Cultural Competence and Language

 In Modern English

Becoming fluent in a language also requires a degree of cultural competence.  So you have mastered those aspects of the spoken and written language – things like grammar, pronunciation, the odd bit of slang, an idiom or two.  All enough to make oneself understood. But really, effective communication is more than knowing the right grammar and perfect pronunciation. If want to communicate in a meaningful way, you need to acquire an awareness of the differences that exist between your culture and the culture of those in your host country. Cultural competence is as important as the learning the language.

what is cultural competence?

Language is a part of the bigger picture of what we call culture.  Culture also includes the subtleties of  that culture’s non-verbal communication.  Culture is about the norms adopted by a certain society when a member of that group  approaches problems, negotiates issues and conflicts, views time, deadlines, etc.  It is importance to improve cultural competence as well as English language skills in order to successfully negotiate a new culture.  In order to avoid communication problems within a work or even social environment, both language fluency and cultural competency are required.

Familiarizing yourself with common American expressions, attitudes, non verbal communication,levels of directness in communication, informal expressions of greeting, how to express gratitude.  All these cultural and social behaviors are important to successfully integrate into that culture.

The importance of practicing and spending time and building relationships with native speakers cannot be underestimated.  You need to integrate your life with your learning, and so going to a supper with native speakers is just as important for you to acquire English language skills as sitting in your room with a grammar book.

Once you have make friends with some native speakers, let them know that you want to be told if you say something grammatically incorrect, mispronounce a word, confuse words or mess up expressions, idioms etc.  In addition, observe their manners, how they express their values, how they communicate.  Ask your friends to help you improve your cultural competence.  If you do not do this, they probably will not want to be seen as critical of your efforts.

Cultural competence is as important as the learning the language.



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