LinguaFolio® Training Resources

Training modules to show how to implement LinguaFolio®

5.4 Cultural Knowledge and Intercultural Competence

Cultural knowledge and intercultural competence are not the same thing.

Intercultural competence depends to some extent on relevant cultural knowledge, but it also depends on attitude, beliefs, values, and interpersonal skills. One can know the language and not know how to interact with a specific audience, and therefore not be understood.

For example, the learner doesn’t know the language well enough and communication fails or the learner does know the language sufficiently but communication fails because of a lack of cultural knowledge. Addressing people you do not know using the informal rather than formal means of address or not respecting personal space are examples of lacking cultural knowledge.

Businessmen sometimes fail to communicate because they lack cultural understanding. One might speak Thai fluently, plan to go to Thailand to close a deal, and organize the schedule of the trip according to American protocol. The deal may not take place simply because the Thai expectation is that business partners establish a relationship with the person before doing business. Normally that requires more than a 24-hour turnaround.

Next: 5.5) Interculturality and language learning