Katarzyna Lanucha

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Diversity drives innovation, and today’s most efficient teams rely on clear communication and mutual understanding. Engineers are already working within multinational teams – not only within the UK, but as integrated parts of global organisations and networks, and while on assignments abroad – and this is only set to increase in the future. In order to succeed within any multicultural environment, such engineers will have to develop cultural competence – an emerging soft skill-set that makes working across cultures more effective.

English is without question the operating language amongst engineers worldwide. It has been proven, however, that a common language alone does not necessarily eliminate other cross-cultural obstacles. Whereas certain aspects about culture may be gleaned through language, the more important elements, such values, expectations, and beliefs, are much harder to identify and teach in a classroom.

This paper explores the importance of cultural competence in engineering, for both native- and non-native speakers of British English, with the curricular challenges it faces. It will also evaluate the effectiveness of the cultural competence workshops used by the Language Unit (LU) in Cambridge University Engineering Department (CUED) to train the engineers, during which attendees were able to explore the various meanings and impacts of culture on our thinking and behaviour, before then developing strategies for better, culturally-minded communication.


: cultural competence, intercultural communication, global engineers, employability skills

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