AWEJ Volume.3 Number.4, 2012                                                                                                 pp. 97 – 112

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The familiar & strange ‘Other’ – A Portfolio Assessment of Intercultural Competence

Abdel Latif Sellami
Qatar Debate Centre,
Doha, Qatar


This study examines the (inter-)cultural experiences of female undergraduates attending a government-funded university in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates. The study examines written narrative data gathered from a sample of female Arabic-speaking students enrolled in the Colloquy Program at Zayed University (ZU). It reports important findings arrived at on the basis of deciphering written portfolios. Here, student written scripts are taken as mirrors of the socio-cultural world which shapes the participants’ cultural awareness (CA) and intercultural competence (IC), in a context of English as a Second Language (ESL). In general, the findings revealed two broad types of feelings vis-à-vis ‘others’ who are sometimes perceived as ‘familiar’ and sometimes as ‘strange’. The findings should be of interest to teachers of English as second/foreign language and to academics studying (inter)cultural issues.

Keywords: ESL, portfolios, intercultural competence, identity, otherness.


Abdel Latif undertook his postgraduate studies in the UK and holds a PhD in Applied
Linguistics. He has extensive experience of teaching EFL, ESL, Linguistics, Discourse Analysis
and Humanities in North Africa, the UK and the Middle East. His research interests include
intercultural competence in ESL/EFL, language and identity, discourse analysis, and debate and
argumentation. Abdel Latif is the author of Introduction to Debating (written in Arabic).