As a company involved in cultural awareness training, we are often asked for a definition of intercultural competence. In short, there is no one answer that can be given to this question. Intercultural competence is a term that can be applied by many different people for many different reasons. As a result the definitions change depending on the angle at which people are looking at it from.
In essence intercultural competence can be summed up as the ability to work well across cultures. Yet, many will not agree with such a simple definition. As a way of presenting all the different opinions on the matter, we scoured some sources to see how others define intercultural competence. Here are the results:
>> "..the overall capability of an individual to manage key challenging features of intercultural communication: namely, cultural differences and unfamiliarity, inter-group dynamics, and the tensions and conflicts that can accompany this process."
by staff at Universität des Saarlandes
>> Intercultural competence ".means that a student understands a variety of significant cultural experiences and/or achievements of individuals who are identified by ethnicity, race, religion, gender, physical/mental disability, or sexual orientation; the cultural history of various social groups within a society; the interrelations between dominant and non-dominant cultures, either in the United States or elsewhere, and the dynamics of difference."
By Penn State
>> "A simple definition, however, might be: the abilities to perform effectively and appropriately with members of another language-culture background on their terms."
By Alvino E. Fantini, Ph.D., School for International Training, Brattleboro, Vermont
>> "Intercultural Competence is:
. The fundamental acceptance of people who are different to oneself outside one's own
. The ability to interact with them in a genuinely constructive manner which is free of
negative attitude (e.g. prejudice, defensiveness, apathy, aggression etc.)
. The ability to create a synthesis, something which is neither "mine" nor "yours", but
which is genuinely new and would not have been possible had we not combined our
different backgrounds and approaches."
By Anna SCHMID, UBS AG, Financial Services Group, Zürich
>> "Knowledge of others; knowledge of self; skills to interpret and relate; skills to dis- cover and/or to interact; valuing others' values, beliefs, and behaviors; and rela-tivizing one's self. "
by Darla Deardorff
>> "In order to survive today's complex world, people need to understand different cultures. Understanding different cultures helps people adjust to unfamiliar environments in which they meet, work and live with other people who have different cultures. Adjustment and positive attitudes toward different cultures prompts people to take active roles in the diverse society. Therefore, acquisition of intercultural competence, which is the capacity to change one's knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors so as to be open and flexible to other cultures, has become a critical issue for individuals to survive in the globalized society of the 21st century."
By Niki Davis, Iowa State University Center for Technology in Learning and Teaching
>> "Intercultural competence enables you to interact both effectively and in a way that is acceptable to others when you are working in a group whose members have different cultural backgrounds."
By The INCA Project
>> "Intercultural competence is the ability of successful communication with people of other cultures. This ability can exist in someone at a young age, or may be developed and improved due to willpower and competence. The bases for a successful intercultural communication are emotional competence, together with intercultural sensitivity."