Cultural fluency is the ability and skill set of working your way through a certain culture. It is all about communicating effectively, and picking up the non-verbal and non-linguistic information, and giving genuine reactions. Cultural fluency is about understanding the context when interacting with people, and by context, we mean the cultural background. It is only partly, but not mainly about language: you might be speaking a language really well, but still not be culturally fluent in a certain country. Of course, learning a language always brings you all sorts of cultural information and knowledge as well, but it is important that cultural fluency is something more complex, built of much more than language itself. You can also be culturally fluent to some extent without speaking the country’s language.
Here are 4 tips on how to strengthen your cultural fluency:
1 – Language
As we said, speaking a country’s language doesn’t automatically make you culturally fluent. But it definitely adds to it! With learning a language, you get some pretty useful insight into how a nation thinks, how their logic works, etc. Just one example: there are the languages that have genders, and there are the ones that don’t have them at all. Then there are the ones with frequent use of passive voice, and the ones that try to avoid it if possible. And besides these characteristics of the languages themselves, there are all the information and knowledge you get access to while learning a language. Language learning is never strictly limited to the language itself. Along the process, you learn culture as well.
2 – Common Knowledge
This is something without which we can’t even talk about cultural fluency. These are the things you can learn from books, movies, theatre, music, etc. If you want to be culturally fluent in Spain, watching Spanish movies, listening to Spanish music, and reading Spanish literature will be some of the first steps on your never-ending journey! This way if you end up in Spain, with a group of locals, you will more likely be able to pick up the cultural clues. At this level, we are talking about understanding what the others are talking about. The more you learn, the fewer the awkward situations in which you have no idea what everyone is referring to.
3 – Shared Experiences
Now, this is something you won’t get from books and movies. This is the part where you have to actively participate! An immense part of being culturally fluent is understanding the main values of a society. And you can understand a culture just the way you understand a person: by actively being there. you can read all the psychology books and theoretically be a master of the human mind, but you will only understand a person if you actively engage in what they’re engaged in. So if you want to dive deep into a culture, go and take part in lots of activities! Go to their festivals, take part in their celebrations and rituals! Nothing will give you the insight and understanding that shared experiences will. Speaking the same language gets a whole new meaning when you are talking about something you have also experienced.
4 – Have A Laugh!
Aiming to understand a nation’s humour is always a really good idea. First of all, you secure yourself a couple of good laughs. And if not, here comes the second part: you get to see how culture shapes humour. You will experience that what people in your country might find incredibly funny, might be greeted with a poker face in another country, and vice-versa. You surely heard of the famous English humour, and you might have also heard about the stereotype of Germans being gifted in other fields than humour. Being funny means something different in each culture, and understanding why and how is a really important part of cultural fluency. This is something that once again, cannot be learned from books. Of course, you can learn basic things, like topics you should refrain from joking about, or types of jokes that might be highly praised in a certain country. But when it comes to being culturally fluent, humour is once again something you pick up while being there, with the people.
- Cultural fluency is all about communicating effectively, and picking up the non-verbal information, and giving genuine reactions.
- It is about understanding the context when interacting with people.
- Speaking a country’s language adds to your cultural fluency.
- Watching movies, listening to music, and reading literature help you to gain common knowledge!
- Go and take part in lots of activities! Nothing will give you the insight and understanding that shared experiences will.
- Being funny means something different in each culture, and understanding why and how, is an important part of cultural fluency.