Intercultural Communication

One of UFV’s strategic directions emphasizes the university’s goal to provide an educational environment that

  • is inclusive, welcoming, and engaging for all;
  • embraces diversity, supports cross-cultural exchange, and promotes the respectful debate of ideas and views;
  • involves students in governance and decision-making; and
  • offers vibrant campus experiences supporting social, intellectual, and personal development.

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UFV is a diverse community and instructors in a wide variety of disciplines seek to engage learners in reflection on diversity-related issues and to facilitate meaningful dialogue and genuine cross-cultural connections in the classroom.  The resources listed include activities to foster cross-cultural communication skills and build intercultural understanding.


This short video clip is taken from Crosstalk, a BBC television series first broadcast in May, 1979. It is based on extensive research by the anthropologist John J. Gumperz, a specialist in linguistic conventions and cross-cultural interactions. The video analyzes interactions between English speakers and immigrants from West India and South Asia in London during the period and shows how subtle linguistic differences can result in antagonism, miscommunication and misunderstanding.
Here is the description of the series from the U.C. Berkeley Anthropology Emeritus lecture series honouring Gumperz:
Crosstalk, first broadcast on BBC television May 1, 1979, was a pioneering effort in applied sociolinguistics. It was one of a series of ten programs entitled Multi-Racial Britain. Crosstalk confronted the issue of workplace miscommunication that comes from racial and ethnic stratification. Gumperz's recent research on gender inequality and miscommunication in the academic setting can be seen as an outgrowth of this work.


An interview with Gumperz can also be found on the website. In the interview, Gumperz talks about the purpose of his research and ways in which the conventions governing English speech are confusing or irritating to others.

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Questions for discussion or reflection before viewing the video clip:
Have you ever had an interaction with a student in which you felt that there had been some kind of miscommunication or misunderstanding which had nothing to do with the actual words exchanged?
What kind of feelings or reaction did you experience? What do you think caused you to experience this kind of reaction?
Questions for discussion or reflection after viewing the video clip:
Do you think that you might have had a similar experience? Might you have had a similar kind of interaction with a student?
Do you think situations like this are common? Why or why not?
What can we do to prevent situations like this?

If you are interested, look at the interview with Gumperz on the U.C. Berkeley site. What is the purpose of the conventions governing the way English speakers interact with others? Why are they considered “irritating” by people from other cultures? How might you explain them to your students?

 Library Resources

Resource 1

Shapiro, S., Farrelly, R. & Tomas, Z. (2014 ). Fostering International Student Success in Higher Education. Alexandria, VA: TESOL International Association Press.
UFV Library Catalogue
Subjects: Students, Foreign -- English-speaking countries
Location Call No. Status

Chapter 2: Culture

Academic culture and classroom culture
Theoretical background (individualism vs collectivism) and the role this cultural difference might play in issues such as intellectual property and plagiarism, expectations regarding assertiveness or individual ownership, original thought and innovation, direct and indirect communication styles, and the classroom setup (teacher-fronted vs learner-centred). The issue of workload and assessment is included. Continuous assessment or “multipronged” assessment is not a feature of the classrooms many international students have come from. In their home countries, their final grade is often based on one final exam.
Suggestions for supporting international students transitioning into North American academic culture are found on pages 17-27. The need to contextualize pop culture and references to Canadian culture is stressed. Some common scenarios are provided (p. 24) to show why this is important as well as examples of culturally inclusive content (p. 25). 

Resource 2

Berardo, K. & Deardorff, D. (2012). Building Cultural Competence. Sterling, VA: Stylus.

Available online and in book format through UFV library


HM1211 .B85 2012



HM 1211 B85 2012


This book includes a wide variety of activities to build cultural competence.  As the editors put it, objectives range from “the basics of understanding core concepts of culture to the complex work of negotiating cultural identity and resolving cultural differences” (p. 1). Sections include:

  1. Introduce core concepts
  2. Understand differences
  3. Explore cultural values
  4. Navigate identity
  5. Manage cultural transitions
  6. Communicate successfully
  7. Build global teams
  8. Resolve differences
  9. Communicate professionally

A description of each section is found on p. 3. A summary and overview of all the activities in the book can be found in the table on pp. 6-11. The activity focus, type, audience, time, group size, level of challenge and a summary are included. Chapter 3 provides insights and practical guidelines for development and assessment of an intercultural learning experience.

What’s brewing in your classroom?

Meet with Dr. Maureen Wideman to discuss your ideas and challenges. She can help you reach your teaching goals and develop great learning experiences for students.

Book a meeting now

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