Intercultural Competence

Intercultural competence is [the ability] "to see relationships between different cultures - both internal and external to a society - and to mediate, that is interpret each in terms of the other, either for themselves or for other people." It also encompasses the ability to critically or analytically understand that one’s "own and other cultures’" perspective is culturally determined rather than natural.
-Michael Byram, Professor, University of Durham
Globalization, having brought individuals in contact with one another at an unprecedented scale, has also brought forth a general challenge to traditionally recognized boundaries of nation, language, race, gender, and class. The challenge moves in two directions simultaneously: on the one hand, distinctions that were unnoticeable before have been rendered visible, and in the opposite direction, similarities across traditional boundaries have been recognized. The end result in both cases is that boundaries of social practice are being re-negotiated, re-assessed, and re-considered. For those living within this rapidly changing social landscape, intercultural competence--as defined by Michael Byram above--is a necessary skill, and the cultivation of such intercultural individuals falls on the shoulders of today’s educators. They should provide students with opportunities to help them define and design for themselves their "third place" or "third culture," a sphere of interculturality that enables language students to take an insider's view as well as an outsider's view on both their first and second cultures. It is this ability to find/establish/adopt this third place that is at the very core of intercultural competence.

Center for Educational Resources in Culture, Language and Literacy (CERCLL)


The Center for Educational Resources in Culture, Language and Literacy (CERCLL) is a Title VI Language Resource Center funded by the U.S. Department of Education. It supports the educational community and the nation by providing resources and research focused on culture, language and literacy in less commonly taught languages. CERCLL is associated with the University of Arizona's Second Language Acquisition and Teaching (SLAT) Program.

CERCLL Projects

Do Our Students Realize They Live in the World?

Living abroad makes you more creative:research project, includes language learning.

Creativity is an essential skill for 21st century.