In this post we discovered that speaking their language isn’t enough to understand people.
You need to connect.
And this is only possible if you have developed cultural competency, as we learnt.
What is cultural competence, indeed?
In this article, I focus on the meaning of cultural competence and why it is so important not only for language professionals but for edutopian educators.
Understanding cultural competence
According to the Historical and Current Events Dictionary, “cultural competence is the ability to effectively interact with people from cultures different from one’s own, especially through a knowledge and appreciation of cultural differences”.
It also describes competence as “the quality of possessing the necessary skill or knowledge to handle a particular situation or task”.
Therefore, it is something we are able to acquire through practice—something that needs to be trained.
As a professional translator facilitating communication and understanding between different peoples, having and developing cultural competence is a must.
But tell me, what can you see when you look around?
Do your neighbors come from the same city?
Did your ancestors live in the place you are living now?
What about workplaces?
Aren’t there people of different origins?
And what about your school?
Do students come from the same country?
Is their cultural heritage the same as yours?
Multiculturalism is our —new?—reality
I know, I’m not saying anything new here.
We live in a multicultural world.
I’m sure you are witness to many micro cosmos in your daily practice as an education professional.
And I also guess you play a role as an (inter)cultural mediator, too.
You are a bridge between different ways of seeing and understanding the world. Although you might not be a language professional.
Healthcare providers, custom attention workers… every professional working with people will face an intercultural situation at some point of their careers.
But who can say they have no contact with people from different cultural backgrounds nowadays?
In an increasingly multicultural world, having cultural competence seems to be more necessary than ever but…
Why is it so important?
Here are some of its benefits:
- Developing these skills will help us avoid and prevent misunderstandings (as the one I experienced) or hurt feelings.
- Mutual respect and understanding between multicultural environments and contexts (at school, within the classroom, in the neighborhood, in companies—between clients and providers—will increase.
- Being culturally competent helps to develop empathy—a true necessary skill for both personal and professional life (and fundamental to build a better world).
- Having diverse cultural perspectives fosters creativity and helps innovation take place—crucial for edutopian educators!
- It promotes the incorporation of various perspectives, ideas, and strategies into decision-making processes, which is one of the biggest goals as an edutopian educator and a fundamental skill for a translator.
- For language and communication professionals, it helps us adapt to the target audience, making the message truly understandable, making them feel at home and as if the content would have been originally expressed in their native language (and culture).
- It helps your language service provider better understand you and adapt to your needs and requirements.
- So at the end, it is essential to produce (by a language provider) and obtain (by a language service user) an accurate and professional work and service and a happy experience with your provider/partner.
And the question is…
How can I develop cultural competence?
Well there is no a single way to work on you cultural competency and it will depend on your own needs but here are some general tips you can start with:
- Have a true interest in learning about and connecting with different cultures.
- Listen (not just hearing).
- Eliminate prejudice from your life.
- Do not judge.
- Be open to different points of view, opinions.
- Be open to unexpected.
- Be humble. Accept you don’t know—and will never know—everything about anything.
Being culturally competent is crucial for a language provider, as a professional translator.
However, cultural competence does not only involve translators, but everyone.
If we aspire (and really want) to live in a healthy world, building true relationships with people from diverse ethnicities, backgrounds, points of views, ideas and customs is essential.
And developing cultural competence will help us to achieve it.
Cultural competence makes us more empathetic beings—and professionals. So it enables us to be more open-minded and respectful.
And in the end, it helps make our dream as edutopian educators come true—contribute to make a more ethical and better world, led by empathetic and respectful people.