Drawing on many years of training experience in academic and corporate environments, our focus is on the training of the interculturally appropriate use of English as a lingua franca (ELF) – as it is this which is the Number One language of intercultural communication. Clearly, this distinguishes ICE –Intercultural Competence in English- from other approaches, which have been prevalent in the field for some time. Here are briefly our reasons.
1. Nations are not Cultures
Quantitative culture frameworks (Hofstede, Trompenaars/ Hampden-Turner, Schwartz, GLOBE etc.) which have been highly influential have raised serious doubts particularly concerning the underlying concept of ‘national cultures’. These are manifest in the lists of nations on scales of psychological constructs like ‘Uncertainty Avoidance’, ‘Assertiveness’ or ‘Mastery’. We cannot accept the proposition that ‘THE culture’ of multi-ethnic nations (Switzerland, China, Russia, India, Hungary, USA, Brazil – in fact, which nation is not multi-ethnic?) can be presented using statistical mean figures.
We prefer to uphold the view that Nation States are dynamic systems of numberous macro- sub- and micro cultures, partially overlapping with other cultures and in a constant process of creation and re-creation through the everyday communication and interaction of groups of individuals.
2. Personality is not enough
The key concepts which have dominated the training market in periodical waves have used terms like Sensitivity, Empathy, Emotional Intelligence, Resilience, Polycentrism, Mindfulness etc. It is worth mentioning that all of these terms lack clear definitions and only enjoy to an extremely limited extent the support of relevant sectors of the scientific community. Naturally, tolerance of ambiguity, behavioural flexibility, respect for otherness, empathy etc. are excellent features of character and worthy of possession. In fact, they are important for effective communication in general, including intercultural communication and the choice about how much remain myself or adapt.
We know, however, that people considered assertive, resilient, goal-oriented etc. at home, faltered in a foreign environment. We do believe, therefore, that focussing on the formation of ‘personality’ in intercultural training diverts the focus away from what really counts, i.e. practical communication.
3. It’s what you do and say
In contrast to these approaches we believe that the training of the interculturally appropriate use of language should be a central aim of every intercultural training concept, rather than being treated as a desirable extra. Language, as we understand it, includes the non-linguistic and para-linguistic aspects of human communication and treats it as a vital element of all the processes of co-constructing identities, roles and relationships in which we are involved every day.
The ICE train-the-trainer courses provide an introduction to prevalent theoretical and practical approaches to the training of intercultural competence.