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Assignment 6: Intercultural learning competences

Going Global!

I. Personal Competences in Intercultural Interaction

The literature on intercultural interaction competence in the fields of applied linguistics, foreign
language education, intercultural studies, psychology, and international business and management
focuses predominantly on the following aspects:
1. Generic competences for intercultural effectiveness (to promote values, shape attitudes);
2. Personality traits and acquired skills &Communication skills (to develop skills and
enhance knowledge).
From my point of view, the most important personal competences regarding the intercultural
interaction, are as it follows:

a) Awareness
Awareness is considered to be an important step to intercultural effectiveness because it enables a
person to notice and perceive differences and similarities. In literature is mentioned that both selfawareness and other awareness are required. Self-awareness and the awareness of how ones own
culture works, what it values and what its norms are is a vital pre-requisite to effective intercultural
interaction. It is well-known that most people tend to start with an ethnocentric world-view, at the
very heart of which lies the (often unconscious) assumption that their culture has got it right and
that its norms, behaviours and values are globally applicable. The danger with such an assumption
is that a person is incapable of recognizing that his/her actions as well as the actions of an
interactional partner are culturally performed (Rehbein, 2001). That is to say, each persons
linguistic choices, expectations and interpretations are informed by culture (Meier, 2005).
Moreover, a lack of awareness means that interlocutors are more likely to attribute differences in
behaviour to the other persons presumed malevolence rather than to culturally informed differences
in norms and behaviour. As a result, a well-informed degree of awareness of ones own culture as
well as of ones own idiosyncratic tendencies is necessary for objective selfassessment (Barham and
Devine, 1991; Fantini, 2000; Bennett, 1993; Chen and Starosta, 2005). On the other hand, a high
degree of awareness of cultural differences and of another cultures norms and values is equally
important for establishing a well-founded basis for intercultural interaction effectiveness (Fantini,
2000). In fact the importance of awareness-raising cannot be overestimated.

b) Skills
Writers agree that social skills play a major role in the intercultural interaction competence set.
While good social relationships between individuals, within a group and between different groups
are an asset to any form of interaction, they are particularly relevant and critical for communication
across cultures. Relationships are important in any society, yet are more highly valued in some
cultures than in others. Among the cultures that place a particularly strong emphasis on good
relationships among business/collaboration partners is the Chinese society, in which good

relationships even outweigh the importance of contracts. The ability to build and maintain
interpersonal relationships with people from different cultural backgrounds, therefore, forms a
particularly valuable competence for intercultural interaction (Schneider and Barsoux, 1997). One
of the most important skills highlighted in the literature, and one that is emphasized particularly
strongly in the field of applied linguistics and communication studies, is the skill to communicate
effectively and efficiently in intercultural contexts. The research identifies message skills, mindful
listening, perceptiveness, transparency, clarity, active listening, and a willingness to listen for
meaning beyond style differences, as some of the most critical communication skills (Chen and
Starosta, 2005; Ting-Toomey, 1999; Berger, 1998; WorldWork Ltd., n.d.). Anyway, communicative
skills go far beyond the competent sending and interpreting of verbal messages. A sense that speed,
pauses, length of speaking turn, silences, and non-verbal actions also differ between cultures is just
as important. In regards to silences and pauses, in Japanese and Scandinavian cultures are a sign
of respect and show that one is absorbing and reflecting on what the other said. In American
culture, on the other hand, silences and pauses often cause unease, as they are associated with
communicative problems and signal that something is wrong (Canney Davison and Ward, 1999).
The fact that these aspects of communication are less immediately obvious does not make them any
less meaningful or less significant. However, even the mastery of all verbal and non-verbal
communication aspects are not sufficient to ensure effective communication if teams are dispersed.
Establishing a good balance between synchronous and asynchronous communication is also
critical, as is the choice of communicativetools and an agreement as to how best to make use of
different modes of communication (Kayworth and Leidner, 2002; Smith, 2001). Smith (2001) argues
that collaborative partners should establish rules on how to use each particular communicative tool,
such as email, fax, voicemail, or videoconferencing. He argues that when people establish clear
rules, for example on the timeframe in which a person is expected to respond, there is less ground
for frustration and confusion. No less important is the choice of a working language and native
speakers skills to use the chosen working language in a way that does not alienate non-native
speakers, who are already put at a clear disadvantage (Bournois and Chevalier, 1998; Janssens and
Brett, 1997). Hence, native speakers need to acquire the skill to tailor their level of language use to
the non-native speakers capabilities and avoid the use of jargon and idiomatic expressions. Canney
Davison and Ward (1999) also point out the importance of avoiding the assumption that both
parties will understand each other, simply because they are native speakers of the same language.
Meaning can differ even between different regional varieties of the same language, which is to say
that appropriate meaning transfer is not guaranteed between speakers of American English and
British English or between speakers of Australian English and South African English. There appears
to be widespread agreement that communication skills is not only one of the most important skills,
but also one of the most manifold and complex skills to acquire.

c) Knowledge
Comparing with skills, which refer to the ability to deal with a situation impromptu, knowledge
refers to wisdom that is acquired prior to an intercultural encounter. Preparation and the prior
acquisition of knowledge form an important part of the intercultural collaboration process.
Gudykunst (2004) identifies the importance of the following: knowledge of how to gather relevant
information; knowledge of group differences and of personal similarities; and knowledge of
alternative interpretations. Knowledge that is too generalized leads to expectations of how
interactional partners will behave that rarely matches reality, and this leads to potential confusion
and complications. It could be argued that some of the literature overestimates the importance of
cultural knowledge and fails to address whether a predetermined set of expectations can impact too
negatively on a persons ability to remain open and flexible during an interaction.

