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Exploring languages and cultures
Exploring languages and cultures

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1 Intercultural encounters

An intercultural encounter takes place when you become aware that you are interacting with a member of a different community whose ways of thinking are quite distinct from your own. These experiences often occur when you go abroad, but they can take place in any society that has many different cultural groups, such as the UK, for example. During an intercultural encounter, you become aware that you and the other person are operating according to different sets of beliefs and values. This may mean that you are acting in ways that are unfamiliar to each other, which can provoke a sense of unease in one or both participants. But such encounters can offer significant learning opportunities, provided that you use them to think about your own expectations, and to explore the cultural assumptions that appear to be shaping your behaviour and that of the other person (your interlocutor). Reflection of this kind is one of the main ways in which you can acquire what is known as intercultural competence.

In this section you will look at two different encounters and will begin to think about examples drawn from your own experience.