tempo di lettura 2′

Intercultural competence means being able to establish trustful relationships in spite of differences in world-views, values, behaviour, personal interests and the like. In the intercultural field, this approach is probably shared by everyone. Dealing with conflict in a peaceful manner is therefore an essential element of learning to communicate effectively in diverse environments.

It may come as a surprise, then, that Russia’s war in the Ukraine has rarely been mentioned in the context of intercultural training courses. Exceptions exist, of course, such as training concepts developed for military personnel. Experienced professionals know how important the interface between peace education and intercultural training can be. And certainly not everything we are confronted with must be accepted or tolerated. Aspects of cultures which are in conflict with our own values and world-views – thus with our own identity – represent special challenges which should be part of intercultural training.

So, what does this mean for the training of intercultural communicative competence in times of war in Europe?

1)  Firstly, it is knowledge of history, more specifically the phase in European history following WWII, which needs to be refreshed. Europe’s concepts of liberty, human rights, constitutional government and sanctity of borders brought about a phase of peace never seen in history before. Today’s Europe stands for opening borders rather than challenging them or fighting over them. This should be recalled when questions of war and peace are dealt with in intercultural training. The Council of Europe makes a lot of effort to remind Europeans of the achievements which the last 77 years have brought.

2) Raising self-awareness is essential in terms of “What are the limits to what I can accept?” Being clear about one’s own limits of acceptance is a pre-condition for effective cross-cultural communication and may affect things like negotiation styles, compliance, gender roles, corruption and more. Being prepared for what to do and what to say when faced with ‘unacceptable’ behaviour or opinions of any kind should be part of all intercultural training. Breaking up a relationship is easy – maintaining a trustful relationship in spite of differences is not. Consequently: Knowing one’s limits of acceptance and knowing how to express these – without burning bridges – should be a further aim of intercultural communicative training.

3) Conflict both in intracultural and intercultural contexts, is inevitable, necessary and – if handled well – potentially productive. If handled poorly, however, it can lead to personal disaster and damage the success of a project or even worse. Therefore, knowing about the nature and types of conflicts, understanding oneself in conflict and knowing how to handle conflict should be the third element of intercultural training. Inevitably, this includes practical communication skills.

Di Rudolf Camerer

Rudi Camerer comes from language testing and, today, directs a language and intercultural consultancy, elc-European Language Competence, Frankfurt/M. & Saarbrücken, Germany. He is the author of a number of publications on the teaching and testing of intercultural competence and, with Judith Mader, co-authored Intercultural Competence in Business English (Cornelsen 2012). Dirige ELC European Language Competence, una società di consulenza linguistica ed interculturale con sede a Francoforte e a Saarbruecken, in Germania. Ha un back ground di valutazione della competenza linguistica. E’ autore di diverse pubblicazioni sulll’insegnamento e la valutazione della competenza interculturale, e con Judith Mader ha scritto “Intercutural Competence in Business Engish” (Cornelsen 2012).