5.3 Can Intercultural Competence be Learned? Or Taught? Or Measured?

While intercultural skills have been well studied, the process of learning intercultural competence has so far received less attention.

Bhawuk and Triandis (1996) classify people based on their intercultural experience and learning as well as the interaction between theory and practice into four categories:

  • lay person (people who do not have any significant intercultural experience)
  • novice (people who have spent two or more years in an other culture and developed intercultural sensitivity but do not have any formal intercultural education)
  • expert (people with theoretical intercultural knowledge who are able to organize their knowledge of cultural difference accordingly)
  • advance expert (have both extensive theoretical knowledge and practical experience)

People become interculturally competent through learning processes. Mezirow (1978, 1981, 1991) talks about a transformational process of learning which means a continuous revising of one's meaning perspectives. Kim (2002) also deals with the intercultural learning process which leads to "intercultural identity".

Bennett (1986, 1998, 1993, 2002, 2003) looks at the gradual development of intercultural sensitivity of an individual, from ethnocentric stages to ethnorelativistic stages (see Bennett's "Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity" on the following pages). The development involves the increasing ability to interpret and evaluate behaviour from different intercultural perspectives. Bennett has also, together with Hammer, developed the "Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI)", a measurement instrument for evaluating intercultural sensitivity and its development.


© Liisa Salo-Lee, 2006



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