Skip to navigation – Site map

HomeNumérosVol.36 N°2ArticlesRole Play: A Practical Way to Tea...


Role Play: A Practical Way to Teach Intercultural Communication

Le jeu de rôle : une méthode efficace pour enseigner la communication interculturelle
Dana Di Pardo Léon-Henri and Bhawana Jain


In an increasingly global and mobile society, we are faced with greater cultural diversity both in our professional and private lives. As a result of this, more and more emphasis is being placed on the need for intercultural awareness, adaptation and respect for cultural differences. This is reflected in the updated (2013) Higher Education (HE) curriculum for the two-year Business Administration and Management program in France, which now includes an intercultural communicative language teaching strand for Business English (BE) classes. For English language teachers, the real challenge is to find a meaningful and entertaining way to sensitize learners to the complexities of this topic, while assisting them in the development of their professional English and metacognitive skills. This teaching note investigates the implementation and results of pedagogical method which involves a group of first year business students for a professional peer collaborative role-play activity by means of the Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) approach.

Top of page

Full text

Introduction: Scope and Theoretical Foundations

1In recent years, the relationship between language and culture in the L2 classroom has been a topic of contention and debate for different critics from Byram (87-104) to Kramsch (34-101) and Liddicoat (4-11). These researchers believe that language and cultural learning in the language classroom must go far beyond the mere acquisition of facts and information about a foreign country. As a result of their rich socio-cultural backgrounds and previous educational experiences, Dogancay-Aktuna (105) explains that both language teachers and learners bring to the classroom certain norms and expectations concerning appropriate teacher and learner roles and the teaching-learning practices they believe to be conducive to overall language learning in the classroom. In order to prevent frustration and failure due to a disparity between the teachers’ and learners’ expectations, Dogancay-Aktuna (100) insists that teachers (and in particular teacher trainees) need to consider to what extent the underlying principles of their chosen methodology will correspond with the set of assumptions that student learners bring to the classroom.

2While designing courses in the context of English for Specific Purposes (ESP), Fink (6-15) suggests that language teachers must consider an extensive variety of situational factors as well as constraints related to time, for instance. To illustrate this point, teachers can, for example, opt for professional presentations to evaluate students’ oral communication skills. For Fink (42) this type of activity assists students in actively engaging in effective practical thinking which will have extensive value in their personal, social, and work life. It has been shown that oral presentations are an effective and relevant way for students to simulate and improve their specialized workplace vocabulary and skills (Di Pardo Léon-Henri “Breaking the Ice” 352). However, individual presentations may sometimes prove to be rather time consuming when considering the fact that often, teachers are faced with the challenge of managing a large number of students per classroom. Peer-collaborative tasks which integrate language (communication), culture and content as well as significant and relevant learning (cognition) have proven to be a practical solution to this particular problem, as Di Pardo Léon-Henri (“CLIL” 15) has shown. In this way, students are offered a forum (both inside and outside of scheduled class time) to innovate and conceptualize from different perspectives while actively brainstorming and problem solving as a functioning group. This forum corresponds to the Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) setting which is composed of the 4 C’s: communication, culture, content and cognition (Coyle et al. 53-55).

3Since role-play or simulation encourages reflective thinking and creativity (Di Pardo Léon-Henri “Breaking the Ice” 352) students can develop and practice new language and behavioural skills in a relatively nonthreatening setting. According to Jones (4-17), this environment can increase motivation and participation which are necessary for learning to occur. In a similar fashion, Dorathy and Mahalakshmi (3) express that language teaching is not just about teaching languages and culture; it is also about helping students to develop their own personality. In addition, Di-Pardo Léon-Henri (“CLIL” 14-16) shows that, when participating in role-play activities, higher education (HE) students are then offered the opportunity to benefit from the development of their professional skills and identity. Furthermore the development of metacognitive skills is an intrinsic and integral part of the peer-collaborative role-play experience. By means of this innovative and pragmatic approach to language learning and communication, the language teacher breaks with the traditional classroom practises and subsequently empowers the students by encouraging them to actively participate in probing and decision-making. Additionally, if the pedagogical activity is engineered or designed in such a manner, the students can be persuaded to autonomously assume a degree of responsibility. By actively participating in first choosing their topic, the students can then proceed to conceptualize an original idea and construct their dialogue by including key vocabulary terms or expressions while preparing their personalized role-play scenarios.

