Intercultural Competence as a Cultural Awareness
У статті були проаналізовані
теоретичні аспекти проблеми міжкультурного спілкування, розроблені правила для
забезпечення його більшої ефективності та запобігання конфліктів. Основні з
них: активне слухання та розвиток соціокультурної компетентності, що включає
обізнаність щодо існуючих цінностей, традицій, правил етикету інших країн тощо.
культура, міжкультурне спілкування, конфлікти, міжкультурна компетентність,
етикет, ефективне спілкування.
В статье проанализированы теоретические аспекты проблемы
межкультурного общения, разработаны правила для обеспечения его эффективности и
предупреждение конфликтов. Основные из них: активное слушанье и развитие социокультурной
компетентности, что включает осведомленность о существующих ценностях,
традициях, правилах этикета других стран и т.д.
Ключевые слова: культура, межкультурное общение, конфликты, межкультурная
компетентность, этикет, эффективное общение.
In this article were outlined
the scientific approaches into the problem of intercultural communication,
selected and described the rules of minimizing the risk of making the
elementary mistakes and improving intercultural communication. Among them are:
listening carefully and development of intercultural competence that includes being well aware of other countries’ values,
traditions, etiquette etc.
culture, intercultural communication, conflicts, intercultural competence,
etiquette, effective communication.
of investigation. Communication is a critical part of our lives. It
supports us in our own development, it influences the quality of the
relationships we have with others, it informs us and it is a way to understand
the world in which we live. Being able to communicate effectively can be
challenging even when we are familiar with the content and context of the
information being communicated and when we have similar backgrounds with our
conversation partners. There are degrees of diversity within cultures and this
level of diversity increases when we cross cultures. As the degrees of
diversity increase, the level of complexity increases as well, causing
communication to be more challenging. Nevertheless, the richness of the
outcomes from communicating across cultures when we have intercultural
diversity is often worth the investment in bridging any communication
difficulties that may arise.
The problems of culture, intercultural communication
and conflicts were also studied by Geert Hofstede, Edward T. Hall, Glenn
Fischer, Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner, Iryna Sokolets and
The aim of the work is to explore ways in which we may
prevent and lessen the incidence and intensity of conflicts that may surface as
a result of intercultural communication.
The field of intercultural communication is just more
than 50 years old and was initially established by Edward T. Hall as a way to
improve the performance and relationships of US diplomats as they interacted
around the world. The first text in the field is "The Silent Language”, which places a heavy emphasis on the
nonverbal aspects of communication (how direct is eye contact, the nature and
degree of facial expressions and the amount and nature of gestures used to
express a point) and how communication is impacted by differences in the
perception of space and time [2, 3].
People from different cultures develop different worldviews because they are shaped by
different cultural influences. Worldviews influence how we live in and make
meaning of the world in which we live. Glenn Fischer refers to this as a mindset and it is made from our
education, family life, community, religion, values, geographical location and
psychological influences among others .
Geert Hofstede, a social psychologist, identified four
cultural dimensions. He later added a fifth dimension based on research he
conducted in China.
These dimensions measure the following: power distance, which reflects
how power is distributed and the beliefs of the people within a context that
they have equal access to it; individualism & collectivism, which
measures the degree to which individuals are integrated as members into groups;
masculinity & femininity, which measures the degree of difference
between men’s and women’s role behavior; uncertainty avoidance, which is
the degree to which a culture is comfortable and more tolerant of uncertainty
and ambiguity; and long-term and short-term orientation, which
addresses the values attributed to both ways of thinking and acting .
Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner have
showed the different layers to culture: the outer layer (consists of
observable characteristics, the artifacts used by a culture such as food,
language, houses, shrines and so on); the middle layer (reflects the
norms and values of a culture, defines what is right and wrong, good and bad);
the core layer (the matters of existence, the meaning of life,
relationships with the environment, people and community). At the outer layer we can most easily measure
similarities and differences between cultures and where stereotypes are formed.
Stereotypes are what we assume to be characteristic of and true about all
members of a particular group based on what we observe about a large portion of
that group .
interaction between people-representatives of different cultural communities
is functionally specified as
Speech partners in intercultural interaction may have different worldview, way and style of life, and models of
speech and non-speech communication. There are ways that may help prepare ourselves for
intercultural communication and facilitate understanding. First of all, a key to
effective cross-cultural communication is formation of Intercultural Competence that means
a cultural awareness, characterized
by a new vision of one’s existence and
personality and intermediary position between the native and foreign cultures. This awareness,
produced by knowledge, awareness and understanding of the relation –
similarities and distinctive features – between the "world of origin” and the "world of the target community” includes an
awareness of regional and social
diversity in both worlds. It is the ability to understand other ways of life, other values, and to approach one’s own values differently, refusing
existing stereotypes and prejudices.
