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What is cultural competence?



Cultural competence is the ability to understand behavior from the standpoint of the members of a culture and and to behave in a way that would be understood by the members of the culture in the intended way. Cultural competence therefore involves understanding all aspects of a culture, but particularly the social structure, the values and beliefs of the people, and the way things are assumed to be done.


It is impossible to speak Korean or Japanese correctly without understanding the social structure of the respective societies, because that structure is reflected in the endings of words and the terms of address and reference that must be used when speaking to or about other people.

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Go to SIL home page This page is an extract from the LinguaLinks Library, Version 3.5, published on CD-ROM by SIL International, 1999. [Ordering information.]

Page content last modified: 15 September 1998

© 1999 SIL International