4In terms of methodology, the role-play activity can encompass various types of communication in the classroom. Mortimer and Scott (395-406) define what they characterise as the four main types of communication, as follows:

- Interactive/Dialogic: Both the teacher and students participate in exploring new ideas, asking and responding to questions, while working on differing viewpoints;
- Non-Interactive/Dialogic: The teacher summarizes various points of view and explores or works on different perspectives;
- Interactive/Authoritative: The teacher focuses on one viewpoint, using a streamlined sequence of questions with the objective of consolidating a specific point of view;
- Non-Interactive/Authoritative: Only the teacher presents a specific point of view and she/he does not interact with the students. Mortimer and Scott (395-406)

5The framework above can assist teachers in achieving pedagogical learning objectives. Each approach corresponds to certain roles and responsibilities associated with differing teacher and student relationships or teaching and learning contracts. There are many advantages associated with lesson planning which liberates students and teachers from the more traditional classroom roles and settings. In general, the addition of creative activities such as role-play which require the active participation of students is a refreshing change for students (and teachers) who welcome the break from the traditional lecture and common teaching techniques. In addition, both students and teachers can benefit from alternating among the afore-mentioned approaches to communication. This type of reciprocal communication in turn supports what Engle and Conant (399-483) designate as a “productive disciplinary engagement” (for an illustration of this concept, refer to Engle and Conant 430) in the classroom. It should be noted that the productivity component does not systematically have to stem from the teaching side of the equation. Students can also thrive in a setting where they are granted the tools, tasks, authorization and freedom to innovate, create and produce. This progressively modern attitude towards language teaching is not only rewarding and interesting for the students, but also refreshingly surprising for teachers, since often times the students engage fully in the activity while showing innovative and ingenious qualities.

6Within the CLIL setting of a Business English context, the principal objective of this study is to understand the implications and outcomes associated with the use of a peer collaborative role-play task in L2 language learning. The research is based on quantitative and qualitative results for this study in which a questionnaire is used to collect students’ responses and feedback. The test group is composed of 85 first year students who are pursuing their diploma in Commercial Management at the Institute of Technology (IUT) of Belfort-Montbéliard in the University of Franche-Comté.

7To foster increased understanding and knowledge of globalised professional settings and, in particular, intercultural business relations, it is increasingly important for language instructors to dedicate part of their language teaching to intercultural awareness. For this reason, the first semester students are taught to explore and learn practical terms and expressions (vocabulary and content) as well as various aspects of cross-cultural communication (verbal and non-verbal) in professional settings. In this way, the students can develop their metacognitive skills while brainstorming, analysing issues and problem solving. Additionally, the students are offered the opportunity to improve their communication skills (speaking, pronunciation, interactivity…) to better prepare for their role-play activity in their groups.

8In this pedagogical method, the chosen role-play activity is divided into three stages: preparation, presentation and feedback. A minimum of 3 classes or four to five class hours is required for this activity. The teacher will require tools such as a video projector and computer with a power-point presentation to describe general information to the students (for examples or illustrations, suitable vocabulary and practical expressions about intercultural communication – see Appendix A). A period of discussion and debate will then ensue.

9Next, the teacher will present the activity and provide the students with the guidelines and details of the role-play (see Appendix B). This activity sheet can be handed out to the class, sent via email or posted to an online platform. To evaluate the students during the presentation of the role-play, the teacher will require the evaluation grid (refer to Appendix C). And finally, after the last role-play presentation, the teacher will distribute the questionnaire (refer to Appendix D). Ideally, the questionnaire should be distributed immediately at the end of the last role-play to avoid the students overlooking important details and the risks associated with memory lapse if, for instance, they are obliged to wait until the next class.

1. Teaching Methodology

10During the first class dedicated to this pedagogical approach, a dialogical teaching method is used to introduce the topic of interculturality in the classroom. Some examples are given to the students to focus their interest on the topic at hand.

11For example, the language instructor may begin with the following questions:

In your opinion, how would you react in the following professional settings?
- You invite a colleague to lunch and you learn that she/he only eats halal foods.
- You call a foreign client and you don’t understand her/his dialect or accent.
- Your new foreign colleague has a habit of dressing very casually and they often arrive quite late for meetings and appointments. This behaviour is drawing the attention of colleagues and it is quickly becoming a problem.
- You are transferred to another office in a foreign country and you are worried about certain stereotypes [you have heard about food and traditions] and a negative image of that culture or that country.

12The situations above encourage the students to imagine how they would react in very different circumstances. In addition, this activity orients the students’ focus toward the importance of thinking about, preparing for and developing intercultural communication skills in different professional settings.

