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Intercultural competence

Barrett, MD (2011) Intercultural competence EWC Statement Series, 2. pp. 23-27.

Barret 2012 Intercultural Competence published.pdf
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Intercultural competence is the set of attitudes, skills, knowledge and behaviours which are required for appropriate and effective interaction and communication with people who are perceived to be from a different cultural background from oneself. The term ‘appropriate’ means that the interactions do not violate the cultural rules and norms which are valued by one’s interlocutors, while the term ‘effective’ means that one is able to achieve one’s objectives in the interactions. Intercultural competence involves a wide range of attitudes, skills and knowledge. The attitudes involved include: respect for other cultures; curiosity about other cultures; openness to people from other cultures; openness to intercultural learning; willingness to suspend judgement; willingness to tolerate ambiguity; and valuing cultural diversity. Intercultural skills include: skills of listening to people from other cultures; skills of interacting with people from other cultures; linguistic, sociolinguistic and discourse skills, including skills in managing breakdowns in communication; skills in discovering information about other cultures; skills of interpreting cultures and relating cultures to one another; empathy; multiperspectivity; skills in evaluating cultural perspectives, practices and products; and skills in mediating intercultural exchanges. Knowledge which contributes to intercultural competence includes: cultural self-awareness; communicative awareness, especially of the different linguistic and communicative conventions within different cultures; culture-specific knowledge, especially knowledge of the perspectives, practices and products of different cultural groups; and general cultural knowledge, especially knowledge of processes of cultural, societal and individual interaction. Behaviours also form a further important component of intercultural competence. Relevant behaviours include: behavioural adaptability to cultural environments; flexibility in cultural behaviour; flexibility in communicative behaviour; and having an action orientation, that is, a disposition and readiness for engagement and action in society in order to enhance the common good, especially through the reduction of prejudice, discrimination and conflict The relationship between these various attitudes, skills, knowledge and behaviours which together comprise intercultural competence has not yet been established. There is also, as yet, no adequate developmental model of how the different components are acquired or of how their acquisition is influenced by other societal, social, cognitive and motivational factors. Intercultural competence may not be acquired spontaneously by individuals, and it may not be acquired simply through exposure to and encounters with people from other cultural backgrounds. However, there is good evidence that appropriate forms of intercultural education can have a significant impact on the intercultural competence of young people.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences > School of Psychology
Authors :
Date : 2011
Related URLs :
Additional Information : This is an electronic version of an article published as Barrett MD (2011). Intercultural competence. EWC Statement Series 2:23-27 Available online at:
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 04 Jun 2013 12:44
Last Modified : 09 Jun 2014 13:16

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