were also deprived of having the chance of developing their intercultural and communication skills with immigrants.

3Chapter 1, authored by the editors, provides a comprehensive explanation of the twinnings as well as a clarification of the choice of the term, which comes from the equivalent in French (jumelages interculturels), and is linked to the fact that participants themselves, who are mostly paired up in dyads, refer to themselves as twins, emphasizing that the relationships established by them are of equal status, even though they are unique on their own. Following Allport's contact hypothesis, intercultural twinnings should observe three conditions: 1) participants are considered to be on an equal footing; 2) they engage in collaborative work to achieve a common goal; 3) they are expected to receive institutional support.

4In regard to the substance of the chapters, chapter 2 is a robust paper, which presents key theoretical foundations for intercultural twinnings, focusing on the ethnolinguistic vitality framework (Giles et al.) and the Interactive Acculturation Model (Bourhis), in addition to discussing how prejudice and discrimination undermine many intercultural encounters. The following chapter, 3, investigates how intercultural twinnings are effective and the characteristics of such a setting in comparison with instructed learning and naturalistic contexts. Chapter 4 explores issues of culture and related concepts in intercultural communication for language teaching and learning as authors posit that twinnings may encourage students to discuss their personal experiences with essentializing discourses and give them a chance to challenge stereotypes. Also focusing on language learning, the authors of chapter 5 argue that twinnings may foster "inter and transcultural development" (p. 81) as ways to overcome a language education that is often limited to the discussion of superficial elements of culture. The authors present the concepts of interculture and transculture (Lussier) and state that virtual twinnings may be an alternative to face-to-face encounters, besides introducing the phases of intercultural twinnings: preparation phase; the encounter itself; and the phase of reflection.

5In a similar vein to chapters 4 and 5, chapter 6 addresses intercultural twinnings from the perspective of teaching and learning a second language. The authors discuss how most intercultural practices are often connected to language courses as a result of the need that learners have to communicate in the target language outside the classroom. Chapter 6 also places twinnings as a task-based approach (Ellis), offering a discussion on how they "may either be potentially rich tasks or rich contexts giving rise to tasks in the language class" (p. 110) and are highly context-based, i.e., its aspects and organization vary according to the characteristics of the context. Finally, chapter 7 closes the first part of the book by exploring the issues surrounding accented speech in the workplace and presenting intercultural twinnings projects as a form of improving the understanding of second language accented speech by native speaker employees and increasing their confidence in communicating with second language speakers.

6In the second part of the book, the chapters are successful in presenting a clear and careful explanation of what it takes to put twinnings into practice in whichever format they occur, face-to-face or virtually. These chapters may inspire readers to think of their own projects and of elements that could be adapted to their reality, given that twinnings are highly contact-based approaches. Chapter 8 opens the second part of the book by exploring the application of an intercultural twinning project between intercultural communication students and immigrant learners of French that aimed at promoting awareness of diversity in urban cityscapes. Presenting a slightly different context, chapter 9 focuses on a two-year innovative exchange program based on the shared schooling of high school students from the French and English educational sectors of Quebec and discusses three types of student profiles and their relation to intergroup contact theory.

7Chapters 10, 11, and 12 report on twinnings that occur in the online setting. Specifically, chapter 10 describes an online exchange project and students' changes in perception and attitude towards the target language and country, while chapters 11 and 12 discuss Virtual Team Teaching - a twinning that connects classroom microclimates via online communication tools. Chapter 13 evaluates the collaboration of two courses in promoting twinnings, one in intercultural education and another in writing argumentative essays in French, and sustains that a successful twinning activity relies on three words: reciprocity, cooperation, and equality. Chapter 14 brings back the discussion on how the Intercultural Acculturation Model works as the basis for twinnings and presents the perspective of future teachers who participated in the projects and overcame negative prejudices they had. Likewise, chapter 15 discusses how participants acquired new skills and the authors present an intercultural twinnings project that connected graduate students and employees and clients/students from a service provider company. The last chapter of the book, 16, proposes that twinnings do not have to be restricted to dyads, but can also encompass group formations. The authors describe a small group intercultural twinning project that mixed francophone social work students with French as a second language students.

8Regarding the authorship of the chapters, it should be noted that contributors are affiliated with a diversity of fields of interest, which translates into a book that "encourages overlapping research that crosses and integrates the domains, disciplines, subjects, and themes of cultural pluralism, democracy, and social justice" (p. 6) and is, therefore, interdisciplinary by its very nature. Equally, the twinnings presented by the different authors have been implemented with learners from a variety of university disciplines, learning settings, locations, and modalities (face-to-face and virtual), which evidences how such an approach may be of interest to teachers, researchers, and practitioners from multiple areas.

