5.1 What is Intercultural Competence?

Linguists and language teachers remember the discussions from 1960s on the concept of "communicative competence".

Communicative competence was developed by Dell Hymes in response to Noam Chomsky's theoretical concept of competence, particularly Chomsky's distinction between "competence" and "performance". In everyday communicative situations, interactional dynamics or cultural foundations of communication were not of Chomsky's interest. For Hymes, however, concrete communication acts in sociocultural contexts were relevant objects of study. His concept of communicative competence was well received by applied linguists and language teachers, who were engaged in improving language use, particularly oral proficiency.

Within the fields of communication and psychology several models of intercultural competence have been developed in the past decades. Communication researchers have approached competence from interactional point of view, psychologists from individual internal processes. Most models contain lists of personal attributes, psychological adaptation, communication skills and cultural awareness (see e.g., Chen & Starosta 1998).


© Liisa Salo-Lee, 2006



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