Intercultural Competence in Business English
Rudi Camerer & Judith Mader
 Series Editor: Eric Baber
Cornelsen 2012

Essentially, this book is about how business English trainers can help their learners avoid breakdowns in communication resulting from cultural faux pas and, should one occur, teach them strategies to smooth things over. 

The book contains sections on the background of intercultural aspects of business English, lesson content considerations, reference pages – eg a glossary – and a CD-ROM. It is assumed that trainers will be working with adults and that they will not be pre-service business students. 

The first seven chapters, which make up Part 1 (Preparing the background), provide a theoretical overview, answering such questions as What is culture? and examining issues such as intercultural theory, the CEFR and intercultural competence, and corporate cultures. 

As the authors point out, all this replaces the necessity to read a large number of books. I found the ‘margin boxes’ particularly useful. These fulfil a number of functions, having titles such as Did you know? What is it? and Remember . 

These seven chapters, although primarily looking at the theoretical aspects of intercultural competence, also have activity boxes, with suggestions for things that trainers can do with their learners, thus providing practical reinforcement for both trainers and learners. Each chapter ends with a ‘To think about’ box, allowing for further reinforcement, as well as an opportunity for reflection. 

The examples that are used to illustrate points or set the scene for exploring ‘culture’ are well chosen; they relate to current issues and have a global spread. The book is quite text heavy, but pictures and diagrams have been used to illustrate the examples and summarise concepts and theories. For instance, they are used to compare the work of Edward T Hall, Geert Hofstede and Trompenaars/ Hampden-Turner. 

Part 2 of the book is composed of eight chapters. It follows the same format as Part 1, but where the focus of Part 1 is theoretical, Part 2 (Teaching intercultural competence) has a practical focus. There are chapters on teaching self-awareness, country specifics and communicative competence, and also on assessing and testing intercultural competence. 

I had expected plenty of practical teaching ideas in this part of the book. Instead, I found it to be more along the lines of describing the features that should be included in a lesson on an intercultural competence course. These features were very interesting and, indeed, would equip learners to be more effective communicators in business situations. Where actual activities to use in lessons were suggested, I felt they could be very engaging. However, I found it rather frustrating that the teacher’s notes are only available on the CD-ROM. I would have appreciated having them at the end of each chapter within the book itself. Nevertheless, I will be including some of these activities in my future business English lessons. 

The glossary is well laid-out, with good comprehensible definitions. For those wishing to do further reading, there is also a comprehensive ‘Further information’ reading list (laid out per chapter). The CD-ROM provides further resource material. 

The authors say: ‘We hope we have been able to contribute in some way to improving intercultural communication for BE trainers and their learners!’ In response to this, I would say that they have. This book is a mix of theory and practical pointers that I will certainly be referring to in the future, with the aim of improving both my learners’ intercultural competence and my own.