Foundations of Intercultural Communication

Curriculum Guideline

Effective Date:
Course Code
CMNS 1104
Foundations of Intercultural Communication
Language, Literature & Performing Arts
Start Date
End Term
Not Specified
Semester Length
Max Class Size
Course Designation
Certificate in Global Competency
Industry Designation
Contact Hours
2/2 This course is not recommended for hybrid or online delivery
Method(s) Of Instruction
Learning Activities

Interactive teaching methods require student engagement both within and beyond the classroom. Teachers will use academic and theoretical knowlege to coach and facilitate active student learning. Students are likely to conduct research with human participants as part of course requirements and evaluation. Instructors are responsible for making sure that such research is conducted in a manner consistent with College research ethics policies and federal policies. Students are expected to discuss, analyze and interpret intercultural communication in one-to-one, group, simulated role plays and real life settings. Role plays may be audio- or video-taped for the purposes of informed self-and peer-evaluation.   

Interactive teaching methods may include the following:

  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 may include the following:
    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 may include the following
    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 face-to-face 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 or wish to be in frequent contact with people from diverse cultural backgrounds.
Course Content

1. Why study Intercultural Communications?
Focus: introduces Intercultural Communication as a field

a. Important interrelated terms

  • Intercultural relations
  • International, multicultural and cross-cultural communication
  • Inter-ethnic and inter-racial communication

b. Components of Intercultural Communication

  • Knowledge
  • Skills
  • Attitudes

c.  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

a. Defining communication

    • The process of perception (selection, organization, and interpretation)
    • Models of the communication process (linear, circular and transactional models)
    • Intercultural Communication principles

b. Understanding communication and context in Intercultural Communication

    • Confirming and disconfirming communication
    • Communication climate

c. Examining communication and the self

    • Cultural identity development and communication
    • Notions of the self; self-construal in Intercultural 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
    • Continuum and developmental models
  3. Taxonomies for understanding Intercultural Communication such as
    • 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

a.  Cultural factors

  • Values, norms, and rules
  • World view

b.  Social factors

  • Group memberships
  • Role attributions

c.  Psychological factors

  • Categorization
  • Expectations
  • Attributions

d.  Obstacles to Intercultural Communication

  • Uncertainty reduction theory
  • Attribution theory
  • Ethnocentrism, discrimination, racism and prejudice

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

a.  Verbal codes

  • Rule systems in verbal language
  • The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis

b.  Translation, interpretation and additional language use

  • Challenges of equivalence
  • Influences of mother tongue culture on additional language use

c.  Communication styles

  • Persuasive styles
  • Organizational preferences
  • Structure of conversations
  • Conversational rules

d.  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 culturally-influenced variations in non- verbal behaviour

a. Kinesics (body language)

  • Posture
  • Gestures
  • Gait

b.  Paralanguage (vocal characteristics)

  • Pitch
  • Tone
  • Volume
  • Rate of speech
  • Use of silence

c. Proxemics (use of space)

d. Chronemics (use of time)

  • Formal and informal time systems
  • Monochronic and polychronic time

e. Olfactics (use of smell)

f. Haptics (use of touch)

g. 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

a.  Models and theories of intercultural adaptation and cultural learning

b.  Knowledge (cognitive) dimension

  • Culture-general and culture-specific knowledge
  • Cultural self-knowledge
  • Language learning
  • Mindfulness (alert to differences and one’s perception of them)

c.  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)

d.  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 basic theory, concepts and models 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 increased abilities 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 appropriately apply strategies and techniques for communicating more effectively with people from different cultures,
  3. recognize and appropriately respond to social and ethical issues in Intercultural Communication,
  4. clarify and articulate their personal motivations for developing effective Intercultural Communication competence.


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

  1. increase their involvement in intercultural interactions,
  2. strategically continue to learn and improve their 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. Students are expected to be self-motivated and to demonstrate professionalism, which includes active, engaged participation, good attendance, punctuality, effective collaboration, ability to meet deadlines, presentation skills and accurate self-evaluation.   

Methods such as the following may be used to evaluate student work:

Reflective Journal


Interaction Analysis


Intercultural Project


Professional Conduct 






Textbook Materials

A current edition of a text such as one of the following will be selected:


  1. Gudykunst, W., S. Ting-Toomey, S. Sudweek and L.P. Stewart. Building bridges: Interpersonal skills for a changing world. Boston, MA. Houghton Mifflin.
  2. Lustig, M.W. & Koester, J. Intercultural competence: Interpersonal communication across cultures. Harper Collins College Books.




CMNS 1215 or 1216 recommended but not required