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IC-21

Helping organizations, educational institutions, and healt care providers to be more effective when interacting with people from other cultures.

For the time being, literature shows a contrasting position between linguists and interculturalists on topics regarding the impact of foreign language on intercultural competence, and whether or not the host language fosters students' intercultural competence.

On the linguistic arena, language is not only a tool of communication but also a system of representation for perception and thinking [1].

Linguistic determinism -paraphrasing the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis- even posits that language determine culture and thought. Following this premise, only through the host language can individuals access completely and directly the host culture's worldview. That is, proficiency in the host language is a sine qua non for understanding the host culture's core values, assumptions, beliefs, expectations and perception.

Therefore, host language is conceived of as an essential component of intercultural competence [1, 2]. Linguists argue that without host language proficiency, individuals are limited and trapped in an ethnocentric worldview provided by their native language from which they evaluate, rate and interpret the host culture ways of perception, thinking, and feelings [1].

Contrasting with the linguistic insight lies the work of interculturalists, to whom language, as with linguists, is not only a mere tool of communication but also a major enactment of culture [3].

However, interculturalists contend that language is not the same thing as culture. Although cultural differences are reflected in linguistic differences, however, those are not determined by those linguistic differences. For instance, cross-cultural psychologist has largely disapproved the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis by pointing out that there are cultural differences that are not reflected in language such as being able to see different colors but not having words to distinguish those colors.

Interculturalists contend that the lack of host language proficiency may be related to psychological intensity when sojourning in a foreign culture (i.e., isolation and frustration) [4]. However, they do not share the linguistics' conclusion claiming that the only or best way to understand the host culture or culture worldview (culture's perception, assumptions, conceits and ethnocentrism, core values, beliefs, and expectations) is through the local language [3, 5, 6].

Therefore, host language is not always absolutely essential to explore and understand the subjective culture, nor is it necessarily related to intercultural competence [4, 7].

Recent studies support both insights [8, 10]. For instance, here in Thailand, Chocce conducted a study to measure the impact of foreign language abilities (monolingual, bilingual, trilingual and multilingual) on freshmen' intercultural sensitivity in an international college in Thailand. The subjects were 209 respondents. 164 were Thai students and 45 were international students. Chocce reported no statistically significant difference among the monolingual, bilingual, trilingual and multilingual students suggesting that foreign language ability has no significant impact on intercultural sensitivity [9].

Why these contrasting results?

Two answer can be pointed out regarding the contrasting results:

From the linguistic insight, literature on EFL converges to indicate that teaching culture is exceedingly complex [11]. For instance, Sercu [12] found that EFL teachers from Belgium, Bulgaria, Greece, Mexico, Poland, Spain and Sweden pointed out to lack:

a) knowledge and experience to prepare appropriate teaching materials for teaching culture,
b) suitable culture teaching materials,
c) appropriate approaches to teaching culture, and
d) time to focus on areas other than linguistics topics.

Same findings were reported among EFL teachers in Thailand [13] and Portugal [14] who realizing the complexity of teaching culture tended to focus on linguistic competence only.

Although the research evidence about the complexity of teaching culture (subjective culture), teaching intercultural competence stills remains an aggregate topic of any foreign language course at universities and schools [15].

Teaching intercultural competence as an peripheral objective to an EFL or another main subject can convey unintended messages.

For instance, paraphrasing McCaffery [16], by annexing culture and intercultural competence to a foreign language course, there is unintended message conveying that intercultural competence is not important; otherwise it would be allocated more time and resources. Another unintended message is that learning "good enough" about the host culture is easy, requires a short period of time and is mainly achieved through verbal language, grammar exercises, phonetic practices, lectures on facts, history, and traditions.

On the other hand, interculturalists have largely proved that cultural communications are deeper and more complex than spoken or written messages [17].

For instance, by pointing out that over 80 percent of the information we receive is not only communicated nonverbally but occurs outside our awareness [17], interculturalists question the assumption of language as the main channel of communication and as the perfect instrument of intellectual analysis and expression.

Therefore, interculturalists posit that developing intercultural competence goes beyond linguistic competences and requires content and pedagogy radically different from traditional instructional practices [4], an arena that is unknown or new to some EFL and language teachers.

