Foundations of Intercultural Communication

Curriculum Guideline

Effective Date:
Course Code
CMNS 1104
Foundations of Intercultural Communication
Language, Literature & Performing Arts
Start Date
End Term
Semester Length
Max Class Size
Contact Hours
Method Of Instruction
Methods Of Instruction

The teaching methods will require teacher interaction as coaches and as facilitators for students’ active participation in the learning process. The following is a list of instructional strategies.

Interactive teaching methods

  1. Lecture
  2. Academic readings
  3. Videos/film
  4. Literature
  5. Guest speakers
  6. Cultural informants
  7. Class exchanges
  8. Simulations and briefings
  9. Artistic representations
  10. Media reports/stories
  11. Student interviews
  12. Class discussions
  13. Fish bowls
  14. Buzz groups
  15. Role plays with professional actors

Active participation of students

  1. In-class activities
    1. Role Plays
    2. Negotiations
    3. Interviews
    4. Group discussions
    5. Group projects
    6. Problem-solving
    7. Case studies
    8. Debates
    9. Discussions
    10. Presentations
    11. Film/video analyses
    12. Value-clarification exercises
    13. Cultural manifestos
    14. Introductory cultural profiles
    15. Quick writes
    16. Brainstorming
    17. Conflict resolution exercises
    18. Dramatizations
    19. Lecture summaries
    20. Impromptu presentations
    21. Diagnostic self-assessments
    22.  Goal setting and self-evaluations
  2. Out-of-class activities
    1. Field observations
    2. Contact assignments
    3. Transformative journals
    4. Intercultural discovery tasks
    5. Culture-partner exchanges
    6. Literature reviews/analysis
    7. Field study projects
    8. Graph/table/chart productions
    9. Social/ethical issues portfolios
    10. Culture-contrast research papers
    11. Artistic representations
    12. Research survey questions
    13. Community tours
    14. Video productions
    15. Internships
    16. Annotated bibliographies
    17. Guest speakers
    18. Campus/public events
    19. Newspaper/magazine article summaries
Course Description
This course presents the foundational knowledge and skills needed to improve students’ abilities to communicate effectively in intercultural contexts. The course examines basic concepts in Intercultural
Communication and emphasizes the identification and application of basic Intercultural Communication skills. Barriers to effective Intercultural Communications are identified and strategies for overcoming them explored.
The course has a strong applied focus and will be particularly useful for students who are in frequent contact
with people from diverse cultural backgrounds.
Course Content
  1. Why study Intercultural Communications?
    Focus: introduces Intercultural Communication as a field
    1. Important interrelated terms
      • Intercultural relations
      • International communication
      • Multicultural communication
      • Cross-cultural communication
      • Inter-ethnic communication
      • Inter-racial communication
    2. Components of Intercultural Communication
      • Knowledge
      • Skills
      • Attitudes
    3. Advantages of intercultural competence
      • Personal
      • Social
      • Professional
  2. What do we mean by communication?
    Focus: defines the concept of communication in general and examines the influence of context on communication
    1. Defining communication
      • The process of perception (selection, organization, and interpretation)
      • Models of the communication process (linear, circular and transactional models)
      • Communication principles
    2. Understanding communication and context
      • Confirming and disconfirming communication
      • Communication climate
    3. Examining communication and the self
      • Identity development and communication
      • The self in one-to-one communication
  3. What do we mean by Intercultural Communication?
    Focus: defines the concept of Intercultural communication in relation to communication in general and examines taxonomies that explain aspects of the intercultural experience.
    1. Defining Intercultural Communication
    2. Models describing Intercultural Communication
      • Degrees of interculturalness (Sarbaugh)
      • Continuum models (Samovar and Porter)
    3. Taxonomies for understanding Intercultural Communication
      • Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck’s values orientations
      • Hall’s high and low context
      • Triandis’ individualism and collectivism
      • Hofstede’s cultural patterns
      • Bond’s Confucian cultural patterns
  4. What factors influence the Intercultural Communication process?
    Focus: introduces the major cultural, social, and psychological factors that are commonly identified as influencing Intercultural Communication
    1. Cultural factors
      • Values, norms, and rules
      • World view
    2. Social factors
      • Group memberships
      • Role attributions
    3. Psychological factors
      • Categorization
      • Expectations
      • Attributions
    4. Obstacles to Intercultural Communication
      • Uncertainty reduction theory
      • Attribution theory
  5. How does verbal communication differ from culture to culture?
    Focus: introduces the idea that conventions of language use and communication and relational style vary across cultures
    1. Verbal codes
      • Rule systems in verbal language
      • The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis
    2. Translation, interpretation and additional language use
      • Challenges of equivalence
      • Influences of mother tongue culture on additional language use
    3. Communication styles
      • Persuasive styles
      • Organizational preferences
      • Structure of conversations
      • Conversational rules
    4. Relational styles
      • Variations in interpersonal relationships
      • Maintaining face in interpersonal relationships
  6. How does non-verbal communication differ from culture to culture?
    Focus: introduces the idea of “difference” in communication as a manifestation of variations in non- verbal behaviour
    1. Kinesics (body language)
      • Posture
      • Gestures
      • Gait
    2. Paralanguage (vocal characteristics)
      • Pitch
      • Tone
      • Volume
      • Rate of speech
      • Use of silence
    3. Proxemics (use of space)
    4. Chronemics (use of time)
      • Formal and informal time systems
      • Monochronic and polychronic time
    5. Olfactics (use of smell)
    6. Haptics (use of touch)
    7. Occulectics (eye contact)
  7. How can we enhance our abilities to communicate with others who are different?
    Focus: defines the concept of Intercultural Communication competence and identifies the personal benefits of  improving competence
    1. Models of intercultural adaptation
      • Theories of culture shock
      • Models of culture learning
    2. Knowledge (cognitive) dimension
      • Culture general and culture specific knowledge
      • Cultural self-knowledge
      • Language learning
      • Mindfulness (alert to differences and one’s perception of them)
    3. Skills (behavioural) dimension
      • Respect
      • Task role behaviour
      • Relational role behaviour
      • Interaction management
      • Relationship initiation and maintenance strategy
      • D.I.E. model (description, interpretation, and evaluation)
    4. Attitude
      • Sensitivity to socio-cultural information
      • Empathy
      • Adaptability
      • Flexibility
      • Tolerance for ambiguity
      • Positive view of diversity
  8. What ethical issues arise in Intercultural Communication:
    Focus: identifies and addresses ethical issues that may arise in the context of Intercultural Communications, and encourages students to formulate responses to those issues
    1. Ethical awareness
      • Ethnocentrism
      • Cultural relativity
      • Universal ethics.
Learning Outcomes


