Crossing cultures

Why intercultural fluency is the only skill you need to learn in 2017 Discuss this article

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The world is more multicultural than ever before. According to the UN, in 2013 there were more than 513,000 foreign-born citizens between the ages of 25 and 34 living in Qatar, compared to 35,500 nationals. As the population rises (last year it hit 2.6 million), so does Doha’s multicultural diversity. It’s something to celebrate, but it’s not without challenges, not least of which can be communication. That’s why the British Council – an organisation with over 80 years’ experience in more than 100 countries – has launched its Intercultural Fluency courses in Doha.

“Intercultural skills are now some of the most highly valued skills amongst employers, globally,” says Dr Frank Fitzpatrick, Qatar’s Director and Academic Advisor to the Intercultural Fluency course. “Research conducted for the Economist shows half of executives believe that misunderstandings rooted in cultural differences present the greatest obstacle to productive cross-border collaboration,” Fitzpatrick continues. But the skills which the course teaches are important outside the workplace, too.

“[As] our lives become increasingly globalised, connecting with people [and being] able to communicate in complex, changing multicultural contexts is fast becoming the definitive global skill,” he says.

The programme is designed for anyone living in a multicultural environment, with six modules focussing on skills such as building rapport and leading teams. The course can be tailored to suit the specific needs of an organisation, or you can sign up to the bi-monthly “InterCultural Fluency Essentials” course.

It isn’t location or culture-specific. As Fitzpatrick explains, that would miss the subtleties and nuances of cultural identity, and unavoidably limit the participants to learning about stereotypes. Rather, the course is about developing the knowledge and skills to communicate and operate effectively in different cultures. “Our courses train people to understand what is going on below the surface, and use that knowledge to adapt behaviour… while still remaining true to one’s core beliefs.”

It’s a dynamic course that considers the latest academic research, but is ultimately practical, with a strong emphasis on interaction between participants. “Activities are designed to promote discussion,” Fitzpatrick says, and it will be an eye-opening experience that allows you to also learn things about yourself. “Your cultural identity is incredibly complex and changes throughout your life. To interact successfully with different cultural backgrounds you have to observe, reflect and be prepared to adapt your own behaviour.”

We say, January is just the time to do so.
From QR2,800 (two-day Intercultural Fluency Essentials course, with lunch and refreshments). Check the website for latest dates. 99 Al Sadd Street, www.britishcouncil.qa (4425 1888).

By Sofia Vyas
Time Out Doha,

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