Cross-cultural Accommodation through a Transformation of Consciousness
This paper discusses a little-described but essential competence for successfully communicating in intercultural contexts: the ability to 'accommodate,' redefined here as the capacity to 'decentre oneself' into the world view of an interlocutor – or of a text to translate. In fact, this paper holds that achieving genuine entente with culturally diverse interlocutors and realizing truly communicative translations are behavioural competencies that require the same superordinate attitudinal competence: the ability to situate oneself empathetically within a diverse world view and, as a quasi member of that world, interpret and generate discourse. How strange it is then that, while learning to accommodate is the heart of intercultural training for diplomats and negotiators, it is absent from the syllabi of most university language courses and translation seminars!
The theoretical contribution of this paper will therefore be to widen Giles & Coupland's (1991) traditional definition of 'accommodation' – focused largely on linguistic convergence – and assert that, in intercultural exchanges, successful accommodation requires, above all, cultural (existential) convergence. Less demanding forms of verbal accommodation are also possible, of course. This paper lists five kinds in all and rates their relative effectiveness. But accommodation by unilateral cultural convergence is claimed to be generally the most effective interactional mode and thus the primary competence to be taught to language students, translators, and international negotiators.
 Presented at the 1st SIETAR-UK Conference, Globalisation, foreign languages and intercultural learning, South Bank University, London, 9-10 Feb. 2001 (proceedings unpublished). This version incorporates the comments and suggestions of the discussants (and, subsequently, of the Cultus reviewers) to whom the author is deeply grateful.
Intercultural Mediation in the Mono-lingual, Mono-cultural Foreign Language Classroom: A Case Study in Japan
Mediating between conflicting interpretations of phenomena is a goal of the intercultural speaker (Byram 1997). But can intercultural mediation skills be developed through foreign language education when the only foreigner in the class is the teacher, and the students all share the same native-language and cultural background? One possible teaching approach involves teachers encouraging learners to analyse and evaluate cultural difference, but also attempting to align their values with specific universal values to develop a democratic society supportive of human rights (Guilherme 2002). In this study, qualitative data were gathered over a twelve-week period from twelve Japanese student participants and me as a British teacher-researcher. Value differences between students were systematically uncovered, and mediation generated change. Critical evaluation was found to support the mediation process but although the teacher transmitted specific target values, the impact of the values and viewpoints of other students seemed to be just as, if not more, important.
Anna Franca Plastina
Exploring cultural knowings in language learning: the case of Turkish mobility students
Nowadays, it is widely accepted that culture and language are closely related (Nieto 2002) and that research and language pedagogy need to link language teaching to that of culture (Kramsch 1998). This paper draws from the experience of a teacher mobility stay at the Technical University of Istanbul in Turkey to run a short Italian language preparation course for a group of Turkish tertiary students before their mobility stay in Italy. The paper first examines the key issue of how cultural knowings play a decisive role in building a new centre of interaction (Alred et al. 2002) in intercultural encounters, as they underlie different intercultural abilities. It then considers the importance of learning how to develop repertoires of cultural knowings in mobility language learning contexts, where the language teacher’s roles are decisive in building these first steps towards intercultural competence. Following Moran’s (2001) Cultural Knowings Framework, the paper reports on the case study carried out to diagnose the Turkish tertiary students’ cultural knowings: knowing how (cultural practices), knowing why (cultural perspectives), knowing oneself (self-awareness), knowing about (cultural information), whilst still in their safe cultural environment. Diagnostic findings were analysed quantitatively and qualitatively, and then systematised using the Intercultural Competence Assessment (INCA) framework (Byram et al. 2004). Calibrating students’ initial levels of intercultural competence was insightful to tailor course objectives in order to enable them to broaden their cultural knowings. In turn, this learning process was helpful in sensitising students’ cultural mindset before facing the challenges of a new cultural environment.
Inmaculada Soriano García
Direction of mobility and its implications for the U-curve theory
The increase in student mobility exchanges over the last decades has been accompanied by a growing interest in understanding the factors within which mobility exchanges take place. In this sense, student mobility is closely related to existing studies that intend to define and explain the concept of culture shock. This paper seeks to determine factors that affect students’ exchange experiences as well as to promote discussion regarding the U-curve theory.
The U-curve theory has been used to describe the cross-cultural adjustment process of employers, sojourners or students within a host culture showing the different stages experienced by people moving from a home to a host country. Starting from the U-curve theory, this paper is based on a study including both directions within the same mobility programme framework undertaken by future translators. That is, both Spanish Translation students who study part of their degree in Russia and Russian Translation students who study in Spain.
The results show strong differences in the students’ experiences depending on the direction of mobility. Thus, the level of adaptation of Russian students to Spain is quite high and the subjects usually respond to a U-curve scheme, while Spanish students have a lower level of adaptation and the exchange stages experienced by these students do not necessarily respond to the above mentioned theory, so that the resulting curve does not appear like a U but more like a J.
This paper illustrates that prior orientation is an essential aspect in order to facilitate effective cultural adaptation. Also, this paper indicates that the implementation of strategies that help students to cope with culture shock is a crucial aspect to be taken into account.
David Trickey, Nigel Ewington & Richard Lowe
Being International: what do international managers and professionals really think is important – and do the experts agree?
Results from a database of over 2000 practicing managers with international roles who have completed a self assessment questionnaire, The International Profiler, seem to indicate that gender, expatriation experience and national culture influence the extent to which professionals emphasise a range of 22 international success factors. By combining these results with a survey on how 125 interculturalists rank the same 22 dimensions of international competence we can suggest some key similarities and differences between the perceptions of professionals in the field and the trainers, consultants and academics who develop them.