top of page
  • oneworldstories

Let's Talk Intercultural Competence

The cultural education organization, OneWorld Stories, reveals a more in-depth look at their methodology and the importance of intercultural competence.

Originally published on

You: "What exactly does OneWorld Stories do?"

Us: "Do you know what intercultural competence is?"

We at OneWorld Stories reply to this common question with yet another question to know whether or not to seize the amazing educational opportunity. So, for those continuing with curiosity, what is intercultural competence?

Only the coolest "superpower" a human can develop, at least in the eyes of OneWorld Stories. The ideology behind the development of intercultural competence is what OneWorld Stories uses as a platform behind its own methodology. Let's explore:

Intercultural competence is “the ability to develop targeted knowledge, skills and attitudes that lead to visible behavior and communication that are both effective and appropriate in intercultural interactions.” Basically, the ability to have a great interaction with anyone from anywhere!

Darla K. Deardorff is the executive director of the Association of International Education Administrators based out of Duke University. In her work The Identification and Assessment of Intercultural Competence as a Student Outcome of Internationalization, Deardorff defines the stages of development for intercultural competence in her “Process Model of Intercultural Competence” (see Figure 4). She refers to her model as a “first grounded research-based” model for intercultural competence.

Deardorff notes that the whole process of gaining intercultural competence starts with the attitude, followed by knowledge and comprehension along with skill. These three factors determine the level of intercultural competence that can be obtained. Once an individual reaches the ideal attitude that Deardorff describes to include “respect (valuing other cultures), openness (withholding judgment), curiosity and discovery (tolerating ambiguity),” he or she can proceed to next step in the process.

The ideal attitude allows for a person to be more capable of learning what is developed in the next step because in order to gain those characteristics, he or she has to have respect and an openness for what they will learn, but also a curiosity to discover more about a culture. Without such flexibility and motivation, the desire to learn something new is absent.

Deardorff describes the second step to acquiring intercultural competence is through “knowledge and comprehension” including “cultural self-awareness, deep cultural language, [and] sociolinguistic awareness." She also includes in this step the development of “skills” learning “to listen, observe, and evaluate” as well as “to analyze, interpret, and relate."

The first two stages of process deal directly with the individual, while the last two stages center on interaction. Development of the individual in stages one and two reflects on the success of his or her interactions with others, just as in any cognitive development where an individual’s development mirrors their social interactions.

Deardorff describes the third stage of development as “Desired Internal Outcome” which is “Informed Frame of Reference Shift (adaptability, flexibility, ethno relative view, [and] empathy)." During this stage, it is determined whether the development of attitude, knowledge and comprehension, and skills was able to carry out and instill these characteristics internally.

The last stage, titled “Desired External Outcome” is reached once an individual is able to behave and communicate successfully and properly in a situation dealing with a different culture. In such a situation during this stage, a person’s intercultural attitude, knowledge, and skills are put to the test. Once at the last stage, an individual will stay there in order to further develop their intercultural competence and its beneficial outcome.

What are the benefits for achieving intercultural competence? Intercultural competence helps a person be able to adapt appropriately and easily in another culture through cultural sensitivity, acknowledgement and value of multiple points of view, and awareness of how to properly behave and function efficiently in a new cultural setting. A person is also able to successfully identify, understand, and respect cultural similarities and differences. With this perspective, cultural stereotypes are disregarded when identifying an individual. Through Deardorff’s model, it is evident that gaining intercultural competence is a process that can sometimes even last a lifetime because no person can claim to have perfect intercultural competence.

Until Our Next Adventure!

Jessica Bunch

Founder of OneWorld Stories


bottom of page