My ICLE Share #1: How to approach Stereotypes in an IC education context?

My ICLE Share #1: How to approach Stereotypes in an IC education context?

by Javier Salazar -
Number of replies: 2

Stereotypes are a pet peeve of mine. Not only because of their commonly known/accepted negative connotations  (that they can be offensive, that they are the root of racism and discrimination, etc.) ... but because  I think that sometimes, we Intercultural Communication (IC)  educators, can inadvertently contribute to their formation/validation/reinforcement. A lot of IC textbooks and lesson plans sometimes tend to make statements such as " people from Culture X tend to think/behave in a Y way" or similar. In fact, well-known IC-related theories and categorizations (such as Hofstede's and Meyer's) do exactly this: they make generalized characterizations of people from this or that national context.  In other words, in order to elicit awareness about cultural differences, IC educators might end up resorting to stereotypes ... in the same very same class where the perils of stereotyping should be addressed.

What to do then? Well , I have a few ideas . On our 1st ICLE Share I'll address these issues and if that's not enough, we can continue the discussion in this thread!

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!


In reply to Javier Salazar

Re: My ICLE Share #1: How to approach Stereotypes in an IC education context?

by Stephen Ryan -


Thanks or sharing your ideas yesterday. It was a rare treat to be able to focus on these thoughts for a full 90 minutes and your comments were very helpful in helping to crystalise something that has been on my mind for a while:

When I visit a new city, I like to get a local map and immediately put it in my pocket, without looking at it. Then I walk out to "encounter the new," in the "raw" as you called it yesterday. I get myself horribly lost and confused but keep going. Eventually, I pull out the map and try to make sense of what I have experienced.

You've probably figured out already why I am sharing this: I see it as in some way similar to the use I see in intercultural concepts: they can help us make sense of an experience after the event but, as you said, if consulted too soon can detract from the actual experience, imprisoning it in the filters of preconception.

In one way, though, my metaphor is misleading: the map is the guide to the new city, but the intercultural concepts in my back pocket are A guide, not THE guide, one of a series of possible ways of seeing things.

In reply to Stephen Ryan

Re: My ICLE Share #1: How to approach Stereotypes in an IC education context?

by Javier Salazar -
Dear Stephen

Thank you so much for your insightful metaphor ...... I have been mulling on it for the last few weeks and actually, I don't think it’s misleading at all! In fact, it's pretty accurate if you ask me.

This is how I would put it:

Instead of seeing the intercultural concepts as THE map, for me, the "maps for navigating Intercultural Communication" are the IC competence models I mentioned in my talks: Bennett's, Byram's, Moran's, Van Dyne's CQ, Shaules' etc. The IC concepts contained in these models are like the map's landmarks. So if I were to take your brave habit of arriving at a new place mapless, then for me these models are akin to the variety of maps of the same city you can get when you visit the Tourist Information Center. Usually, you can get more than one map: one made by the City Hall, another one made by sponsor X, other by sponsor Y and yet one more by sponsor Z. Although each map represents the same city, they tend to vary in perspective, scale and more important on the salience they give to the city's features and landmarks. The City Hall one will perhaps try to emphasize public transportation routes, and A, B, C, and D landmarks. Sponsor X' s may or not emphasize these but what it will surely do is mark with a big icon/illustration where its flagship store is located. If by any chance one of the city's major landmarks is close by to one of Sponsor X's stores, then right as rain its map will give salience to that landmark out of the interest of tourists passing by their store. Sponsor Y will have its own way of representing all of this, and if it so happens that Sponsor X is its direct competitor, you can bet it won't give any salience at all to whatever can lead tourists to its competitor. Same applies to Sponsor Z's ... you get the idea.

So, if I , as a mapless tourist, go first thing to its Tourist Information Center, I will be faced with four maps : they all represent the same city, I can literally use any of them to navigate it. Depending on which one I choose, my experience of the city will be filtered by it one way or another, as I will tend to give emphasis to whatever the map wants me to emphasize. I can surely get all four maps ( this is what I usually did in my young backpacker trip years ... many years and kilos ago, LOL 😆 ) and then use one or another depending on which one happens to be easier to understand/read ... but regardless, the experience of it all will be inevitably filtered by it, I won't be experiencing the city in all its "rawness" for sure.

So this is what these IC models do in terms of mapping the encounter with the "otherness" of the Other. Bennett, Moran, Shaules, etc. they all "map" the exact same process, but they tend to give more salience to this or that other concept, just like the various city maps tend to emphasize different landmarks. But most importantly, if I wanted to extrapolate this metaphor in terms of what it means for ICLE pedagogy, that is where it all gets the most interesting to me, where I think you might (inadvertently ) have hinted at a very powerful idea. Here it goes:

We, ICLE educators, are sort of Tour Guides because our job is to help/support our students on their journey of navigating the encounter with the "otherness" of the Other. As Tour Guides, it is in our job description to not only have studied to the letter all available maps to the city... but we should have also had a fair amount of experience in navigating that city as well. And just like everything else, there are good and bad tour guides. And more often than not, the one who decides if said Tour Guide is good or not is not the actual guide him/herself ... but its customers: in our case, our students!

