HT – Intercultural Approach

As employed in the Heritage Telecollaboration project, ‘intercultural communicative competence’ (abbreviated as ICC), or simply ‘intercultural competence,’ refers to a person’s ability to successfully navigate between more than one language and cultural system. ICC is a complex concept with two components: it is both a group of skills and a set of characteristics. These are acquired skills and characteristics; they must be learned and developed through life experiences and/or training. Telecollaboration is one way to develop and practice ICC. In the HT modules, equal emphasis is given to developing both language proficiency and intercultural competence; sometimes this means that we spend more time developing intercultural skills than most language classes do.

The skills needed for strong ICC are both linguistic and interpersonal. These skills are needed to perform effectively and appropriately when interacting with others who are linguistically and culturally different from oneself (Fantini, 2006). Effective performance involves linguistic accuracy as well as an understanding of situational appropriateness — all the cultural nuances and practices embedded between the lines of language itself that make language use appropriate or inappropriate in a given context, regardless of accuracy. The main characteristic that defines a person with highly developed ICC is being conscious of their own perspective, of the way in which their thinking is culturally determined, rather than believing that their understanding and perspective is natural (Byram, 2000). This consciousness means that ICC is not a one-way street. It is not just understanding another culture; it also requires us to better analyze ourselves, to reflect on and better understand our culturally-determined perspectives, or cultural lenses. It requires careful consideration of how our own culture has impacted our perspectives, through the study and observation of the target culture and constant comparing and contrasting with our own.

For further information on ICC, please consult the ICC section of the TC References page.


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