The Arabic word for exchange, تبادل (tebaadl), has at its center, the word for change, بدل (badala). This in mind, the idea of exchange is to reciprocate between parties, and impact each other. Communication presents increased opportunities for the exchange of ideas, where language learning empowers participants and maximizes intercultural learning.
American students were picking up new words from their local counterparts, and so was I. With more words under our belt, our afterschool exchanges moved from coffee shops to restaurants and bars. Language was becoming a vehicle of more than grammar and vocabulary. We were learning about Jordanian life, eating mansaf (the national dish!), taking part in concerts, and local volunteer organizations. Using Jordanian Arabic
When I'm spending time with people, respecting their silence, or talking about shared interests, I find that I'm participating in an exchange. An interplay of values and ideas communicated through a look, a set of gestures, sounds. This is interaction, and it sits at the core of international education, along with language as a vehicle for cultural exchange.
I think it's when we approach language as a wellspring of intercultural learning that we empower our students, and bring forward the rewards and responsibilities of multilingualism and international exchange.