Intercultural Competence and its Assessment: A Critical Contextualization

Author/Creator ORCID



Type of Work


Modern Languages, Linguistics & Intercultural Communication


Intercultural Communication

Citation of Original Publication


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As globalization shifts towards an increasingly more interconnected conception of the world, many nations, cultures and people find themselves in intercultural situations with an unprecedented regularity. When these intercultural encounters take place, an individual needs to apply what has come to be called "intercultural competence" in order to act and communicate "effectively and appropriately." Both public and private institutions, as well as scholars, have taken an interest in this new concept, and assessment tools to measure the degree that an individual may attain in such competence are now being used in a wide array of contexts. Assessing a concept whose meaning and implications are still being debated makes the task challenging, yet different fields are navigating these mostly-uncharted waters in search of the key that will enable intercultural competence to be taught, developed and assessed successfully in different situations. A critical mind, however, must ask some uncomfortable questions. What do labels like "effective," "appropriate" or "successful" imply when applied to intercultural exchanges and how do they impact our modern conception of intercultural competence? Which philosophical currents and ideas inform the requirements for an individual to qualify as interculturally competent, and how do these ideas fit into the current globalized era we live in? Is it possible to frame the contextualization of intercultural competence and its assessment by determining the gaps, flaws and limitations that its practical application possesses, and what does this mean for its future theoretical, conceptual and practical development? None of these questions has an easy answer. This paper hopes to shed some light on what lies behind intercultural competence and its assessment, at a philosophical, historical and practical level. After all, although the concept seems to be widely considered acceptable, positive and worth of encouragement, what is often overlooked is the fact that it was created within a specific system and born of a specific philosophy of mind, and thus fulfils a specific purpose in the delicate, imbalanced dynamics that exist between cultures and nations nowadays.