The Impossibility of Defining and Measuring Intercultural Competencies



Language learning and language use are generally viewed as being bound together with cultural elements, practices and processes. Being unaware of other perspectives might easily lead to ethnocentrism, stereotyping and prejudice. Fostering ‘intercultural competencies’ that reduce ethnocentric attitudes, such as the ability to reflect upon taken-for-granted assumptions and the willingness to acknowledge difference, are therefore important aims within contemporary foreign language teaching. The question the present chapter attempts to answer is whether the outcomes of intercultural learning can be adequately described as ‘competencies’. The term seems to suggest specific dispositions, knowledge, behaviour and strategies that can be applied effectively in situations where difference — as some authors would hold — either pre-exists and subsequently influences the communicative situation or, according to others, is made relevant and co-constructed by the agents involved. Despite differences in conceptualizing intercultural learning, the term ‘competence’ appears to be seen as useful and adequate by many authors across a wide range of perspectives.


Communicative Situation Intercultural Communication Intercultural Competence Foreign Language Education Multilingual Matter 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Karin Zotzmann 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of SouthamptonUK

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