Cross-cultural communication occurs when we interact with people from different cultural backgrounds and develop successful relationships and understanding of their ideals, principles and standards. According to the Early Years Learning Framework, cross-cultural communication is the ability to understand, communicate with and effectively interact with people across cultures. It is an integral component of cultural competence (Early Years Learning Framework, p.16).
In 1991, Anne Stonehouse predicted that children will work with, go to school with, be friends with, live next door to and form permanent relationships with people from cultures different from their own. This prophecy has already come true for Australia where we know that six million people were born overseas and more than 260 languages are spoken (excluding Aboriginal languages). Australia is also home to over 1.5 million children of immigrant families, representing almost 33 per cent of all children in Australia (Katz & Redmond, 2009).
Families may have moved to Australia by choice or by chance. They may have come as migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, students or as visitors. In any case, the new environment presents people with various challenges which may include changes in many aspects of life including: climate, housing, food, languages, currency, friendships, jobs and taboos.
One of the most difficult things a person must face, when living in a different country is learning a new language. Not being able to speak English in Australia can make life difficult, and also leave people feeling very lonely and frustrated. Language barriers can contribute to unemployment, underemployment and also make everyday activities like accessing community services, shopping and just being able to talk to people very difficult. If children don’t speak English, they may struggle with school work and making friends.
When early childhood practitioners effectively communicate with children, parents and carers, it can strengthen their understandings about the child and build relationships with families. With a clear understanding of an individual child’s culture and approach to learning, the practitioner can maximise opportunities, and thus the learning outcomes for the child.
By working through this course, you will understand the importance of cross-cultural communication in early childhood services, and learn how to apply this method in your own service.