In a person’s cultural competences the various cultures (national, regional, social), to which that person gained
access, do not simply co-exist side by side but are compared and contrasted and
they actively interact to produce an enriched,
integrated "pluricultural” competence, indispensable for effective intercultural
It is important to understand that language not only accumulates and preserves the
culture of the nation and transfers it to other generations but
it also actively impacts its user, forming him, forcing him its unique vision of the world, characteristic of the language and culture of human relations and reflected and preserved by
this language. For example, in the UK
and Commonwealth countries the word "compromise” has a positive meaning (as a
consent, an agreement where both parties win something); in North America and Ireland it may,
at times, have negative connotations (as both parties lose something). So, language
is not only words and rules to combine them in speech but it is also a bearer of culture and, for
instance, such "trifles" as inadequate expression of introduction, apology, agreement, etc. may result
in an intercultural conflict, in the loss of a contract or a reliable partner. Therefore successful participation
knowledge of the national specific rules of behavior, speech behavior
person also should be well aware of politeness strategies, which differ from culture to culture, since they are formed
within different social and cultural
backgrounds and are a frequent source of misunderstandings.
For instance, In Mediterranean European
countries, Latin America, and Sub-Saharan Africa, it is normal, or at least
widely tolerated, to arrive half an hour late for a dinner invitation, whereas
in Germany and in the United States this would be considered very rude. If
invited to dinner, in some Asian countries it is well-mannered to leave right
after the dinner: the ones who don’t leave may indicate they have not eaten
enough. In the Indian sub-continent, Europe, South America,
and North American countries this is considered rude, indicating that the guest
only wanted to eat but wouldn’t enjoy the company with the hosts. In Italy and
Guatemala is common for people in gatherings to say goodbye many time when they
leave, for example, someone could say goodbye in the living room and the chat
for a while, the say goodbye in the door, and chat a little more, finally say
goodbye in their car´s door and then chat a little more until people leave.
Another essential component of
intercultural communication, to which due attention should be paid, is non-verbal behavior that includes body language
(gestures, facial expression, posture, eye contact, body contact and
proxemics), and extra-linguistic speech sounds, carrying conventionalized meanings (e.g. 'sh' - requesting
silence; 'ugh' - expressing
disgust), and prosodic features: voice quality (gruff, breathy,
piercing, etc.), pitch (growling, whining, screaming, etc.), loudness
(whispering, murmuring, shouting, etc.) and length (e.g. ve—e-ery
good!), which separately and in combination help produce paralinguistic effects, important not only in
intercultural communication, but also in communication in general .
For example, non-verbal behavior can
be interpreted differently: showing the gesture "thumb held upwards” in the Americas, especially Brazil
and the United States,
means "everything's ok", while it is understood in some Islamic
countries as a rude sexual sign. "Everything ok” is shown in western European
countries, especially between pilots and divers, with the sign of the thumb and
forefinger forming an "O". This sign means in Japan "now we may talk about money",
in southern France the
contrary ("nothing, without any value"), in Eastern Europe and Russia it is an
indecent sexual sign.
In Africa, avoiding eye contact or
looking at the ground when talking to one's parents, an elder, or someone of
higher social status is a sign of respect. In contrast, these same actions are
signals of deception or shame (on the part of the doer) in North America and
most of Europe.
Moreover, in North America as well as in Arabic countries the pauses between
words are usually not too long, while in Japan pauses can give a
contradictory sense to the spoken words. Enduring silence is perceived as
comfortable in Japan, while
in India, Europe and North America it may cause insecurity and embarrassment.
Scandinavians, by Western standards, are more tolerant of silent breaks during
It is essential that people research the cultures and
communication conventions of those whom they propose to meet. It is also
prudent to set a clear agenda so that everyone understands the nature and
purpose of the interaction.
We have selected and described
the rules of minimizing the risk of making the elementary mistakes and
improving intercultural communication:
avoiding using slang and idioms,
choosing words that will convey only the most specific denotative meaning;
listening carefully and, if in doubt,
ask for confirmation of understanding (particularly important if local accents
and pronunciation are a problem);
recognizing that accenting and
intonation can cause meaning to vary significantly;
respecting the local communication
formalities and styles, and watch for any changes in body language;
resipient’s perception of your culture by reading literature about your culture
through their eyes before entering into communication with them. This will
allow you to prepare yourself for projected views of your culture you will be
bearing as a visitor in their culture;
being well aware
of politeness strategies and etiquette.
If it is not possible to learn the other's language,
it is expedient to show some respect by learning a few words. In all important
exchanges, a translator can convey the message.
When writing, the choice of words represent the relationship between the
reader and the writer so more thought and care should be invested in the text
since it may well be thoroughly analyzed by the recipient.
allow for more efficiency, with less misinterpretations and more
saves time, and
saves emotional energy.
When intercultural communication is effective, there
is more richness from the diversity different cultural viewpoints can bring.
When not effective, there are chances for misunderstanding and conflict, which
inhibit productivity and may deteriorate into harming relationships.
There are ways that may help prepare ourselves for
intercultural communication and facilitate understanding. First of all,
Conclusion. In this article we have explored the ways in which we communicate
across cultures; outlined the scientific approach into the problem of
intercultural communication; identified main types of
intercultural misunderstanding; highlighted the value of effective
intercultural communication and explored the ways of its improving.
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2. Hall, Edward. T. 1959. The silent language. New
3. Hall, Edward T. 1981. Beyond culture. New York:
4. Hofstede, Geert. 1984. Culture’s consequences:
International differences in work-related values. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Sokolets I.I. 2006. Speech Etiquette in Foreign Language Teacher
Training: Навч. посібник. – К.: Видавничий центр КНЛУ, – 134с.
Fons and Hampden-Turner, Charles. 1998. Riding the waves of culture:
Understanding cultural diversity in business. 2nd edition. New York:
the free encyclopedia.