13The students may then be asked about their knowledge on the topic when the teacher initiates a dialogue by asking probing questions such as: What is interculturality? and Why is it so important in today’s professional setting? These questions stimulate an open dialogue and a debate ensues. The objective here is to assist the students in formulating a clear working definition of interculturality with specific examples and illustrations.

14Next the language teacher can take another 20 minutes or so to introduce the different types of barriers in intercultural communication. These barriers include some of the following types of features:
- linguistic (language varieties, dialects, accents),
- cultural (body language, concept of time management, national holidays, special cuisine customs…),
- socialising (formal dress, hospitality, religious obligations and constraints…), and
- ethnic (as well as moral differences).

15Since cultural stereotypes can hinder or damage intercultural communication and relations, the teacher should address how they can sometimes lead to generalisations and narrow-mindedness. This is followed by discussions on various professional situations such as how different cultures manage meetings, conferences or telephone calls and how to deal with visiting foreign companies. Effective intercultural communication practices are then briefly brainstormed and discussed with the students.

16Lastly, the students are given a list of expressions and vocabulary (refer to Appendix A) to review for the next class. These expressions and words can be useful in overcoming barriers associated with intercultural communication in a professional setting.

17To undertake the role-play activity, the presentation of Gibbons’ framework is somewhat modified and then implemented. An advocate for the scaffolding of learning and teaching activities, Gibbons (198-200) proposes five different stages that are associated with oral or written tasks in the CLIL classroom. In addition and to enhance the overall effectiveness of student learning, the Mortimer and Scott (397-398) communicative approach has been incorporated at every stage of the role-play activity.

18The preliminary stages of the activity are based on a combination of both approaches:
- review and orientation,
- setting up the new task,
- brainstorming the task,
- and reflection on the task.

19Then, in order to achieve the CLIL objectives in a more salient manner, the next few stages involve:
- role-play practice,
- performing the role-play task,
- feedback and peer review, and
- evaluation and assessment.

20The data is subsequently organised under different headings based on the questions from the questionnaire, and the statistics are then generated and analysed. A spreadsheet software program is utilized to analyse the survey results. The data analysis in the next section addresses language and content learning outcomes of this activity in the CLIL setting. It also focuses on micro-analysis of the collected data to understand the learning outcomes of the role-play activity so as to ultimately improve teaching pedagogy and learning outcomes.

2. Analysis and Interpretation of Results

21The data collected for this study shows that a large majority of the students agree that this role-play task assists them in learning the English language and improving their knowledge of intercultural communication. The statement “The role-play activity provided me with an opportunity to learn and practice more English” reveals that more than three quarters of the students agree that they learn and practise more English. Another two questions were asked to validate the above statement. These questions are presented in Table 1 (below):

Role-plays motivate me to learn and practice my English


How satisfied were you with the role-play activity?

76% (highly + very satisfied)

Table 1: Motivation and Engagement.

22More than 75% of the students are highly and very satisfied with the role-play and they agree that it encourages them to both learn and practice language skills. These results demonstrate that the role-play activity can be a useful tool in the CLIL classroom. However, the qualitative data suggests that performing this activity within a short time is somewhat challenging for the students. If possible, the students would prefer to have more class time to prepare for it. This is a very common request from students who are obliged to manage a full schedule of classes and projects. Nevertheless, this would defeat one of the underlying objectives of this task: to encourage the students to be more independent, autonomous and engaged in their language learning outside of class time.

23Another important objective of this pedagogy is to focus on various aspects of language learning. To this effect, a question in the form of a statement reveals the following in Table 2 (below).

I feel that the role-play helped me progress in the following areas:

Agreed (strongly + somewhat)

a. Listening comprehension


b. Written expression (dialogue preparation)


c. Pronunciation and public speaking


d. Grammar


e. Vocabulary


Table 2: Language Learning.

24The vast majority of the students concur that they progressed in developing their writing skills while preparing for a task involving dialogue. A similar number of students agree that their listening comprehension, speaking and grammar skills also progressed. However, an analysis of the results shows that with regard to vocabulary development they did not fare as well as in the other areas. The study of the results of this test group shows a 10% difference in terms of writing skills progress as compared to vocabulary learning. The results suggest that the students in this study focussed slightly less on vocabulary and more on speaking and writing skills. It is quite possible that the activity was not as effective for learning vocabulary or simply that the students did not see it as a vocabulary learning activity.

25In the context of CLIL, the combined dual aim of content and language learning creates a unique teaching and learning setting (Marsh, et al. 11-18). For this reason, it is important to perceive and promote the role-play activity as an opportunity to bring both of these goals together. When the students are asked about the content learning component, the results are both very interesting and revealing. These results are presented in Table 3 (below).

