How shall I talk of the sea to the frog,
If it has never left his pond ?
How shall I talk of the frost to the bird of the summerland,
If it has never left the land of its birth?
How shall I talk of life with the sage,
If he is prisoner of his doctrine?
Chung Tsu, 4th Century B.C.
I consider myself a citizen of the world. When I was
18 years old, I left my hometown of Sherbrooke for the first time with a small
backpack, and I only came back five years later. Back then, I knew very little
English and I had never heard about intercultural competence. Despite my lack
of formal intercultural awareness, I managed to work in Western Canada, in
the U.S.A., in Europe, in Australia and in Asia. Even here, in Québec,
many of my friends come from diverse social and ethnic backgrounds. They use
to call me "Phil the chameleon" because of my subtle ability to
adapt myself to the various colours and shapes of the surrounding environment.
Although I have a flexible identity, I always stay the same whole person with
the same strong values.
As a future second language teacher, I am now interested in the different ways of assessing cross-cultural competence. Intercultural abilities are often through behavioral manifestations or traits. Commonly cited attributes include : "respect, empathy, flexibility, patience, interest, curiosity, openness, motivation, a sense of humour, tolerance for ambiguity, and a willingness to suspend judgment" (Kealy 1990, Kohls 1979). Such a list frequently guides the conception of the self-assessment tools for intercultural awareness. These tests raise intercultural awareness but do not develop the attitudes, the skills or the knowledge that are also some important aspects of intercultural competence. For example, language and culture are dimensions of each other, interrelated and inseparable. "Language, in fact, both reflects and affects one's world view, serving as a sort of road map to how one perceives, interprets, thinks about, and express one's view of the world"(Fantini 1999).
Because awareness involves exploring, experimenting, reflection, and introspection. I will focus on the innovative self-assessment tests that are accessible for everyone. If you plan to work or to study abroad, or if you simply travel for leisure, you might be looking for a quick and easy way to self evaluate your cross cultural proficiency level. Some reliable, valid, practical and informal identity quizes have been developed. They are meant to activate traveller knowledge of their own culture and the target culture and raise their intercultural awareness before their foreign visit.
Within the World Learning context, four developmental levels have been posited. These are:
-Level 1 Educational Traveler : participants in short term exchange programs.4/6 weeks
-Level 2 Sojourner : longer cultural immersion, interns and participants in college semester abroad programs and intercultural internships of long duration. 4/8 months
-Level 3 Professional : staff who work in a intercultural or multicultural context,
-Level 4 Intercultural/Multicultural specialist : individual involved in training, educating, consulting, and advising international students, overseas directors, and cross-cultural trainers. ESL teachers.
ASSESSING INTERCULTURAL COMPETENCE: A YOGA FORM
The term " YOGA " stands for " Your Objectives, Guidelines, and Assessment" form. This form may be used as a self-evaluation guide. This pilot document has been designed by Alvino E. Fantini to help you to critically examine the development of your intercultural communicative competence. Rate yourself in each of the areas below (from 0 - no competence - to 5 - very high competent). This simple test can spark important discussion, reflection, and learning.
Level 1 Educational Traveler I demonstrate awareness of
differences across languages and cultures
my negative reactions to these differences (fear, ridicule, disgust, superiority)
how a specific context affects or alters my interaction with others
how I am viewed by members of the host culture
Level 2 Sojourner I demonstrate awareness of
myself as a culturally conditionned being and as an
individual with personal preferences and habits
responses to my social identity (race, class, gender, age, ability) within the context of my own culture
responses to my social identity as perceived by the host culture
intercultural differences (diversity aspects such as race, class, gender, age, ability, sexual orientation) within my own culture
intercultural differences within the host culture
my choices and their consequences ( which make me either more or less acceptable to my hosts)
Level 3 Professional I demontrate awareness of
my own values that affect my approaches to dilemmas
and their resolution
my hosts responses to me that reflect their own cultural values (ethical frameworks, embodying values, variations based on individual differences)
how my own values and ethics are expressed in specific contexts
differing cultural styles and language use and their effect on the workplace or institutional context
Level 4 Intercultural/Multicultural specialist I demonstrate awareness of
my own level and stage of intercultural development
(in terms or sensitivity, empathy, ethical issues, language proficiency)
the levels and stages of intercultural development of those I work with (students programs participants, colleagues)
factors which help and hinder my own intercultural development and ways to overcome them
factors which help and hinder the intercultural development of those I work with and ways to help them overcome them
how I perceive myself as a communicator, facilitator, mediator in intercultural/multicultural situations
how I am perceive by others as a communicator, facilitator, mediator in intercultural/multicultural situations
the multiple perspectives, complexities, and implications of choices in intercultural and multicultural context
Looking back to my own experiences, and after reflecting on my answers, I consider myself as a level 2 sojourner. In most of my intercultural experiences abroad, I learned to operate in a rather native-like fashion and I was often perceived (or accepted) as a member of the host society. In indeed tend to be fairly bilingual-bicultural (or multicultural). My goal is to attain the level 3, professional, by the end of my university formation. However, I am conscious of the fact that the best way to test one's intercultural competency is to be on the field (to travel!).
Fantini, A. (1999). Assessing Intercultural competence
: A YOGA form. Brattleboro. VT. School for International Training. Unpublished.
Kealey, D. (1990) Cross-Cultural Effectiveness : A Study of Canadian Technical Advisors Overseas. Hull. Quebec. Canadian International Development Agency.
Kohls, R. (1979) Survival Kit for Overseas Living. Chicago Intercultural Network/SYSTRAN Publication.
With so many daily conflicts bursting all over the planet, peaceful organizations are indispensable to bring people together in an attempt to better understand and respect each other. These values may seem unreachable or even utopian, but organizations like Amnesty International, working in partnership with other international, national and regional humanitarian bodies, permits the recognition of human dignity and protection of human fundamental rights throughout the world. Such accomplishments are rarely promoted on main information networks though members of those organizations realize significant work for peace and even permit the eradication of much bad treatment, imprisonment and the death penalty in numerous countries.
Amnesty International publishes a report every year of the actions they performed in worldwide countries. Although those reports do not give the exhaustive list of achievements realized, they give an astonishing idea of what people can accomplish when they get together, speak and act in the name of universalism and human dignity. About four hundred pages of good news are thus released each year. It seems quite significant, but it is quite microscopic as well, when compared to the trillions of newspaper pages spreading bad news… Let us hope that one day, it will be the opposite.
Founded in 1961 by Peter Benenson, a British lawyer, Amnesty International is a worldwide humanitarian organization that helps people of any nationality, religious belief, race, sex, age, sexual identity to get their fundamental rights stated and respected. Its members' actions take different forms: letters, petitions, pacific and sometimes silent demonstrations, official speeches, sending of Amnesty International delegates in important public events, requests putting pressure on governments, world campaigns.
The mission of Amnesty International is to pursue the following objectives:
protection and respect of the human fundamental rights
(which include the rights of children, women, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transsexuals,
prisoners of conscience, human rights defenders, etc.)
education on human rights
abolition of torture and bad treatment
abnegation and abolition of death penalty
ending of weapons traffic
help to refugees
Amnesty International works in collaboration with other non-governmental organizations (NGO) such as Oxfam, the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA), the United Nations (UN), intergovernmental organizations, and many other national and regional groups or individuals, who all have made human rights their exclusive priority.