What knowledge and skills do intercultural trainers need and how can they acquire them?

An opinion piece by one of the most experienced intercultural trainers in the UK – Adrian Pilbeam of LTS in Bath

A recent SIETAR UK professional development event run by Cathy Wellings and me was on the theme of ‘Developing your career as an intercultural trainer’. About 30 trainers of varied experience attended. We started with a group activity organised around the responses to four questions. The first was ‘What knowledge, skills and experience do intercultural trainers need?’ The answers included knowledge and experience of other cultures, knowledge about the intercultural field, skills to be able to design and deliver intercultural training, and skills as a facilitator and trainer. A second question was ‘What practical steps can you take to improve your knowledge, skills and experience?’ In terms of knowledge and skills, attending training courses and workshops was one of the responses.

For trainers with only limited experience as intercultural trainers, often coming from fields such as foreign language or management communication training, attending a structured train the trainer course should equip them with the necessary tools to begin to be able to plan and deliver a range of intercultural courses, The alternative is attending talks and short workshop sessions spread over months and even years, picking up information and ideas in a rather piecemeal fashion.

The word Culture. Vector banner with the text colored rainbow.

What should such a structured course for intercultural trainers include?

Firstly there should be an overview and review of some of the key concepts about intercultural communication – what we understand by culture, the effects of perceptions and stereotypes, different cultural values and practices, and some of the key theories. But what is important is that these concepts should be introduced in an engaging and interactive way, using a variety of activities and exercises that the participants can later use themselves in their future courses.

A second important component is to become familiar with, try out and practise using a wide range of activities and exercises – simulations, role plays, critical incidents, case studies, group and pair work exercises, use of video/DVD/YouTube clips, and the use of artefacts and realia. They need to know when to use them, how to set them up and how to debrief them.

Finally, they need to know how to combine concepts and activities into a course, which means they need to know how to analyse a client’s needs, and then go on to design an appropriate course and deliver it in an an appropriate style.

When I started out as an intercultural trainer, it took me quite a few years picking up ideas and techniques in a very piecemeal fashion, which is why ten years ago I decided to offer a structured train the trainer course to shorten and compress the learning process. The result is a 5-day course called ‘Developing intercultural training skills’ that we have now run more than 60 times, as well as a more advanced, follow-up course called ‘Designing and delivering intercultural training’. For more details, see www.lts-training.com/ICTTcourse.htm or contact adrian.pilbeam@lts-training.com.

Adrian PilbeamAdrian Pilbeam, Author, Trainer and Trainer of Trainers

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