9However, while intercultural twinnings are presented throughout the book as an approach that appeals to different areas, it is not until Azémar's Afterword that the idea that "they should not be limited to the context of immigration" (p. 322) is put forward. It is true that the attentive reader who lives in areas where the presence of immigrants is not so evident may have realized that twinnings could be applied to their context as well - the presentation of the projects is indeed detailed throughout the chapters. Still, most of the initiatives described are in the context of Québécois intercultural relations established between Canadians and immigrants. Nevertheless, much of the theoretical foundation of the twinnings relates to other initiatives that promote intercultural contact, such as tandem (Brammerts), which also stands on the principle of reciprocity (participants are on equal footing), and teletandem (Telles & Vassallo), which, as twinnings, involves a preparation phase and a reflection one, while connecting learners so that they share their languages and cultures.

10It bears noting that the lay reader may want to approach the book in the linear sequence thought by the editors since not every chapter presents a definition of the concept of intercultural twinnings. On the one hand, the sequence thought by the editors guides readers in delving into the concepts, exploring the foundations for structuring and promoting twinnings, and offering a clear and convincing picture of the reasoning behind them as well as their benefits. On the other hand, the chapters could benefit from a more detailed expounding of the notion, allowing newcomer readers to read the chapters independently. Even so, the theoretical part of the book seems to be of potential interest not only to people who want to promote intercultural twinnings but also to those who want to learn more about concepts related to culture and intercultural contact in a didactic and reader-friendly manner.

11An additional observation is that the authors do not deviate from pointing out that the proposal of twinnings does not come without challenges (Chapters 6, 9, 16), which need to be critically addressed by those promoting it. Accordingly, the book ends with an Afterword by Azémar, who offers a critical glance at twinnings and argues that the approach may not be sufficient to take into account the power distribution between different social groups and may, in some cases, even contribute to widening the gap between ingroups and outgroups. Nevertheless, the closing of the book provides a realistic and critical perspective of twinnings.

12In conclusion, the book is an invaluable resource to those interested in intercultural communication, be they teachers, researchers, practitioners, students, policymakers, twins (participants in the project), or people living in intercultural settings. It covers important concepts related to intercultural contact and provides an application of such theories in a myriad of interdisciplinary examples. Additionally, the reading flows easily and the audience will quickly adapt to the book style as chapters follow the same structural pattern. Even those readers who live in less heterogeneous scenarios may benefit from and feel encouraged by the reading to promote virtual or face-to-face twinnings in their contexts. After all, we are all living in an increasingly intertwined and globalized world.

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Allport, Gordon W. (1954). The nature of prejudice. Addison-Wesley, 1954.

Bourhis, Richard Y. « Interactive theory of acculturation ». In Kim, Young Yun, (Ed.), The international encyclopedia of intercultural communication, Vol. 2, Wiley & Sons, 2018, pp. 942-950.

Brammerts, Helmut. « Tandem language learning via the internet and the International e-mail tandem network ». In Little, David, et Brammerts, Helmut (Eds.), A Guide to Language Learning in Tandem via the Internet. CLCS Occasional Paper, Trinity College, 1996, pp. 9-21.

Carignan, Nicole, et al. (Eds.). Jumelages interculturels: Communication, inclusion et intégration. Presses de l'Université du Québec, 2015.

Ellis, Rod. Task-based language learning and teaching. Oxford University Press, 2003.

Giles, Howard, et al. « Towards a theory of language in ethnic group relations ». In Giles, Howard (Ed.), Language, ethnicity and intergroup relations. Academic Press, 1977, pp. 307-348.

Lussier, Denise. « Theoretical bases of a conceptual framework of reference to intercultural communicative competence ». Journal of Applied Linguistics, vol. 4, n°3, 2007, pp.309-332.

Telles, João A., et Vassallo, Maria Luisa. « Foreign language learning in-tandem: Teletandem as an alternative proposal in CALLT ». The ESPecialist, vol. 27, n°1, 2006, pp. 189-212.

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Laura Rampazzo, « Intercultural Twinnings. A Commitment for a Pluralistic Society »Recherche et pratiques pédagogiques en langues [En ligne], Vol. 42 N°1 | 2023, mis en ligne le 04 avril 2023, consulté le 26 février 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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Laura Rampazzo

Laura Rampazzo holds a Doctorate (2021) and Master's (2017) degree in Linguistic Studies. She has a teaching degree in Languages (Portuguese and English) from São Paulo State University (2014). She currently works at the Federal Institute of São Paulo (2017-Present), where she has been teaching Portuguese and English at Secondary, Technician, and Higher Education levels, coordinating projects and supervising undergraduate research. She is committed to creating opportunities for students to engage in intercultural contact and designing and running virtual exchange projects, mostly in the Teletandem model. Her research interests include language teaching, virtual exchange/telecollaboration, genres, and communities.

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