Addendum – About cultural types, European culture and intercultural competence

As an addendum to my last post on cultural types, European culture and intercultural competence I have at least to say a word about languages. With a smile I have to admit that thankfully nobody ever made me learn Esperanto[1]… what a funny thought that is: having one European common language. But: could a language really exist without having a cultural background? Interesting question indeed as in the common theories[2], language is determined by culture but culture also by language. It is true though that the more languages you speak the easier it gets when we speak about my particular domains of expertise at least which are communications, leadership and coaching. When being able to talk to your international team members in their language or to coach people in their language of origin, it truly makes a difference. Not only will you find that people open up easier but you are also not confronted to the barriers of communicating in a foreign language, as non-natives very often have difficulties to formulate their inner thoughts, worries or motivations in another language.

So, not only does a multicultural and multi-facet background give me access to intercultural skills but also the ability of speaking and thus being able to communicate in a variety of languages. This becomes very relevant when looking into emphatic listening[3] or mindful conversation[4] for example. If the ‘receiver’ of your message doesn’t understand what you actually mean and doesn’t ask (depending on the culture your interlocutor actually comes from, it might even be considered as rude to ask questions), the communication process will not function adequately resulting in misunderstandings and more.

Image

If you now apply this to digital means of communication like e-mail and such where it is even harder to communicate what you want to say – as you only have words and the tone of these to express yourself – plus you communicate in a language which is not your main one, you can imagine how difficult transmitting any message gets. From my experience, I honestly have to say that most of the problems arising in multicultural leadership/working teams stem from misunderstandings or misinterpretations from what has been originally said or demanded. In such an environment it is thus of crucial importance to pay particular attention to the original culture, language and behaviors of people so that a common ground for discussion and exchange can be found! And: I don’t think that Esperanto would have solved these problems J


[1] Please see Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esperanto for reading more about what Esperanto is!

[2] See for example this excellent article in the Wall Street Journal “Lost in translation”: http://tinyurl.com/2bmmtfd or this link on language and culture: http://tinyurl.com/9pt2ldz

[3] As explained in my blog entry on ‘the power of listening’ for example.

[4] According to Chade-Meng Tan, mindful conversation consits of three components : listening, looping and dipping. See his book “Search Inside Yourself” p. 60-62.

One thought on “Addendum – About cultural types, European culture and intercultural competence

  1. Pingback: What it takes to lead multicultural teams | Mindful Leadership & Strategic Communication

Let me know what you think!