This role-play activity helped me learn more about:

Agreed (strongly + somewhat)

a. Intercultural barriers


b. Cultural differences


c. My own culture


d. Other cultures


e. Intercultural Communication


Table 3: Content Learning.

26More than two thirds of the students indicated that they learned about cultural differences, which is very similar to the number of students who responded that they have learnt more about intercultural barriers and communication. A vast majority also agreed that they learned more about other cultures by projecting and imagining various kinds of intercultural and professional situations they might one day encounter.

27Dalton-Puffer (128) observes that role-play has the potential to provide for more natural and genuine communication as the students come into contact with the language as it is used in everyday and professional life. The classroom, therefore, becomes a kind of forum for interaction in the real world, in particular in the case of this study since the L2 is not naturally used outside the classroom. The results clearly show that the students do develop their intercultural awareness; however, there is a striking contrast when it comes to learning more about their own culture (only 45%). Fewer students are able to relate the intercultural aspects of their own culture and surroundings outside the classroom to their classroom learning. Therefore, it would be useful to make this question clearer in order to measure the influence of content instruction on content learning through the medium of L2 language learning.

28With respect to the question of group or peer-collaborative work, a very large number of students express a positive response. More than 80% of the students agree that working in a peer co-operative environment is an effective way to learn English and that it is a source of motivation and satisfaction. The graph in Figure 1 (below) provides the results of the peer collaborative work analysis.

Figure 1: Analysis of Results - Peer Collaborative Work.

29It is important to note that almost 40% of the students in this test group prefer to work alone. The reason for this reluctance to work within a group could be related to many different factors, such as: initial apprehensiveness and shyness or a real need to dominate the situation and keep the upper hand on all decision-making. In any case, this question should also be developed to further probe the logic behind this response.

30Figure 1 above demonstrates that most of the students are eager to collaborate in small groups and they prefer to seize the opportunity to perform learning tasks, share ideas, develop a common understanding and build on each other’s ideas together in the L2. In this way, role-play in the form of peer-collaborative work proves to be a beneficial and appealing activity for language development in the CLIL classroom. Moreover, since 86% of the students agree that they learn about many different issues and solutions related to intercultural barriers, we can conclude that this role-play activity not only enhances their classroom learning and professional interactional competency level, but also their basic knowledge of intercultural barriers in everyday communication.

31With regard to carrying out the task and the preparatory stages leading up to the performance of the role-play, the study has revealed some positive results (see Figure 2 below).

Figure 2: Analysis of Results - Carrying out the Task.

32The initial preparatory phase involves various stages such as brainstorming and conducting online research, and is characterized by the teacher’s role as that of a moderator. More than two thirds of the students agree that they enjoy working on this activity and that it helps them to become more analytical, imaginative and autonomous in terms of their learning strategies. For L2 development, it is necessary to expose the students to a challenging situation so that they can broaden their language and communication skills. As Ortega (63) states, “optimal L2 learning must include opportunities for language use that is slightly beyond what the learner currently can handle in speaking”. The initial stages provide the students with such an opportunity. A large majority of the students concur that creating a scenario with their group is very challenging for them.

33Given that the students have easy access to English through Internet research, CDs, etc., and that they also have knowledge of web surfing, the students are invited to take advantage of information technology (IT) and resources to discover more about intercultural situations. However, the study reveals that most students chose not to use these resources. In addition, only 35% of the students rehearsed their scenario more than three times before the final oral presentation. This unique opportunity for preparation plays an important role in language development and builds a solid foundation for their role-play activity, particularly when the students are in an autonomous working environment. Nevertheless, the reason for less rehearsal time on the part of the students involved in this study may be due to the timing: early on in the first semester when the students are just discovering and settling into a new, different and challenging academic routine.

34Despite the lack of rehearsal for the ultimate task, the students do manage to work together and communicate with the teacher to discuss and negotiate the topic. In addition, they use their metacognitive and problem-solving skills to spontaneously converse with the teacher in L2 as the results in Figure 3 (see below) demonstrate:

Figure 3: Analysis of Results - Metacognitive Skills Development.

35Nearly 80% of the students agreed that this activity helped them to develop their imagination. 72% of the students agreed that it helped them develop their judging skills. The students were able to build a bridge between their understanding of intercultural communication and their academic formulation of the topic (as argued by Gibbons).