So before I go on to elaborate on what would be a good or bad ICLE educator/Tour Guide, let me do a little bit of storytelling for you to understand where I'm coming from:

It's funny that you and I see "tourism" in a similar way. One of the most enjoyable touristic experiences I've ever had was on a trip to New Zealand. We visited both islands of it, but on a tour from a company called "Magic Bus". Basically what they sold was set plans of riding their buses from A to B to C to D, etc. And depending on how many days you wanted to hire them, the routes varied. The beauty of it all that was it was YOU who chose WHERE was your point A,B,C etc... and not only that, it was up to YOU to decide WHAT you wanted to do in each of these points. They gave you suggestions on what to do, of course, but ultimately it was all on you. For example, you might have planned to spend one day only on point C, but in case you happened to fall in love with C and decided to spend two extra days on it and remove days from other points, Magic Bus was completely fine with it. It was this sort of flexibility that made me feel that really, Magic Bus was just there to support me on MY OWN way to experience New Zealand, one that I decided on my own. Thus, it made me feel relatively in control of my own journey.

So, If were to extrapolate this to ICLE pedagogy, the definition of a bad/good ICLE Educator/Tour Guide depends on what you understand as IC Education ( The Tour) as well as what your students ( the Tourists) expects/make out of it. To make things simple, there are probably two mayor types of guides

1- The BAD ICLE Tour guide. This is the one that probably would be your standard Tour guide in the real Tourism Industry, but not necessarily so in ICLE teaching. Let's call it Your Regular Tour Guide. This is the one that markets the tours (in ICLE, the course itself) with a set itinerary, timetables, hotels, restaurants, etc. All of it is meticulously ( AND INFLEXIBLY!) set in stone so the Tourist experiences a very filtered and preconceived view of what is to travel to that place. Now, because of what I mentioned in my talk about how IC theory sees the experience of encountering the Other ... this preconceived journey is completely at odds with it all. Mind you, again, as mentioned in my talk, this way of viewing IC education is (sadly, to ME) the norm. Most IC textbooks tend to have this deductive pedagogical logic that "teach" the encounter with the other by compartmentalizing it into neatly labeled theoretical categories, so the student ends up learning a lot ABOUT IC, but not necessarily learning to actually communicate across cultures.

... but here's the kicker: some Tourists (in this case, Students) might want exactly that. I'm sure you'd agree: same as most tourists hire Tour Guides in order to not to have to put the work on figuring it all out by themselves; more often than not, Students do not expect to have to put in the amount of self-reflective effort needed to develop IC competence (or IC sensitivity, CQ, awareness... whatever the theory you adhere with it calls it). This leads me to the second type of ICLE Educator ...

2- The GOOD ICLE Tour Guide: This kind of tour guide would probably be considered "niche" in the real Tourism Industry, because it doesn't market itself as a guide in the way Your Regular Tour Guide would. Instead, he/she would market himself as a "Tourist Facilitator" of sorts,
because the focus would be to provide his clients with the logistical support needed for the Tourist to make the journey on its own, in a safe and fun manner. Let's call this one The Irregular Tour Guide. Think Magic Bus. In fact, in terms of real-life Tourism Industry, The Irregular Tour Guide is not even sustainable ... because basically what it is doing is training the tourist to have the skills necessary to go do the trip on its own, so it will never have repeat customers. One single tour (course in ICLE) and then the tourist would not need to hire his services again, hence going bankrupt. In terms of ICLE Teaching, happily we only need to concentrate on developing IC skills just for that semester or year-long course, so no bankruptcy fears there. Even more, The Irregular Tour Guide's way would be more in line to what IC Theory stipulates as how the encounter with the "otherness" of the Other actually happens...

... but here's the kicker: As mentioned before, your students most likely expect you to be Your Regular Tour Guide. Especially in Japan, where "education" is sometimes viewed as just some guy spewing some sort of "knowledge" in the classroom while the students, as "empty cups" of sorts, are expected just to passively listen and absorb it all. The Irregular Tour Guide might end up seeming as "foreign" to them, as someone they are not used to expect (nor even want) in terms of their education ... thus they might resist/reject/complain about it.

All of which brings me to that powerful insight I mentioned at the beginning ... and that derived from your metaphor... one that (perhaps inadvertently) you triggered:

The real challenge of IC educators is not, and never has been, only just mastering knowledge about IC. In this sense, both Your Regular Tour Guide as well as The Irregular Tour Guide need to know in equal amounts the theory behind IC... which yes, can be a challenge in itself but still, it is not THE REAL challenge. The real hurdle is that you need to be The Irregular Tour Guide that needs to compel students into realizing that they can benefit more by experiencing the otherness of the Other your way vis a vis Your Regular Tour Guide's way. It's like Magic Bus trying to convince a bunch of Japanese tourists to hire them instead of one of those JTB Tours where there is this guide with a small bell herding tourists as if they were sheep. And not only that, the only way of doing that is by (almost forcefully) making them get in your Magic Bus tour because it is only AFTER experiencing it that maybe your students can say " Hmmm, Magic Bus wasn't as bad as I thought after all ... In fact, I'm glad the teacher made me take it, as it is so much fun and interesting than a JTB Tour..... Not only that! I even learned how to do a tour all on myself! On my next trip, I dont even need Magic Bus anymore!".

That, right there, is in short, the real challenge ... one that I think underpins our entire role as IC educators.

Sorry for the belated and long-winded reply to your post .... Man! now rereading it almost looks like I could write a paper out of this. Hmmm, Stephen, interested in being a coauthoring Irregular Tour Guide? 😉