Intercultural Communication for Language Learning

Why do you need to offer a glass of water 3 times?

4 individuals gathers on a floating vessel on the water. They are enjoying themselves in conversation.

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Relocation is not easy. I became an ex-pat 16 years ago and lived in three countries. Communication and integration are essential and often challenging for many people. It is excellent if you have a community to join immediately by being a student or having a good work network from the start, but what if it’s not enough or you don’t have anyone around?  

Last week we ran a roundtable with Global LT teachers to discuss intercultural communication in language learning. It was amazing to hear personal and professional stories. Language teachers can be your best friends when you relocate to a new country! They share with you not just linguistics and grammar rules, but also advice on everyday life, cost-saving tips, cultural aspects, the best places to go, hidden local restaurants, and social life.  

These are just a few topics we discussed: 

  1. One teacher from the Netherlands noticed that she had to ask her daughter-in-law, who is from Japan, three times if she would like to have a glass of water. The teacher knew that even if she wanted it, she wouldn’t ask for it immediately. Why is it like that? Does it mean she must ask questions several times if someone is from Japan and other Asia-Pacific countries? 

    • During the round table, we discussed different cultural dimensions and cultural theories of Geert Hofstede and Erin Meyer. There are direct and indirect cultures, also known as low-context and high-context. A low-context communicator is natural, clear, and precise. For example, in Dutch culture, when you speak to a person from a high-context culture, you need to know how to read between the lines. A good example is Japanese culture. It’s highly recommended to do research and learn about communication styles! 

  2. The other teacher mentioned the issues with giving and receiving feedback. Some cultures prefer to address input directly, which might sound rude to some cultures but giving indirect feedback might sound unclear and complex to others. Global LT teachers discussed the best techniques for approaching students from different cultures when they ask for feedback. 

  3. Cultural sensitivity plays a vital role during the relocation. The teachers discussed how important it is to learn through different experiences and be aware of local celebrations and traditions. They also mentioned that it helps them connect better with their learners personally.

Some ex-pats need help with integration and communication challenges, and learning the language and culture of a destination country will help tremendously. We must be curious about the different cultural backgrounds of people around us and celebrate diversity! 

If you would like to learn more about how to work and communicate with a particular culture, don't hesitate to contact us. Global LT provides customized cross-cultural and ex-pats programs. The goal is to learn how to become an efficient communicator whether you start living or working in a new culture, move with your spouse, or have international teams to work with.  

This post was written by Marina Rowe, Cultural Program Manager.


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