36Yet in Figure 3 (above), we also notice that only 67% of the students express that this activity assisted in the development of their spontaneous reasoning skills. This is the lowest of all the results. The reason for this could be related to the fact that this assignment demands an enormous cognitive investment and effort on behalf of the students, in terms of both content and language. Perhaps the teacher may implement a scaffolding approach to assist the students with the production of longer dialogue, with more complex vocabulary, more focus on formal and professional English articulation and the sharing of ideas within the shelter of small groups and security of the classroom environment. The interactive/dialogic communicative approach may prove to be useful in this case.

37Since the students’ presentations are the result of the various stages of preparation leading up to the final task, they are encouraged to develop their academic knowledge on the topic as well as their everyday English language communication skills while progressing from one stage to the next. On the one hand, some groups make use of the limited language resources and content that are made available in the classroom. On the other hand, some other groups strive to broaden their English language knowledge and proficiency by incorporating professional issues related to and topics adopted from disciplines such as economics, commerce and law. It is very important that this extra effort should be reflected in the content section of the evaluation grid and rewarded in the form of bonus points.

38In terms of meta-cognitive skills development, the students fully adopt and support the idea that role-plays can be a practical means of learning more about intercultural communication. These results are presented in Table 4 (below).

I believe that role-playing and observing professional scenarios/role-plays is

Agreed (strongly + somewhat)

Very practical


Useful for me to build my self-confidence


I believe that role-playing and observing professional scenarios/role-plays is

Agreed (strongly + somewhat)

Very practical


Useful for me to build my self-confidence


Table 4: Role-Play or Simulation: A Practical Method.

39A large majority (82%) of students agree that this activity and the observation of the other students’ role-plays was very practical in terms of language acquisition and content learning. Similarly, 87% of students found this activity helped them in confidence building since they were required to face the challenge associated with public speaking. Moreover, the questionnaire results show that the majority of students also indicated that, ‘learning by doing’ is the best method for language learning.

40The qualitative and quantitative results illustrate that this role-play activity is a useful and practical way to learn, practice and develop language learning, metacognitive skills and more. In this way, this pedagogical approach respects the CLIL analytical framework and assists learners in acquiring and developing “language of learning” (language used to express key aspects of the content); “language for learning” (language needed to participate in tasks), and “language through learning” (when students are being encouraged to reflect on and express meaning related to content). These forms of learning are the foundations of the Language Triptych, as explained by Coyle et al. (36-38). At the same time, this is only true to a limited extent because some students lack the linguistic knowledge and perhaps the complex grammatical foundations or vocabulary resources in the L2.

41It is worth mentioning that the focus of the CLIL approach is to foster fluency and improve communication skills rather than concentrate on grammatical accuracy as stated in Coyle (10-11). The self-confidence factor is extremely important for the risk-taking and success of students, who can suffer from an inferiority complex and a feeling of desolation if they are confronted with a multitude of their own grammatical errors. The negative implications can be detrimental to their motivation level. Language students can thrive in the classroom where the teacher chooses to simply remove the pressure of being grammatically perfect. There is a time and place for grammar, and, as this study shows, by integrating dynamic activities which focus on communication skills, the students can build their self-confidence level in a positive way. Therefore, lesson planning requires the scaffolding of active involvement on the part of the teacher, as well as the learners and their peers, to accomplish the CLIL language and content learning objectives.

3. Observations

42Since each group was given the freedom to create its own scenario, the group members created and presented very differing and sometimes entertaining intercultural situations with many issues and creative ideas for solutions. A few groups made use of humour while others chose to function in a more serious vein. In this section, the presentations of two groups are examined to clearly illustrate the end result of this pedagogical approach.

43For instance, one group of students decided to demonstrate Eastern/Western cultural barriers in a professional setting. To give the role-play some verisimilitude, this group of students chose to portray two different company cultures with a few employees from an Asian firm and a few employees from a French company. Students with Asian and Arabic origins constituted the Asian firm while the other students represented the French company. The intercultural barrier they chose to highlight was the total chaos which can ensue when cultural differences impede upon communication during an important first encounter meeting (issues related to punctuality, greeting colleagues, starting a meeting, addressing colleagues by their first names, inappropriately joking around, managing a meeting and more specifically maintaining and redirecting the colleagues’ attention during the meeting…). These cultural differences became the source of frustration for certain colleagues, who felt they were wasting their time, and the resulting communication barriers developed into a real dilemma during the meeting. However, a few of the employees from both companies used the appropriate communication forms (vocabulary and expressions in Appendix A) to cunningly save the situation while adapting to and working out the different issues at stake.

