Language training for European trade unionists – a guide
Raising cultural awareness
One of the aims of European trade unionists is to break down national trade union barriers and create an awareness of a European trade union culture. Language syllabuses should be designed to make learners function more effectively in the target language, but must not be seen as aiming at mere linguistic competence. They should also include raising awareness of the cultural assumptions underlying language forms, and recognition of the misunderstandings that can arise in international encounters. The language tutor's own cultural background also needs to be considered in conjunction with those of the members of the learning group. The materials selected for use on the course may be based on a particular cultural tradition, and tutors should strive to achieve a balance as far as possible, so that the representation of one culture is not predominant.
Culture bumps are occasions when something goes wrong for one or more of the participants in an international encounter. Here are some examples:
Signalling an end to a visit
An English native speaker is receiving a visit in her workplace from an Italian. After some time, she begins to use some of the polite expressions by which many English people show that they wish to drawn an end to a visit, leaving the onus on the visitor to take the initiative in actually terminating it: for example: 'Well, if that's all?' with a rising intonation; or: `I hope that's been of some help to you. Now, ...' then tailing off. If the visitor does not pick up these linguistic clues, or is unsure how to respond appropriately, both interlocutors may end up feeling discomfited or irritated, with a vague feeling of something not quite right. The fact that the language used was clear and easy to understand actually clouds the issue for them both.
Methodological Principles – cultural awareness