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TEFL Masterclass – A Side-Order of Intercultural Competence

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Exclusive Contents

Rob Howard – Teacher trainer & Joint Coordinator @IATEFL BESIG.

Rob Howard is online as an active EFL Teacher and Neurolanguage Coach and training teachers to build their own freelance businesses. Rob is the owner of Online Language Center, managing partner at Business Language Training Institute and founder of EFLtalks – teachers teaching teachers.

What you will learn

Competency in intercultural communication amongst international companies, groups and organizations has been challenging as more and more diverse teams form. This talk will look at some of the reasons for problems in communication and discuss how basic misunderstandings that have taken place within different groups of trained, expert educators, native and non-native alike, due to our own varying cultural backgrounds can affect understanding.

Examples of the intercultural miscommunication will be demonstrated, and the session will offer up better methods to avoid potentially serious errors or miscommunications through examination of our own cultural voice. Many tools and resources are available to help, but the best method is teaching speakers how to speak better, listen better and ask better.

Workshop Summary

The Evolution of Intercultural Competence in Business English

Rob Howard’s exploration of intercultural competence within the realm of business English, as shared in the Gallery Teachers Masterclass, underscores the critical importance of understanding and adapting to cultural diversities in today’s globalised business environment. His personal journey reveals how even subtle regional differences in dialect and social norms can significantly impact communication. This realisation grew as Howard moved from Boston to Rhode Island and later to Tennessee, each move bringing into sharper focus the necessity of adjusting communication styles to fit the cultural context. Such experiences underscore the complex tapestry of cultural diversity, highlighting the need for intercultural competence not just internationally but within individual countries.

Global Interactions and the Importance of Cultural Awareness

In a global economy, interactions transcend geographical boundaries, bringing into contact people from diverse backgrounds, each with their unique perspectives, educational backgrounds, and linguistic nuances. Howard’s teaching experiences in Brazil, where misinterpretations between Brazilian employees and their Canadian counterparts arose from differences in understanding time expressions, illustrate the vital role of cultural awareness. These instances of miscommunication highlight the importance of a deeper comprehension of intercultural communication to navigate the complexities of a globalised workforce effectively.

World Englishes and Communication Barriers

The concept of World Englishes suggests that English has evolved into various forms influenced by the cultures and native languages of its speakers. This linguistic diversity, while enriching, often presents barriers to communication, not only in vocabulary and pronunciation but more critically in cultural nuances and business practices. Differences in negotiation styles, business etiquette, and even time perception can significantly affect professional interactions, emphasising the need for a more nuanced understanding of the global variations in English usage.

Redefining English Education for Global Competence

The essence of the challenge lies not in the English language itself but in the skills of communication. Howard advocates for a standardised approach to English education, focusing on practical communication skills over mere linguistic proficiency. This approach involves improving the quality of English education globally and redefining teaching methodologies to prioritise cultural sensitivity and the practicalities of global communication. Such a shift is crucial for preparing individuals to navigate and succeed in the interconnected global business environment.

The Future of Intercultural Communication Skills

As the world becomes more interconnected, the demand for effective intercultural communication skills is set to rise. The challenge for educators and learners is to extend beyond traditional language instruction towards a more holistic approach that equips individuals with the confidence and competence to operate on the global stage. This necessitates a concerted effort to understand and appreciate the diverse cultural contexts in which English is used, ensuring that communication acts as a bridge rather than a barrier between cultures. Howard’s insights call for a reimagining of English education, one that fosters not just linguistic ability but also the capacity to understand, respect, and engage with cultural differences.

Reflective Questions

Have a quick think about the reflective questions below in order to get the most out of the workshop:

  1. What are some of the major hurdles in Intercultural Competence?
  2. Why are there so many obstacles?
  3. Whose fault is it?
  4. How do we change and eliminate misunderstandings?

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