Frameworks for Intercultural Learning


Key idea

The nature of relationships is central to intercultural learning.

What’s the point?

Intercultural understanding hinges on ethical relationships which are complex and diverse.

Intercultural learning is literally about how people learn from each other through cross-cultural interaction and dialogue. A focus on the interactions between people highlights the ‘inter’ part of ‘intercultural’ and emphasises the integrity and authenticity of human experience. It also directs attention to the extent to which relationships are of mutual benefit, and raises questions about the factors which may limit mutual understanding.

Many factors are involved in intercultural learning and some of them will not be immediately obvious. The long shadow of colonialism and exploitation, for example, still affects international relations. Colonialism is just one of a number of factors which will influence how different people interpret the same situation. Relationships can take many forms but where there is real warmth, mutual respect and mutual trust the benefits are likely to be considerable.


Working together and facing common problems and challenges can be highly affirmative. Focusing on relationships reduces the danger of regarding people from different cultures as an object of study and is a key idea which underpins this website.



Listen to the interview with Fran Martin about relational logic »

  • What are the key ideas that are expressed here?

Now read this extract from Arundhati Roy - "The Cost Of Living" »

  • Can you think of any occasions in the past where you have experienced colonial shadows?
  • How do you think about these now?


Research vignettes

Each of the voices in this vignette make claims about intercultural relationships that can be examined further.

  • On what level / basis might understandings begin?
  • In what way can the relationship described be seen as a friendship?
  • On what basis can relationships of this kind be understood as mutual?


(a) Indian voice
"First we start with human relations.
It is an understanding between individuals to start with. Later on we can formalise it."


(b) UK voice
"I think what’s central to this is humans to humans,
it’s a deeply human relationship. ….
We think of ourselves as friends, we send each other
cards and we swap notes about our lives.


(c) UK voice
"I had a lovely relationship with those ladies peeling onions…..There was a real mutual exchange of friendship, ideas…and it was equal…. I do honestly think that there was an equal mutual exchange of ideas, politics…. We were talking politics, marriage, boyfriends, children, schools, cooking, shopping..."

Going further

Martin, F. (2012) ‘Geographies of Difference’ in Primary Geographer 79 4-5
Martin, F. (2012) ‘Thinking Differently about Difference’. Think Piece for Think Global, available as a download from