IC-21 intercultural training program for foreign language learners

Taking into account the above limitations, IC-21 workshops and intercultural training aiming at developing intercultural competence. To do so, the training explores the knowledge dimension of intercultural competence. Therefore, it explores assumptions on certain dimensions of the human experience that all people in all cultures face. Such topics as identity, communication styles, attitude toward times, uncertainty and risk, concept of right, fairness, status, hierarchy, and so forth, are discussed in the light of cultural etic categories i.e.:

Cultural Value Orientation
1) Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck's value orientation
2) Hall's High- and Low-Context cultural taxonomy, and
3) Hofstede's cultural value orientation.

Do not hesitate to contact us if you need more detailed information.


Reference:

[1] A. Fantini (2012). "Language: an essential component of intercultural communicative competence." In Jackson, Jane (Ed.) The Routledge handbook of language and intercultural communication. New York: Routledge.

[2] M. Byram (2012). "Conceptualizing intercultural (communicative) competence and intercultural citizenship." In Jackson, Jane (Ed.) The Routledge handbook of language and intercultural communication. New York: Routledge.

[3] M. Bennett (Ed.) (2013). Basic concepts of intercultural communication: paradigms, principles, & practice: selected readings, 2nd Edition. Boston: Intercultural Press.

[4] M. Paige (1993). "On the nature of intercultural experiences and intercultural education." In Paige, M. (Ed.) Education for the Intercultural Experience. Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press.

[5] M. Bennett (1993). "Towards a Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity." In Paige, M. (Ed.) Education for the Intercultural Experience. Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press.

[6] G-M. Chen and W. Starosta (1998). Foundation of Intercultural Communication. Needham Height, Mass: Allyn & Bacon.

[7] R. Brislin and T Yoshida (1994). Intercultural communication training: an introduction. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

[8] P. Ruiz-Bernardo, R. Ferrandez-Berrueco and M. Sales-Ciges (2012) "Aplicacion del modelo CIPP en el estudio de los factores que favorecen la sensibilidad intercultural." RELIEVE, vol. 18(2), pp. 1-14.

[9] J. Chocce, J. Donald and Y. Yossatorn (2015) "Predictive factors of freshmen' intercultural sensitivity." International Journal of Information and Education Technology, vol. 5(10), pp. 778-82.

[10] U. Margarethe, H. Hannes and S. Wiesinger (2012) "An analysis of the differences in business students' intercultural sensitivity in two degree programmes." Literacy Information and Computer Education Journal, vol. 3(3), pp. 667-74.

[11] Witte, A. (2011). "On the teachability and learnability of intercultural competence: developing facets of the "Inter". In Witte, A. and Harden, T. (Ed.) Intercultural Competence: Concepts, Challenges, Evaluations. Oxford, GBR: Peter Lang AG.

[12] Sercu, L., (2007). Foreign language teachers and intercultural competence. What keeps teachers from doing what they believe in? In J. Manuel and L. Sercu (Ed.). Challenges in teacher development: learner autonomy and intercultural competence. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.

[13] Budharugsa, W. (2011) "A perception of Thai EFL teachers towards intercultural competence teaching: a study of secondary schools in Chiang Mai Province", Unpublished master's thesis, Mahidol University.

[14] Afonso, C. (2011). Intercultural competence: a major issue in Foreign language teacher training?" In Witte, A. and Harden, T. Intercultural Competence : Concepts, Challenges, Evaluations. Oxford, GBR: Peter Lang AG.

[15] R. Lafayette (2003) "Culture in second Language learning and teaching: anthropology revisited." In Lange, D. and Paige M. (Ed). Culture as the core: perspectives on culture in second language learning. Greenwich, Conn: Information Age Pub.

[16] McCaffery, J. A. (1993). Independent effectiveness and unintended outcomes of cross-cultural orientation and training. In Paige, R. M. (Ed.). Education for the intercultural experience (pp. 219-240). Yarmouth, Maine: Intercultural Press.

[17] E.T. Hall (1993). "The power of hidden differences." In Paige, M. (Ed.) Education for the Intercultural Experience. Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press.