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Thursday, October 07, 2004

[13.1] LEARNING ACROSS CULTURES

The 'encounter with the Other' is an everyday affair and yet a tricky thing, potentially prone to misunderstandings. It is not always easy to cope with the outcome of cross-cultural communication. Yet like others skills it is one where conscious learning and awareness are possible, as for example in the intercultural education programme of the Bavarian Church's mission board. This paper was given in the context of an international, inter-cultural seminar for Germans and overseas Christians working in Germany. It raises important issues for the communication of the Gospel in a cross-cultural context.

"We learn [not just by confrontation] but by puzzlement... What does 'learning by puzzlement' mean? In an inter­cul­tural situation it is unavoidable that people are puzzled or embarrassed. This is not only a disadvantage but also an oppor­tunity. You just have to help people to use their own puzzlement or embarrassment in a positive way. The inter­cultural situation provides you with different approaches, cultural views on one issue. What might be a taboo because of cultural reasons for yourself isn’t a taboo for a participant from a different culture. Learning by puzzlement would mean to accept that things can also be seen in a different way."

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