Intercultural Communication in
a Multilingual World
So far, we have focused on the discursive construction of intercultural communication: who makes culture relevant to whom in which context for which purposes? However, throughout this book, it has become clear that these discursive constructions take place in particular languages and language varieties, which enjoy differential status and have a differential chance to make an impact, as we explored relative to health care in linguistically diverse societies (Section 4.3) and the colonial dispossession of indigenous peoples (Section 4.4). We also saw linguistic diversity emerge as a major challenge to the operations of multinational companies (Section 6.3) and to individuals working in the new economy (Section 6.4). The use of ethno-cultural stereotypes in intercultural advertising (Section 7.2) is predicated on linguistic diversity and so are accent ceilings in diverse societies (Section 9.3). This chapter will now take a slightly different approach by placing multilingualism at the centre of enquiry. Intercultural communication is characterised by multilingual practices, is embedded in beliefs about language, and plays out in the political economy of language. To put it differently, all human communication, whether we consider it as intercultural or not, takes place in and through language. Natural language can be characterised as a system of choices to which speakers enjoy differential levels of access. Within the choices available to them, speakers choose on the basis of practices (‘what is normally done’) and on the basis of beliefs (‘what is the best/ appropriate/right thing to do’). Language choice–as practice and ideology–is a crucial aspect of intercultural communication and it is the aim of this chapter to focus attention on real language in intercultural communication.