Intercultural Sensitisation Through other people’s glasses

If you want to communicate successfully in another language, you need a fine feeling for the specific culture of the country. For this reason, the Goethe-Institut Cairo regularly offers further training courses to promote the intercultural awareness of its educators. 

Courses are aimed at educators in general, but also at so called advisory teaching staff supporting other German-language teachers as coaches, and at instructors working towards the Green Diploma. The Green Diploma is a Goethe-Institut training programme for educators teaching German as a foreign language (Deutsch als Fremdsprache/DaF).

Ten participants talk about what they were most impressed by and why it is important to recognise and understand cultural differences in the classes they teach.

  • Dr. Riham Tahoun Photo (detail): © private
    Dr. Riham Tahoun (born in 1973), since 2000 free-lance teacher, since 2008 tutor and in-service training course leader: “We were able to try out many things ourselves.”

    Intercultural sensitisation makes us aware of the image we have of both our own culture and the foreign one. This is very important for a tutor, if he or she is to help the trainees to understand the strategies of cultural perception and cultural mediation. The point being that German language lessons do not only pursue linguistic and communicative goals, but also aim to educate students about the country itself - in this case, Germany. During the course I was impressed by the practical approach to the complex concepts of cultural science, and that we were able to try out many things ourselves.
  • Katharina van Zanten Photo (detail): © private
    Katharina van Zanten (born in 1970), free-lance teacher on the Green Diploma course: “Even small exercises can help to sensitise people interculturally.”

    What impressed me most were all the various exercises that we can work with interculturally during the lesson. By incorporating them into the lesson and into the topics we have just been working on, the “new learning objectives” are not detached from the thematic teaching context, for example, the contexts of food and drink or leisure activities. In that way, participants can be interculturally sensitised through small exercises, which can be featured in the lesson at various points.
  • Amal Hassaan Photo (detail): © private
    Amal Hassaan (born 1983), teacher: “Helping learners to analyse and eliminate prejudices.”

    I believe that intercultural sensitisation of both trainees and teachers is very important. Changing people’s perspective helps them to understand and empathise with their own culture and that of others. I was particularly impressed by the way the seminar showed us how we can use learning materials to create an atmosphere of tolerance and understanding in culturally and socially heterogeneous groups. I also learned how I can help learners to analyse and eliminate prejudices and stereotypes, and to discuss social and cultural similarities and differences.
  • Elena Frense Photo (detail): © private
    Elena Frense (born in 1990), free-lance teacher: “Role-plays opened the eyes of the participants.”

    One thing I particularly remember about the seminar was the way my Egyptian and German colleagues talked about the stereotypical images they had about the other culture. The aim was to identify the underlying values and make them transparent in a square of values. This still helps me today in my everyday life to react more confidently to prejudice. The methods we learned in the intercultural training course can be constructively integrated into lessons at different levels. I remember role-plays about generational conflicts that were a huge success. They literally opened the eyes of the participants.
  • Usama Rezk Photo (detail): © private
    Usama Rezk, (born in 1971), free-lance teacher: “We must learn to look through other people’s glasses.”

    Through intercultural awareness one can develop a better understanding of the other culture, reduce prejudice, understand both oneself better and anything or anybody that is different. This is very important for trainees and teachers, as they prepare learners for life in another culture. As a teacher, I will try to make the learners aware that they are looking at the world through their own “glasses”, which have been “imposed” on them by their family, religion and tradition. They must learn to put on other people’s glasses, to be able to integrate better and to live tolerantly in a foreign culture.
  • Nadia Salama Photo (detail): © private
    Nadia Salama (born in 1967), free-lance teacher: “We have learned to deal more openly with other cultures.”

    Many people tend to see their own views and their own behaviour as the only way to think and behave. Through intercultural sensitisation, we have learned to question ourselves as teachers and to deal more openly with other cultures. The seminar showed us how to make the participants both aware of other lifestyles and how to provoke their interest in them in a playful way. As teachers, we should set ourselves the goals of dealing freely with the language to be learned, to be open-minded towards the German way of life and to the Central European way of thinking.
  • Maria Botross Photo (detail): © private
    Maria Botross (born in 1973), advisory teacher, seminar leader, online tutor: “Only when we ourselves are able to recognise cultural differences can we teach them to our German students.”

    Intercultural sensitisation is of great importance for all teachers, tutors and trainees, to help them become aware of the different perceptual patterns and interpretations in the different cultures. This applies to both Egyptians and Germans. It is only when we ourselves are able to recognise these differences that we can communicate them to our German students. I was particularly impressed by the different methods and techniques that can be used even in beginners' lessons, which I, as a course supervisor, will also put to immediate use in my classes.
  • Dalia Raafat Photo (detail): © private
    Dalia Raafat (born in 1975), teacher: “You have to understand the other culture to be successful.”

    Intercultural sensitisation is very important - both for me as a teacher as well as for the course participants. It helps us to learn how we ourselves think and how others think, and why we behave as we do. It also helps us to avoid communication problems and linguistic misunderstandings in everyday situations, such as when we first meet people from the other culture or in the restaurant. The variety of intercultural sensitisation exercises impressed me. They show that it is not enough to learn the language of the foreign country, but that you have to understand yourself and the other culture in order to be successful in a foreign country.
  • Dina Abdallah Photo (detail): © private
    Dina Abdallah (born in 1985), teacher of German as Foreign Language (DaF) since 2011 and advisory teacher since 2016: “To get the intercultural message across playfully - that is what I want to try in my lessons.”

    An intercultural sensitisation course for Goethe-Institut teachers is useful and important, because we, as teachers, become cultural agents when we conceive a teaching unit that focuses on the differences between two cultures. In this way, we can support the intercultural skills of our course participants - especially those of the trainees. What I really liked about this seminar were the numerous tips to convey intercultural aspects through playful activities. I would also like to try this in my lessons.
  • Shaimaa Arafa Photo (detail): © private
    Shaimaa Arafa (born in 1981), teacher of German as Foreign Language (DaF) (free-lance): “It is also about faith, values, behaviours and the way we perceive people.”

    In order to communicate successfully, linguistic knowledge alone is not enough. How can I most effectively convey information about the country whose language I am teaching? This is one of the most important questions that was answered during the seminar. In addition, the intercultural approach to understanding the country or developing an intercultural awareness enables the learner to become aware of different aspects of both his own and the foreign culture. It is not just about the mediation of facts, but also about faith, values, ways of thinking, behaviours, social relationships and the way we perceive people.
The Goethe-Institut offers intercultural competence training courses at various locations all over the world. These courses are aimed at companies that are internationally active, as well as at international students and teachers at public schools in Germany.
Please send your inquiries to: lea.winkelmann@goethe.de