Intercultural Business Communication

Title: Intercultural Business Communication
Author: Robert Gibson
Publisher: Oxford Handbooks for Teachers
Reviewed by: Alex Case
Review date: July 2003

Despite hundreds of EFL activities based on cultural awareness, a good chunk of them in Business English materials, as far as I am aware this is the first book published in an ELT range aiming to show teachers the research and theories current in this area. This book gives a full review of the importance of Intercultural Communication training, details of many theories of cultural difference (dividing countries up by attitudes to nature, perceptions of space, directness, personal space etc.), and the theories' relevance to the business world. The format is quite stimulating, starting each section with a 'critical scene' showing, generally, a cultural misunderstanding, and going on to discuss the possible reasons why this misunderstanding happened. It also has a liberal use of pictures and 'exercises' for you to think about before or after reading. All this makes it a very easy read, and I got through the 100-odd pages in two sittings. As is inevitable with a 'science' dealing with human behaviour, many of the theories seem like common sense and just as many seem downright wrong, but it is interesting to compare researchers' ideas of your own and other nationalities with what your experience (and prejudices) tell you.

Although this forms part of the 'Oxford Handbooks for Teachers' series, it does not in fact mention teaching at all. In fact, the book is written by an expert in Intercultural Business Training rather than someone involved in ELT, and adds 'business people' to the usual 'teachers and teacher trainers' that these books are normally recommended for. The use of reasonably simple language and the glossary given mean that it is in fact probably more suitable for businessmen of Upper Intermediate level and above than it is for the average teacher. None of the material in the book could really be brought into class as it is, but the book would be good back-up if you wanted to create materials or prepare yourself for classroom discussions on this topic. I would most recommend it for someone who wanted to move from teaching Business English into teaching communication skills for business in general, a definite growth area in the future. Alternatively, the teacher giving a presentation on the topic of Intercultural Communication in a Business English class would certainly break up the format of the lesson, and could lead onto discussion of presentation skills and future presentations by the students. In fact, the pictures, tables and graphs in the book seem especially designed for use in presentations. Alternatively, any teacher should find it a stimulating read that will make them rethink at least a little their ideas on cultural difference.

TEFL.net ESL Reviews & ArticlesAlex Case has worked as an EFL Teacher, Teacher Trainer, Director of Studies and EFL Editor in Turkey, Thailand, Spain, Greece, the UK and Japan. Alex Case is Reviews Editor of TEFL.net.