44In a second example, another group of students focused on a negotiation scenario in a foreign country. The various cultural barriers they presented led to different professional issues and confrontations. During this role-play, they used several props and costumes, as well as projected slides to create a foreign ambience in the classroom. At the Semester 1 entry level, these students had not yet studied negotiation techniques in the language class; however, they had learnt about some of the techniques in their other courses. This particular role-play was quite interesting since the students chose to bring “new information” to the classroom and share a scenario that would help their fellow classmates to reflect on the situation and further develop their communication skills in this area. The audience appeared to appreciate this initiative. This group’s openness to explore a new culture and experiment with new vocabulary was a welcome surprise. They later explained that sharing their desire to travel the world was the starting point in their ambition to pursue an international career. They were able to illustrate their own weaknesses and strengths as international marketing professionals, while learning more about their career choice. As illustrated in this example, the role-play activity clearly cultivates a setting for creativity, innovation, self-projection and professional identity development with language learning.

Concluding Remarks

45The results of this action research study have shown that a role-play or simulation activity combined with peer collaboration and an intercultural dimension can prove to be an effective approach to language learning in the CLIL setting. The vast majority of the students are of the opinion that the activity provides them with an opportunity to learn and develop their language skills in a creative setting. Even if the language teacher occasionally adopts the role of facilitator or moderator, the students at this level are active learners who are prepared and willing to assume the responsibilities associated with innovation and decision-making. In addition, they indicate that this method, which breaks with the traditional classroom environments, aims at providing them with a motivating as well as interesting forum which blends communication, culture, content and cognition to learn professional and practical learning outcomes. While actively engaging in the activity, they acknowledged that intercultural communication could be a very challenging issue in the professional setting. This learning-by-doing activity provided the students with the freedom to actively imagine, create, and then analyse priorities and to negotiate their outcomes. Although they did convey the need for more preparation time, which is a very common request from students at the HE level, the students expressed that this activity is not only a valuable way to teach intercultural communication but also a very pragmatic means of encouraging them in the development of their meta-cognitive skills.

Top of page


Byram, Michael. “Teaching and Assessing Intercultural Communicative Competence.” Multilingual Matters: Clevedon, 1997, pp. 87-104.

Coyle, Do. “Content and Language Integrated Learning: Motivating Learners and Teachers.” Scottish Languages Review, vol. 13, 2006, pp. 1-18.

Coyle, Do, et al. CLIL: Content and Language Integrated Learning. Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Dalton-Puffer, Christiane. Discourse in Context and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) Classrooms. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2007.

Di Pardo Léon-Henri, Dana. “Breaking the Ice with Business English”. The Journal of Teaching English for Specific and Academic Purposes, vol. 2, n°3, Special Issue, 2014, pp. 345-358.

Di Pardo Léon-Henri, Dana. “CLIL in the Business English Classroom: From Language Learning to the Development of Professional Communication and Metacognitive Skills”. ELTWorldOnline, Special Issue, 2015, pp. 1-26.

Dogancay-Aktuna, Seran. “Intercultural communication in English language teacher education”. ELT Journal, vol. 59, no 2, 2005, pp. 99-107.

Dorathy, Anne, and S. N. Mahalakshmi. “Second Language Acquisition through Task-based Approach – Role-play in English Language Teaching”. English for Specific Purposes World, vol. 33, no 11, 2011, pp.  1-7.

Engle, Randi A., and Faith C., Conant. Guiding principles for Fostering Productive Disciplinary Engagement: Explaining an Emergent Argument in a Community of Learners’ Classroom.” Cognition and Instruction, vol. 20, no 4, 2002, pp. 399-483.

Fink, L. Dee. Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses. Jossey-Bass, 2003.

Gibbons, Pauline. Bridging Discourses in the ESL Classroom: Students, Teachers and Researchers. Continuum, 2006.

Jones, Ken. Simulations in Language Teaching. Cambridge University. Press, 1982.

Kramsch, Claire. Context and Culture in Language Education. Oxford University Press, 1993.

Liddicoat, Anthony J. “Static and dynamic views of culture and intercultural language acquisition”. Babel, vol. 36, no 3, 2002, pp. 4-11.

Marsh, David. Content and integrated language learning (CLIL): A development trajectory. Servicio de Publicaciones de la Universidad de Córdoba, 2012.

Marsh, David, et al. The European framework for CLIL teacher education. Graz: European Centre for Modern Languages, Council of Europe, 2010.

Mortimer, Eduardo, and Philip Scott. Meaning Making in Secondary Science Classrooms. Open University Press, 2003.

