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Intercultural or Intracultural, Multicultural or Cross-culture? What’s the difference?

As more and more is being written about various cultures and working amongst them, there are certain words and phrases that keep popping up quite often. Terms such as multicultural communication and cross cultural communication and intercultural communication are used almost interchangeably. Is there a difference? If so, what is it? 

Each of these terms is different from the other, though the distinctions are small. In short, Intercultural communication is communication between two or more people, from different cultures. On the other hand, Intracultural communication is reserved for when people of the same culture are communicating. Inter is Latin for between or among and intra means on the inside, or within.

Cross-cultural communication is an area of study which looks at the communication tendencies of people from various cultural backgrounds. Another way to put it is the exercise of recognising the communication tendencies of various cultural groups in order to increase effective communication and collaboration.

Multicultural communication is a term that is used to refer to the communication between members of a society or group that live or work alongside each other. It is the coexistence with each other that denotes a multicultural group.

IC can be developed in many ways. Engagement is always a quick way to get started. By learning the language, you can get some insights into behaviour while increasing your ability to observe and participate. Another way to develop your IC skills is through specific trainings. At Language Partners, we not only offer language training, we also offer several IC trainings to help overcome the biggest challenges when working in a multicultural setting.

Paul Van Zanten
Paul is an American intercultural communications professional living in the Netherlands and connecting with his Dutch roots. With a passion for travel, as well as gaining new perspectives and experiences, Paul aims to further his growth, as well as that of others at Language Partners.

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