Intercultural Awareness

Intercultural Awareness

Intercultural Awareness

Successful intercultural communication in English involves more than native speaker like grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. Instead a range of other skills, attitudes and knowledge associated with multilingual and multicultural communication are needed as well. These skills, attitudes and knowledge have been called Intercultural Awareness.

In these activities you will explore what intercultural awareness involves through examining some of the competencies needed for intercultural communication and considering the importance of different elements of intercultural awareness.

Activity 1: Intercultural communication competencies

A range of skills, attitudes and areas of knowledge (sometimes known as competencies) have been proposed as part of English language learning for successful intercultural communication. These include, accommodation, code switching, cooperation, let-it-pass principle, repair, language awareness and cultural/intercultural awareness. In this activity you are going to focus on the meaning of these terms for intercultural communication in English.

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Select the skill or competency which best matches the description. Then read the feedback. An example is given in the help.

1. The ability to switch between different languages or varieties of the same language in response to the person we are communicating with to help communication (e.g. begin able to switch between English and Japanese when talking with a Japanese English speaker).

2. The ability to negotiate and resolve misunderstanding in communication, through for example the use of different words to explain a previously misunderstood word or phrase.

3. Being able to match or change our style of speaking to be similar to the person we are speaking to so as to help communication.

4. Deciding when misunderstanding is important or not in communication, and ignoring it when it is not considered important.

5. Working with the other people you are speaking with to make a successful conversation through for example accommodation.

6. A sensitivity and awareness to the different forms and functions of language. This involves an awareness of varieties of languages, how they are perceived and an ability to understand our own language practices and those of others.

7. An awareness of how cultural context and background influence communication, the ability to predict possible areas of miscommunication and mediate between different culturally based communicative behaviours.

Activity 2: The elements of Intercultural Awareness

You have also seen the importance of the links between language, communication and cultural context. However, for English used as a global lingua franca it is obviously not possible to have an understanding of all the different cultural backgrounds of the different English speakers you may meet or the huge range of contexts in which English communication can take place. Instead it is necessary to have a wider understanding of how different cultural settings and backgrounds can influence communication. One way of explaining the skills and knowledge needed to negotiate the wide variety of cultures encountered through English is Intercultural Awareness (ICA). In this activity you will consider the importance of different elements of ICA.

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Study the list of elements of Intercultural Awareness on the left and rank them in order of importance by dragging them across into the box on the right. Then read the feedback.

Would you like to review the main points?

© eLanguages, Modern Languages and Linguistics, University of Southampton, 2010. All rights reserved. Image courtesy of Cpl. Meg Murray (Flickr).