Ciencias de la Educación

9 de diciembre de 2022

EFL Decolonized Materials Otherwise in Fostering Critical Intercultural Awareness in Pre-Service Cabin Crew

Viviana Lizeth Velasquez Almanza

            When working in the airline industry, crew members, especially flight attendants, need to develop several skills to deal with issues related to passengers’ needs and airline services. One of these abilities has to do with the cultural communicative competence that flight attendants should develop to understand people’s cultural and social diversity when helping passengers all over the world. In addition, they need to learn the official language in Aviation, English, as the communicative vehicle to be able to interact efficiently with airlines’ users.

            In this order of ideas, the English language and culture are essential components when becoming flight attendants to perform an efficient role. On one hand, English language for flight attendants represents the basis of communication since it is the most common language used to stablish any conversation, in-flight or at the airport between the crew and passengers. As Dhanasmithivesn (2007) argued, “it is important that the flight attendants’ English language skills are at sufficiently high levels to insure professional, polite and respectful communication” (p. 4). Since all the information that flight attendants manage is entirely conducted in English such as in-flight announcements, initial and final briefings, emergency procedures, service on board, etc., it is necessary for them to develop English language skills to have a real interaction and effective communication with coworkers and passengers.

On the other hand, when flight attendants are learning English need not only to enhance language skills, but also to foster their cultural communicative competence and, even further, to raise their critical intercultural awareness, since crew members always face different situations and social or cultural issues with passengers who may come from different countries. To explore the concept of critical intercultural awareness, it is relevant, first, to define and understand some previous notions such as culture and interculturality and, then, finally to get to what critical intercultural awareness means for cabin crew.

Firstly, culture involves several features as Moran (2001) highlights: “culture is the evolving way of life of a group of persons, consisting of a shared group of practices associated with a shared set of products, based upon a shared set of perspectives on the world, and set within specific social contexts” (p. 24). It means that learning about culture implies not only to reflect on language or personal distinctions but also to have a sympathetic and more responsive view from the user´s situation to generate agile answers. Flight attendants need to be critical and receptive to recognize the cultural differences which may come up when assisting and communicating with their users, understanding the diverse backgrounds as well as beliefs, patterns, attitudes, values or actions. In this way, the concepts of interculturality and cultural awareness arise.

Interculturality is described by Bracons (2019) as “…the need of a deep understanding and respect of all cultural expressions” (p. 63). No matter what religion, beliefs, social status or nationality the passenger is, the important is, first of all, communicating through the implementation of English skills to solve the user´s request and, at the same, being supportive and receptive to assist. Furthermore, “intercultural communication focuses on the mutual exchange of ideas and cultural norms and the development of deep relationships” (Bracons, 2019, p. 63). Thus, interculturality is about interacting with people, comprehending social-cultural differences and sympathizing with other individuals’ situations.

By the same token, critical intercultural awareness can improve the way crew members interact with their passengers to have a better understanding of their needs. Besides, it avoids possible misunderstanding or misinterpretation by the crew when dealing with passengers’ requests. According to Medina-Lopez-Portillo and Sinnigen (2009), critical intercultural awareness points out to “share experiences and physical and imaginary spaces among people who are culturally different” (p. 258). To this extend, when flight attendants are able to reflect, comprehend and apprehend cultural distinctions, they are on the way of growing their awareness and to interact in a better way with the passengers.

Therefore, understanding interculturality becomes for them an essential ability for crew members to comply with the efficiency and the effectiveness of their duties. In that sense, critical intercultural awareness needs to be fostered in pre-service cabin crew to assure a better performance once in service and to help minimizing misunderstandings or mistreatment which are common issues when working in jobs related to customer services.

            Taking into account the previous assumptions, it is relevant to think of designing EFL learning materials different from decontextualized textbooks found in the aeronautical field. To accomplish this goal, and following Núñez-Pardo’s (2022) “EFL materials otherwise” (p. 705) perspective, materials for pre-service cabin crew are thought up “from a reflective, critical, and emancipating stance to respond to diverse social dynamics and cultural patterns of local contexts where these resources are used to teach and learn English, [including] other cultural experiences of the world” (p. 705). By ensuing the author’s stance, these materials need to enhance the critical intercultural awareness of cabin crew students by unveiling accurate intercultural aspects such as gender stereotypes, social status, and social behaviors.

Through creating decolonized EFL materials otherwise´ as proposed by Núñez-Pardo, (2022) such as workshops, worksheets, textbooks, and e-books, among others, pre-service cabin crew may learn much more than a foreign language: they learn relevant cultural issues to deal with different behaviors and ways of thinking. This materials development purpose may strengthen cabin crew students´ knowledge and consciousness about cultural differences, fostering reflection about their real role in theairlines and considering to what extent they can be more effective when interacting with passengers. Also, it makes crew think about the implications of developing a cultural competence to have an effective communication with all passengers and to better understand the cabin crew´s role and issues when facing daily duties.

Consequently, it is relevant to say that “decolonized EFL materials otherwise” (Núñez-Pardo, 2022, p. 705) may help EFL teachers, not only to reinforce English language skills but also to enhance critical intercultural awareness in cabin crew students since these materials can be contextualized according to the needs and on the way flight attendants can deeply explore diverse social and cultural aspect from the passengers. The creation of new decolonized materials ensures the implementation of a critical pedagogy which may help to reflect, recognize, understand, accept, and respect cultural diversity.


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importance of the concepts in social work perspective.Instituto de Serviço Social. Universidade Lusófona de Humanidades e Tecnologias, Portugal.

Dhanasmithivesn, K. (2007). An analysis of English language skill needs of Thai flight           

attendants employed by china airlines. Srinakharinwirot University.

Medina-Lopez-Portillo, A., & Sinnigen, J. H. (2009). Interculturality versus intercultural 

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