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Professor Helen Spencer-Oatey





Centre for Applied Linguistics
University of Warwick
Tel: +44 (0)24 76523200
WebLink: Global People - helping individuals and organisations develop global fitness - the intercultural competence needed for today's multicultural, diverse world.

Research Interests

My main research interests are: - Social pragmatics, especially the interrelationship between language use and the management of interpersonal relations (face theory, politeness theory, rapport management theory). - Intercultural interaction, including cross-cultural pragmatics, intercultural discourse, and the interface between culture, language and behaviour. - Intercultural adaptation and change, including issues of identity and hybridity, culture shock, intercultural competence and development. - Culture and pedagogy.


My educational background is in both psychology and linguistics, and throughout my career I have worked at the interface of the two disciplines. My first teaching experience was in Hong Kong, where I taught English language to sixth-form (pre-university) students, as well as to adults taking evening classes at a British Council language school. Later I spent 7 very happy years working at Shanghai Jiaotong University, training teachers of English language from colleges and universities in the eastern region of China. After completing my PhD at Lancaster University, I lectured at the University of Luton for 10 years and established the first MA in Intercultural Communication in the UK. In 2002 I started managing the major inter-governmental eChina-UK Programme on behalf of the Higher Education Funding Council for England, and found it a transforming experience. I joined the University of Warwick in September 2007.

Research Projects

View Current Projects        View All Projects


  • Spencer-Oatey, Helen, Dauber, Daniel, 2019. What is integration and why is it important for internationalisation? A multidisciplinary review. Journal of Studies in International Education, View
  • Spencer-Oatey, Helen, Dauber, Daniel, 2019. Internationalisation and student diversity : opportunities for personal growth or numbers-only targets?. Higher Education, View
  • Vigier, Mary, Spencer-Oatey, Helen, 2018. The interplay of rules, asymmetries in language fluency, and team dynamics in culturally diverse teams : case study insights. Cross Cultural and Strategic Management, 25 (1), pp. 157-182, View
  • Spencer-Oatey, Helen, 2017. Transformative learning for social integration : overcoming the challenge of greetings. Intercultural Education, View
  • Spencer-Oatey, Helen, Dauber, Daniel, Jing, Jing, Lifei, Wang, 2017. Chinese students' social integration into the university community : hearing the students' voices. Higher Education, 74 (5), pp. 739-756, View
  • Spencer-Oatey, Helen, Kádár, Dániel Z., 2016. The bases of (im)politeness evaluations : culture, the moral order and the East–West debate. East Asian Pragmatics, 1 (1), pp. 73-106, View
  • Spencer-Oatey, Helen, Dauber, Daniel, 2016. The gains and pains of mixed national group work at university. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 38 (3), pp. 219-236, View
  • Messelink, H. E., Van Maele, J., Spencer-Oatey, Helen, 2015. Intercultural competencies : what students in study and placement mobility should be learning. Intercultural Education, Volume 26 (Number 1), pp. 62-72, View
  • Wang, Jiayi, Spencer-Oatey, Helen, 2015. The gains and losses of face in ongoing intercultural interaction : a case study of Chinese participant perspectives. Journal of Pragmatics, 89, pp. 50-65, View
  • Žegarac, Vladimir, Spencer-Oatey, Helen, Ushioda, Ema, 2014. Conceptualizing mindfulness-mindlessness in intercultural interaction. International Journal of Language and Culture, 1 (1), pp. 75-97, View

View All Publications

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 Intercultural Interaction

Culturally Speaking

Handbook of Intercultural Communication