New class to study intercultural skills

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April 16, 2021
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April 16, 2021

New class to study intercultural skills

Patterson has taught the entire French curriculum at BJU over the 2020-21 academic year. Photo: Heath Parish

Global Fluency, a new course to be offered by the BJU Division of World Languages and Cultures, will seek to improve the cultural skills of students unable to take language or culture courses.

The 3-credit course, WLC 200 Global Fluency, will be offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8 a.m. in the fall semester and every following fall semester. The class will be taught by four different professors: Dr. Jeremy Patterson, Dr. Miriam Patterson and Dr. Ying Leach, all faculty members in the Division of World Languages and Cultures; and Dr. Brenda Schoolfield, faculty member in the Division of History, Government and Social Science.

According to Dr. Jeremy Patterson, the goal of the course is global competence, the ability to understand and adapt to cultural differences. “It’s not so much an academic discipline as it is a job skill,” Patterson said.

According to Patterson, a feature of this course will be the Intercultural Development Inventory, a test administered by IDI LLC, a company that offers programs for global competence. After taking the test at the beginning of the semester, students will work with one of the course’s teachers to create an Intercultural Development Plan, which allows students to personalize some of their coursework as well as track their personal progress.

Patterson has taught the entire French curriculum at BJU over the 2020-21 academic year. Photo: Heath Parish

Another distinctive feature of the course, Patterson said, is the focus on language. Not many other universities offer a broad introductory course to global competency, and those that do leave out language altogether, according to Patterson. Global Fluency solves this problem by having four different instructors.

Patterson said the faculty members will present introductions to the different languages they teach, including French, Chinese and Spanish, as well as expose students to different teaching styles. This variety in teaching styles and culture, including a look at the diversity of American culture, will push students to learn critical thinking and adaptation skills, Patterson said. “With this one course, we can help them make significant progress and development with this job skill.” he said.

The need for this course came from the lack of intercultural courses designed for students not taking a Bachelor of Arts degree, according to Patterson. He said the course is designed to give students who may not have time to study a language in depth an introduction to the intercultural experience those courses would supply. “It’s kind of all-inclusive of what we do uniquely in our division [by] looking at world languages and cultures,” Patterson said.

Beyheena Eliacin, a freshman international studies major and business minor, said she plans to take the course for the introduction to several languages, although she was surprised at the scope the single-semester course would deal with. “It’s going to be interesting to see how they’re going to put everything together in just one semester,” Eliacin said.

Daniel Hudson, president of the University Language Association, said although the course is only one semester, the experience will be valuable. “It’s kind of ambitious. It’s meant to be an introduction and also something that gets you interested, gets you thinking,” Hudson said.

According to Hudson, the course will equip students to think about how they interact with the world, an experience some BJU students may miss because of the tight schedules of their majors. But he said this critical thinking about intercultural communication is an essential skill for any career field in the modern climate of globalization. “Developing that skill . . . is definitely something that I’m sure they’re going to be able to achieve a lot of progress in, even in one semester,” Hudson said.

Patterson said although the course is designed to meet the needs of students unable to take language classes, anyone can benefit from the unique features of the course, particularly the personalized plan. “All of us can increase in our cultural competence,” Patterson said. “Developing this skill will serve you very well.”