Ortega, Lourdes. Understanding Second Language Acquisition. Hodder Education, 2009.

Utley, Derek. Intercultural Resource Pack 5. Intercultural Communication Resources for Language Teachers. Cambridge University Press, 2004

Top of page


Appendix A: Handout - List of expressions and vocabulary, adapted from Utley (pp. 10-11)

Useful phrases and words for discussion

Phrases that depict intercultural problems:
- There is a misunderstanding about….
- It is strange to see….
- I’m shocked to find…
- This behaviour is offensive ….
- This was disrespectful….
- I find it amusing to…
Useful expressions in overcoming intercultural barriers:
- Learning by making mistakes: ‘Oh! That was a disaster. I will try not to repeat the mistake.’
Recognise cultural differences: ‘I recognise that there are national and cultural differences. I will be more careful ….’
Recognise dangers before hand: ‘This could pose problem…’
Apologize when wrong: ‘I’m sorry but…,’ ‘I’m afraid….’
Becoming enthusiastic for new culture: ‘What potential!’, ‘It is exciting and very interesting to discover…’‘There is a lot to explore when…’
Learning about new culture: ‘It isn’t that strange …’
Taking initiative to overcome intercultural barriers: ‘I’m sure that this will work.’
Being tolerant to cultural differences: ‘I see and understand why they acted like that…’; ‘There will be a reason for this behaviour…’

Appendix B: Assignment - Oral Presentation Task

Role-Play Activity: Overcoming Intercultural Barriers in Communication, adapted from Di Pardo Léon-Henri (2014)

This role-play activity is on the topic of interculturality and various communication barriers relating to cultural differences, stereotypes, gender differences… Each group will create a unique scenario which involves intercultural communication barriers in a professional setting (between employees, clients and/or customers, suppliers, administration…). During the role-play, the audience (your teacher and classmates) will be witness to the intercultural barriers within your group as well as the negotiations and group effort to find solutions to these issues.
For example, you may consider the following scenes: talking to a foreign client on the telephone; inviting a foreign colleague for lunch/dinner at your home or to a restaurant, talking with colleagues from diverse backgrounds during a coffee-break, explaining the importance of punctuality and professionalism…
1. You will be free to choose your group members (no more than four people per group). The role-play will last 15-20 minutes maximum per group and all the group members must have equal communication time. You will be noted on your performance and on an individual basis (not as a group)
2. The role-play must clearly illustrate various solutions to overcoming the barrier(s). You must also use the previously learnt vocabulary. An emphasis will be put on communication skills learnt earlier during the semester such
as: greeting one another, introducing each other, asking and answering relevant questions during conversation, non-verbal communication…
3. You should integrate a dimension of climax (suspense, humour, satire…) by first illustrating a failing or problematic situation and then finally finish with a very successful solution to the intercultural communication barrier(s).
4. Each role-play will be marked on the basis of the following:
a. Performance b. Content c. Language d. Staging
5. The use of props (costumes, communication equipment, food or drink, etc.) and audio-visual equipment is encouraged. However, it is your responsibility to furnish these items.
6. There will be no use of notes or paper during the role-play presentation; otherwise, you will be penalized.

Appendix C: Oral Presentation Evaluation Grid

Role-play Evaluation Grid, adapted from Di Pardo Léon-Henri (2014)
Total: 20 Points

Appendix D: TC Intercultural Role-Play Questionnaire, adapted from Di Pardo Léon-Henri (2014)

The aim of this questionnaire (adapted from Di Pardo Léon-Henri) is to better understand your satisfaction with the role-play activity. Your responses and feedback will be used to improve the activity. It will take you 5 minutes to fill out this questionnaire. Thank you for your participation!

To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following? (Circle only one answer per question)
1= strongly agree ; 2=somewhat agree ; 3=indifferent ; 4=somewhat disagree ; 5= strongly disagree
1. The role-play activity provided me with an opportunity to learn and practice more English.

