Inter-Cultural Intelligence: Is it Important?

Culture has always been considered a fundamental part of language learning, but the way we view culture is changing. As the world becomes more of a global community, American businesses and government have been calling attention to the relevance of language and cultural skills for the U.S economy. They warn that our country’s continued leadership may be at risk provided that our students fail to gain the abilities to interact with the world community at home and abroad. In other words, the more our students show Inter-Cultural Intelligence - the abilities to actively participate in communication guided by an awareness and understanding of cultures- the greatest the opportunities for our nation to maintain a position of leadership in the world.

With the learning target of demonstrating interculturality and the ability to use the Spanish language to interact appropriately in cultural contexts, my Spanish classes have been preparing to participate in an authentic interaction via Google-Hang- Out with a couple of native speakers from the South-American country of Colombia. Part of this preparation has included using Chromebooks to do research and build-up background knowledge about our target country, develop Spanish vocabulary to increase fluency, learning and practicing asking questions in Spanish, making cultural comparisons, and reflecting on common cultural biases and stereotypes. From this prep list, a great number of students took advantage of the opportunity to reflect and discuss common stereotypes and prejudices against other cultures and embraced the idea that in order to demonstrate Inter-cultural Intelligence, one has to be able to uncover personal biases, develop diversity awareness, and ultimately eliminate inaccurate preconceived ideas about other cultures.

Here is what some students in my Spanish classes shared with me as they prepared to bring their Intercultural Intelligence to a higher level:

“One Spanish culture I am learning about in class is the Colombian culture. Colombia is a interesting country. It is one of the richest countries in South America and the only one that has a coastline on both the Pacific and Atlantic sea. Also, Bogotá is the capital of Colombia. It is the second largest capital city in South America and is one of the highest capital cities in the world.

Studying about Colombia and its culture has had a huge impact on my beliefs and views about the Spanish culture. Before, every time I would hear a native Spanish speaker communicating in Spanish, I would immediately jump into conclusions and labeled the individual as a Mexican citizen. Taking Spanish classes has shaped my views of other cultures. Now, I know that just because someone speaks Spanish, it does not necessarily mean he or she is from Mexico. I have learned that the Spanish culture is so rich and that it can’t be label. I am glad that learning a second language has helped me to confront and correct my stereotypes about other cultures and prepared me to embrace difference!!”

Cyndal Reece, 7th Grader

“Learning Spanish has affected my attitudes and beliefs about other cultures by giving me knowledge and helping me become more thoughtful. I have never thought about other cultures as much before starting Spanish class. I enjoy my language- learning journey because it has helped me realized that there are other cultures out there with different backgrounds and views than just my own. One country we are learning about is Colombia. Colombia has really impacted me. The way they express their culture with carnivals or parades, vibrant dances, bright colors, and traditional clothing is so unique. It is so different than what I’m used to here in America and I find those differences fascinating. Our class has been preparing to Skype with native Spanish speakers from Colombia so that we can interview them in Spanish. Thinking about my Spanish proficiency, I realize my ability to ask questions in Spanish has improved a great deal. Before starting Spanish, I couldn’t ask any questions in the target language. In sixth grade, I could ask one or two. Now I can ask many different questions!”

AnnaLee McCary, 7th Grader

“Have you ever tried to speak in a different language than the one you are used to? If you have, you were probably nervous that you would say something wrong! Did you know that there are currently 41 million native Spanish speakers living in the US today — and another 11.6 million people who are bilingual, many of whom are the children of Spanish-speaking immigrants? So think about the people that are comfortable with speaking both, Spanish and English in the US. More than eleven million people in this country speak Spanish at the level of proficiency of a native Spanish speaker and they actually were born in this country! They are Americans! Learning a second language has definitely helped me avoid making assumptions when I hear someone Speaking Spanish. It helps to be more tolerant of other cultures and recognize my own cultural values and biases.”

Adriana Rankin, 7th grader

In a few days, 6th, 7th, and 8th graders at MMS will be experiencing an encounter in a virtual exchange with native speakers from Colombia with the goal develop intercultural communicative competence. After the virtual experience, all learners will be asked to summarize the encounter in writing: They will describe what happened, who was involved, and where and when the experience took place. They will also describe how the experience made them feel (surprised, frustrated, comfortable, angry, confused). They will also examine what they know and don’t know about their own and the target culture as it relates to the encounter. Finally, students will consider what actions they might take to improve their intercultural competencies!

From left to right: AnnaLee McCary, Adriana Rankin, and Cyndal Reece

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Upcoming Event:

Students to watch 'Un Sueno Posible' in Spanish.

Upcoming Event:

Students to Google-Hang Out in Spanish with Colombian native speakers!!

Speak a new language so that the world will be a new world

– Rumi