I recently had the opportunity to review The SAGE Handbook of Intercultural Competence edited by Darla K. Deardorff. With 29 chapters, 542 pages, and 45 contributors, it isn’t the kind of book you read once and pass along, and it isn’t taken lightly either. It’s the ultimate guide for fostering intercultural competence, the ability to communicate successfully with people from different cultures. More like a textbook, this significant piece of work thoroughly covers the most important reason for the study abroad field. It’s a fine contribution to any international educator’s bookshelf and a reference that will be useful throughout your career.
Part I – Conceptualizing Intercultural Competence
The first 14 chapters are devoted to conceptualizing the idea of intercultural competence. This part of the book tackles questions like “What is identity for someone who is interculturally competent?” and “How does intercultural competence manifest in global leaders?” It approaches these questions from the view of the Western world, Arab world, Africa, China, Germany, India, and Latin America. Even more, it analyzes the role of morals, as well as conflict-resolution and negotiation. At the end of this section, Dr. Deardorff provides a summary, which emphasizes the importance of identity and relationships as they relate to a particular context for communicating between cultures.
Part II – Applying Intercultural Competence
How does intercultural competence apply to human resources, business, teacher education, foreign languages, administration, social work, engineering, religious organizations, and health care? This nine-chapter section covers the blueprints, training, and practical application of successful cross-cultural communication in a variety of professions. While the development of intercultural competence is commonly left to the wind, Michael Paige and Matthew L. Goode (Chapter 19) suggest ways to significantly enhance this process through purpose-driven facilitation. They provide a method for embedding intercultural curricula into the international experience by manipulating ten situational variables and causing emotional-psychological stress across five cultural learning dimensions.
Part III – Research and Assessment in Intercultural Competence
The last six chapters construct a bridge between research, theory, and practice. They also cover the tools, process model, and many challenges involved with the assessment of intercultural competence.
I highly recommend this book to anyone involved in the development of students through education abroad, and to those looking for a more intentional approach.
Submitted by Wendy Williamson, Director of Study Abroad, Eastern Illinois University