Upon completion of the course, successful students will be able to:

  1. explain on the basic concepts of Intercultural Communication,
  2. identify foundational Intercultural Communication skills,
  3. describe the major factors influencing the communication process in an intercultural context.


Upon completion of the course, successful students will be able to:

  1. demonstrate an increased ability to be reflective and aware of their own cultural background and the influence this background has on their expectations for communication in an intercultural context,
  2. adjust expectations and apply strategies and techniques for communicating more effectively with people from different cultures,
  3. demonstrate an increased sensitivity to issues in Intercultural Communication (e.g. ethical issues),
  4. clarify and articulate their personal motivations for developing effective Intercultural Communication competence.


Upon completion of the course, successful students will be able to:

  1. increase their involvement in, and enjoyment and appreciation of, intercultural interactions,
  2. increase their motivation to improve Intercultural Communication skills
Means of Assessment

Given the emphasis on teacher interaction and student participation, course evaluation will include a combination of teacher, self, and group assessments.



Interaction Analysis


Intercultural Project


Quizzes and Exams


Attendance and Participation




Textbook Materials

Sample list of texts appropriate for teaching Intercultural Communication:

  1. Dodd, Carley. (1999) Dynamics of intercultural communication. Dubuque, IA. William C. Brown
  2. Gudykunst, W., S. Ting-Toomey, S. Sudweek and L.P. Stewart. (1995) Building bridges: Interpersonal skills for a changing world. Boston, MA. Houghton Mifflin.
  3. Lustig, M.W. & Koester, J. (1999) Intercultural competence: Interpersonal communication across cultures. Harper Collins College Books.
  4. Samovar, L.A. & R. E. Porter (1999) Communication between cultures. Belmont, CA. Wadsworth Publishing Co.
  5. Sarbaugh, L.E. (1998). Intercultural Communication, 2nd ed. New Brunswick: Transaction Books.