Intercultural Competence

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“Intercultural competence is defined as the ability to develop knowledge, skills and attitudes that lead to both visible behavior and communication that are effective and appropriate in intercultural interactions” (Deardorff, 2006). This is a skill that one should develop early on in life because it is important in everyday life as well as the year abroad. It is important to note that no one ever becomes fully interculturally competent (Deardorff, 2018). Learning one or more foreign languages is very important in this era of globalization (Li, 2018). When learning a language, it is very important that you understand the basics first. After knowing and understanding the basics, you can begin to build up your knowledge. It is like building a house, you start with the foundation and then slowly you build the house. Competence allows people to see the bigger picture in life (Small, 2018).

There are different levels when learning a foreign language – in this case German. You can start off as a complete beginning with no experience before. By the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) a beginner with no knowledge fits under the A1 category. An A2 candidate would be someone with slightly more knowledge and the scale goes up – B1, B2, C1 and C2 being someone with a proficient knowledge of the language, practically fluent (Wisniewski, 2017).

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When you start off learning a language you need to achieve four language skills. These are reading, writing, listening and speaking. You cannot have one without the other when language learning. All of these skills connect with one another and help one become better at a language. Language learning is very hard and requires a lot of independent motivation and self-confidence. It does not come to you overnight; it takes time and practice. If one does a little bit every day you will see improvements slowly.

It is very important and useful when studying a language to go to a country where they speak it. This will enhance your knowledge of the language but also you will learn more about the culture and the way people live their lives there. These are very important aspects to look at when learning a language. When going abroad to another country for a year, it gives someone a chance to develop the knowledge and skills that they know from the language they are currently studying as well as learning more about different cultures. This is so very important and vital to travel if you can for a year. If you do not go abroad, you are missing out on all of these wonderful and fun experiences but also learning more about the language and culture. Many of the big cities are multi-cultural and welcome people from all over the world. When going abroad to another country not only are you experiencing someone else’s culture and language, but you can pin-point the similarities and differences between your culture and theirs. People also develop their self-awareness, and this allows them to become more flexible, adaptable, empathetic and have more respect for others and what they believe (Doehla, 2015).

A language is so useful nowadays because it allows us to communicate with a wider variety of people from many different countries and communicating with these people allows us to share interests and common ideas among others. Language allows us to pass on ideas and knowledge onto the next generation ahead of us. It is also very important in shaping society, culture and people. As human beings we want to learn more about other cultures, so it is essential for us to learn a new language. It is also vital for job opportunities in the future.

Intercultural competence is very important if you want to get a job in order to communicate with your co-workers. If one decides to become an English Language Assistant (ELA) in Germany, it is vital that you have built up your intercultural competence. Being an ELA, you will be dealing with loads of people from different countries and people that have different values and beliefs. This could be your co-workers but also the students you will be teaching.

Learning a language opens so many doors for people and boosts your opportunity of getting a job. Employers love hiring people with a language seen on someone’s CV. It gives that person more of a chance at succeeding in getting a job compared to the person their up against.

Language is made up of five components and these are grammar, vocabulary terms (lexicon), linguistics, syntax and semantics.

Our intercultural competence allows us as human beings to communicate with other people from different cultures. This is so effective…

Intercultural competence plays a huge role in language learning. It is a vital skill that everyone should have or begin to build from a young age. It is not just used on your Year Abroad but also in your everyday life. Everyone is different and we all come from different social backgrounds and have different social norms.

There are many different intercultural competence models out there the one used in this essay is based off of Deardorff’s theory (2018). She invented a model that explains the process of intercultural competence. In this model she believes that there are five elements in this model that provide a framework of intercultural competence. These five elements are attitudes, knowledge, skills, internal and external outcomes. She also believes that knowledge of a language alone will not help with intercultural competence. People should be focused on attitudes that are combined with cultural self-awareness. These elements fit under the term ‘cultural humility’. She believes that intercultural competence happens over a long period in a lifetime.

There are three key attitudes that are important in Deardorff’s model, they are ‘respect, openness and curiosity and discovery’. Openness and curiosity mean that one has to be willing to take challenges and be a little bit risky, willing to move and study abroad in another country. While communicating to others we must keep in mind that we have to respect one another and listen to what others are saying – value the people around us and treat them the way you would treat yourself. These three attitudes help connect knowledge and skills together.

Knowledge is very important in intercultural competence. One must be aware of everyone around them tying in with the attitude self-awareness but being culturally self-aware which means how culture has influenced someone (Lu, 2018). It is important for people to try and “understand the world from other people’s perspectives”.

The skills that are gained are from how we process knowledge. They are observation, listening, evaluating, analyzing, interpreting and relating. All of these are very useful skills when language learning. One needs to be able to ‘observe’ and look out for the cultural issue. Then from that observation, listen and value the other person’s presence.  


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