2. I learned the most English when my group and I:
- were learning vocabulary in class before the role-play
- worked on and wrote the dialogue for the role-play
- were doing online/library research to prepare the role-play
- performed the role-play
- watched the other groups perform their role-plays
- always worked as a group on the role-play
3. With regards to rehearsal, my group and I rehearsed our scenario:
1- four to five times ; 2=three to four times ; 3=two to three times ; 4=one to two times ; 5= not at all
4. The role-plays presented different problems and many solutions to intercultural barriers.
1= a substantial amount ; 2=many ; 3=indifferent ; 4=very few ; 5= nothing new.
5. How would you rate these tasks during the activity?
1=highly challenging ; 2=very challenging ; 3=indifferent ; 4=somewhat easy5=very easy
- Creating a scenario with my group
- Writing and learning the dialogue
- Integrating an intercultural barrier and solution
- Peer-review and assessment of another group
6. I feel that the role-play helped me progress in the following areas:
1= strongly agree ; 2=somewhat agree ; 3=indifferent ; 4=somewhat disagree ; 5= strongly
a. Listening comprehension
b. Written expression (dialogue preparation)
c. Pronunciation and public speaking
d. Grammar e. Vocabulary
7. This role-play activity helped me learn more about:
1= strongly agree ; 2=somewhat agree ; 3=indifferent ; 4=somewhat disagree ; 5= strongly
a. Intercultural barriers
b. Cultural differences
c. My own culture
d. Other cultures
e. Intercultural Communication
8. I believe that role-playing and observing professional scenarios/role-plays is
Authentic 1 2 3 4 5
Motivating 1 2 3 4 5
Very practical 1 2 3 4 5
Useful for me to build my self-confidence 1 2 3 4 5
A good way to learn and practice Business English 1 2 3 4 5
9. Th
is activity helped me to become more analytical, imaginative and autonomous in language learning.
1 2 3 4 5
Working in groups (peer cooperative work) is a very effective way to learn language.
1 2 3 4 5
11. I
enjoyed working on this role-play activity with my group.
1 2 3 4 5
For oral presentations, I generally prefer to work alone. 1 2 3 4 5
13. Th
is activity encourages creativity and critical thinking through the use of improvisation. 1 2 3 4 5
14. Th
is activity was helpful in developing my metacognitive (learning to learn) and problem- solving skills.
Judging 1 2 3 4 5
Reasoning 1 2 3 4 5
Imagining 1 2 3 4 5
Role-plays motivate me to learn and practice my English. 1 2 3 4 5
16. In my opinion, the role-play activity was:
1=highly useful ; 2=very useful ; 3=indifferent ; 4=somewhat useful ; 5=not useful
17. I felt that my group and I were:
1=highly prepared ; 2=very prepared ; 3=indifferent ; 4=somewhat prepared ; 5=not prepared at al
18. How satisfied were you with the role-play activity?
1=highly satisfied ; 2=very satisfied ; 3=indifferent ; 4=somewhat satisfied ; 5=unsatisfied
19. The instructions for this role-play were clearly explained from the start.
1= strongly agree ; 2=somewhat agree ; 3=indifferent ; 4=somewhat disagree ; 5= strongly disagree
20. The peer review and feedback were:

1=highly useful ; 2=very useful ; 3=indifferent ; 4=somewhat useful ; 5=not useful
21. In your opinion, is ‘learning by doing’ the best method for language learning?
1= strongly agree ; 2=somewhat agree ; 3=indifferent ; 4=somewhat disagree ; 5= strongly disagree
22. Your feedback: provide your opinions below. How can we improve this role-play activity?

23. Can you suggest other activities that can be used in this course along with role-play?

24. Personal information: Gender M F

Thank you very much for your participation!

Top of page

List of illustrations

Caption Figure 1: Analysis of Results - Peer Collaborative Work.
File image/png, 43k
Caption Figure 2: Analysis of Results - Carrying out the Task.
File image/png, 43k
Caption Figure 3: Analysis of Results - Metacognitive Skills Development.
File image/png, 30k
File image/png, 113k
Top of page


Electronic reference

Dana Di Pardo Léon-Henri and Bhawana Jain, Role Play: A Practical Way to Teach Intercultural CommunicationRecherche et pratiques pédagogiques en langues [Online], Vol.36 N°2 | 2017, Online since 17 January 2018, connection on 20 July 2024. URL:; DOI:

Top of page

About the authors

Dana Di Pardo Léon-Henri

Dana Di Pardo Léon-Henri est maître de conférences en anglais à l’université de Franche-Comté où elle enseigne l’anglais (Lansad). Ses recherches portent sur la didactique des langues et l’évaluation diagnostique des compétences linguistiques. Elle fait partie de l’équipe de recherche ELLIADD (EA 4661 - Contextes Langages Didactiques).

Bhawana Jain

Bhawana Jain est attachée temporaire d'enseignement et de recherche (ATER) à l’université de Paris 1 –Panthéon Sorbonne.

Top of page


The text and other elements (illustrations, imported files) are “All rights reserved”, unless otherwise stated.

Top of page
Search OpenEdition Search

You will be redirected to OpenEdition Search