Do you teach cross-cultural awareness or inter-cultural communication?

Do you teach cross-cultural awareness or inter-cultural communication? Is there a difference? In my view there is. In cross-cultural communication you don't change yourself but you learn about the other guy's values and behaviour and adapt to their style. In inter-cultural communication it's a two way process. My interaction with you changes me and your interaction with me changes you. In the process we both become more interational, as we experience a change of mindset. What cultural study is all about is changing from a monocultural to a multicultural mindset. That is what the new generation is going to need in a globalising world and it is why culture is such an important part of language teaching and especially English language teaching. What do you think? Post your views and tell the world!

To put this in action, whenever you focus on British culture, always ask four questions.

1 What have I learned about British culture?

2 What have I learned about my culture?

3 What one thing I will say or do differently as a result?

4 How has my attitude changed because of learning this? 


Hello, BARRY!

 Thanks for recommending the reading of your blog 5(posted today).

I've read it with much interest. Let us see about our effective understanding of the issue... It seems to us that inter-cultural communication has a lot more to do with what you call "sensitivity and cultural skill". In my simple words, the ability to understand what other people(s) do under certain circumstances, how we/they feel and react towards other cultures, the degree of flexibility and tolerance we all have to grasp.

We've appreciated your sentence"It is an attitudinal change that is expressed through the use of language." For us this makes all the difference indeed. We do realise how important this might be for developing business relationships and conducting diplomatic affairs in today's globalising world.

In our view, here on the Net - in which we can discuss themes related to ELT profession and on Discussion Boards- we face what you call "cultural skills". Does this practical example tick?

Many thanks indeed.

Best regards,


What a great idea to discuss culture, and cultural awareness, and, mainly, as a fifth language skill.

I've been teaching  British History/ Social Studies at Teacher Training College in Rosario Argentina, since 1984 and, in the process, I've learnt a great deal about toleration. I think that's what it's all about: learning about other people's cultural values and getting to be a better person in th process. There's so much to learn from each other!

Thanks for opening the discussion.

Dear Barry

For my is a pleasure that you are in this month´s teacher guest. Right now I am an English teacher in Colombia, developing with other partners a project involved with culture.

I had the opportunity to live in London, and in other cities around the world. Also, I was a member of AIESEC (an international student´s association) while attending college and I had the chance of meeting people from many different cultures like, England, Hungary, India, Japan, France etc. I really agree with you when you say before in your blog that Culture is the fith skill and I have realized that we must undertand first our culture to understand others in the world. I think that the meaning of Globalization is something that is right the corner, but is hard to see that there are cultures that are reluctant to this change.

Well, answering your questions I think:

(1 and 2) The British culture is really different from mine. I am latin and here we don´t plan in advanced. In your culture because of the seasons you plan everything. As simple as you holidays. You book flights, hotels, etc in advanced at least one year before.In my country we plan everything one week before or eventhough one night before. Also, I think that british say the things straight forward. I you don´t like something, you say it and that´s it. In my country is different because we are afraid about people´s reaction , so we try not to say the truth. Finally punctuality and politeness. You say "sorry" all the time and punctuality is mandatory. In my country is completely different. We are extremely unpunctual and we are not polite with others in public places.

3. I try to adapt in my daily life good things about british culture and also about other cultures. I am punctual in all my activities and I demand others to be the same. I try to plan my life at least some months in advanced. I do not say sorry all the time, but I try to say it when I think I did something wrong.


4. I am an open mind person. One of my best friends is British and I have the most wonderful memories from London. I think I understand more others in my culture because how others behave, think. This is for me fundamental at the moment of teaching becuase every person is a different world and at the moment of teaching you must understand how thsi person background.


Liliana Rodriguez Vega

"I think luck is the sense to recognize an
opportunity and the ability to take advantage of it... The man who can
smile at his breaks and grab his chances gets on."

Absolutely right, Maria.

Cultural awareness is a subset of skills that is accessed through language but is not covered by the language syllabus. And yes, it is to do with building awareness and sensitivity through the use of language. That is why we as language teachers are in an excellent position to helo develop this skill.


Hi Bethina,

Of course, what we are teaching through language is interest in, understanding of and tolerance of other cultures. A great deal of cultural awareness seems to be about not getting upset. I'm interested that the most common question I'm asked by British business people going abroad is' How do I avoid causing offence?' 

I'd love to know  a technique you use for teaching tolerance through English. Have a look at the idea I suggested to one teacher, based on Marshall Rosenberg's Non Violent Comunication.


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