Those of us in regular contact with people from diverse cultures through daily contact with students, interaction with parents, and association with mainstream teachers are in a unique position to become spokespeople in the community.
ESL professionals are ideally suited to promote how important culture-specific knowledge and general intercultural communication skills are, in light of the globalization debate of the past few years, and especially the global nature of the recent terrorism crisis.
Many of us have lived or traveled extensively abroad, and by virtue of this experience, we have at least some culture-specific knowledge—we are familiar with the customs, communication patterns, and value systems of cultures other than our own.
Most of us have developed general intercultural communication skills because of this very exposure to different cultures. We may have a greater tolerance for ambiguity, the ability to suspend judgment, or expertise in mediation. These attributes apply to intercultural contact in general, irrespective of specific target cultures.
By creating professional development possibilities, administrators, too, can exert their influence. In the case of higher education, they can ensure that intercultural communication courses are included in master’s and doctorate TESOL programs.