d) Proficiency
Proficiency refers to proficiency in the communicative partners native language. The literature
conveys a strong sense that making an effort to acquire another language is not a waste of time and

resources (as professionals tend to believe, according to Ewington et al., 2007), but a valuable
component of a persons set of skills. Interestingly, the same study states that professionals think of
clarity of communication as one of the most valuable attributes, which is noticeably enhanced if
both conversational partners have a better understanding of the others language. Not only does
language proficiency enable an individual to understand the other better, but it also gives useful
insights into the others culture, values and norms. It will help understanding not only of the others
verbal outputs, but also of his/her actions and behaviour. Learning the others language is also a
generally much appreciated sign of good-will and will enhance the relationship and trust building
process, while a lack of willingness to acquire even a handful of key phrases is met with resentment
by interactional partners who are more or less forced to interact in the majority language (mostly
English). The acquisition of the collaboration partners language would prevent native speakers
dominating nonnative speakers, as it provides more of a balance. While the non-dominant language
may not be used as the working language, its acquisition would, at the very least, make native
speakers of the dominant language understand the difficulties and problems non-native speakers
face when communicating in the working language. Consequently, some proficiency in the others
language is generally regarded as desirable (Fantini, 2000; Smith, 2001).

II. Main challenges that I encounter as an educator facilitating such activities for
which I would like to strengthen my competence:

Students become overly dependent on teacher. Many times, students will automatically look
to the teacher for correct answers instead of trying themselves. If the teacher obliges them
with the answer each time, it can become a detrimental problem. Instead, focus on giving
positive encouragement to students. This will help to make students more comfortable and
more willing to answer (even if incorrectly).
Persistent use of first-language. When teaching English as a foreign language, this is
possibly the most common problem. As an ESL teacher, it's important to encourage students
to use English, and only English. However, if students begin conversing in their first
language, move closer to the student. Ask them direct questions like "do you have a
question?" Another idea is to establish a set of class rules and develop a penalty system for
when they use their first-language. For example: if a student is caught using their firstlanguage three times, have them recite a poem in front of the class (in English). Remember,
for the 1-2 hours they are in English class, it must be English only.
Student is defiant, rowdy, or distracting of others. Probably intimidation and physical
threats from the students that you want to educate and make a better life for. Many have
tried. Very few succeed. It will require a lot of inner strength. This will happen, no matter
what, in every classroom. If the entire class is acting up, it may be the fault of the teacher ie.
boring material or poor classroom management. If it one particular student, you should react
swiftly to show dominance. In order to resolve the issue, an ESL teacher must be strict and
discipline the student if needed. If it continues to happen, further disciplinary action through
the school's director could be pursued.
Students "hijack lesson" - The lesson doesn't go where you want it to. When teaching
English as a foreign language, you can always count on students hijacking a lesson. To some
extent, this can be a good thing. It shows that students interest, and as long as they are
participating and conversing in English, it is a productive experience. However, if the lesson
strays too far off topic, in a direction you don't want it to go, it's important to correct the
problem by diverting the conversation.
Personalities between students clash. Not every student in an ESL classroom will become
best of friends. If drama arises between certain students, the easiest solution is to seperate
them away from one another. If the tension persists, switching a student to another
classroom may be your only option.

Students unclear what do to, or do the wrong thing. This happens far too often when
teaching English as a foreign language. The fact is, it's often the fault of the teacher. If your
instructions to an assignment yield looks of confusion and soft whispers among students,
don't worry, there is a solution. In order to avoid this problem, it's important to make sure
your instruction are clear. Use gestures, mime, and short concise sentences. Speak clear and
strong. Most importantly, use models and examples of the activity. You can use pictures,
miming, gestures etc. to model the entire activity exactly how you want the students to do it.
Students are bored, inattentive, or unmotivated. Many times, it is the teachers fault that class
is boring. Fortunately, with proper planning, this problem can be solved. Choose a juicy
theme to the lesson; one that the students can relate to and one you know they will enjoy.
This will automaticaly give them some motivation and interest. Get to know your students
and identify their interests and needs, then design your course accordingly.
Strong student dominance. As an ESL teacher, you will encounter students of different
learning capabilities and language skills. While it is good to have some students who excel
in the classroom, it is important that they don't take away from others. If certain students
begin to constantly "steal the show," take warning. Focus on calling on weaker students in
the class to answer questions. Encourage, but gently deflect some answers from the strong
students and give production time to other not-so-strong members of the class.
Students are unprepared. The last thing you want as an ESL teacher is for students to drop
out simply because they felt lost and/or unprepared. Concentrate on a more shared learning
experience. Make sure students are all on the same page before moving onto a new topic by
concept checking multiple times, and encouraging individual participation.
Tardiness. Even I have a hard time arriving places on time. But the truth is, tardiness is not
only rude, it can be distracting and disruptive of other students. If tardiness becomes a
problem for your students, make sure they are disciplined. Set rules about tardiness and
penalties for breaking them.

III. Personal goals for the further development and strengthening of the skills
for intercultural global education.
Goal 1: Core Values
The need to develop:
Responsibility to the world community.
Reverence to the earth.
Acceptance and appreciation of cultural diversity.
Goal 2: To develop multiple historical perspectives.
Goal 3: To strengthen cultural consciousness and to strengthen intercultural competence.
Goal 4: To increase awareness of the state of the planet and global dynamics.