Mind your Language: The Psychology of Intercultural Communication

Bellevue College is offering a new interdiscplinary course this quarter. INTER 145: The Psychology of Intercultural Communication will be taught by instructors Deepti Karkhanis and Jennifer Anderson.

The idea for the course came from Karkhanis, who has taught cross-cultural psychology in the past. Knowing Anderson taught an intercultural communication class, she approached her about teaching an interdisciplinary course.

Karkhanis wanted to teach students about how psychology played a role in communicating and said that teachers from two different backgrounds and two different disciplines would be able to give students different perspectives. She also added that she wants to build a sense of community among students within her classroom.

This is the first interdisciplinary course Deepti will teach at BC, but she has experience co-teaching from her time as a professor at George Mason University. She said that instructors of interdisciplinary courses learn not only from each other, but from their students. “Instructors are always learning,” said Karkhanis.

Karkhanis believes that later on the class could be taught by any psychology and communications instructors, who could provide their own perspectives in the context of an interdisciplinary course. She said that instruction on the subject of psychology could find its place in any other discipline. “Psychology can be entwined with almost anything,” she said. In the class, students will learn about their own cultural identity and the influences that contribute to it. Students will develop the ability of effective communication, both in and out of the classroom setting. “In this stage of where BC is heading, the course will give them valuable skills,” Karkhanis said.

Karkhanis said the class should attract anyone interested in communication and mentioned that it fills requirements necessary for nursing students. The course will also fulfill BC’s cultural diversity graduation requirement. Still, she said that the class will be “something that will empower any individual.”

Students will participate in group projects and discussion seminars regarding films and novels that illustrate aspects of different cultures. Topics the class will cover include cultural values, race, stereotypes, culture shock, spoken language, nonverbal communication, dealing with bias and emotion

The 10-credit course will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1:20 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Fridays will be the hybrid component, during which students will watch video clips or films and discuss them online. Students will get five psychology credits which are counted as either PSYCH 240 or 250.  They will also get five communications credits, which can be applied towards CMST 210 or 280.

Jennifer Anderson is a communications instructor at Bellevue College. She said she’s displayed interest in how the study of the mind connected with the social and relational aspects of communication. Both teachers will be in the class every day as co-instructors, giving both the psychology and communication perspectives. Anderson emphasized the importance of students building relationships in the classroom. “Students learn from each other,” she said.

Anderson said that the class time will be half activity based, while the other half will be devoted to in-class “student-driven discussion.”

She said that interdisciplinary studies courses allow for “a deeper appreciation that all these topics are interconnected.” The class will offer a safe space to discuss subjects that aren’t otherwise often talked about, Anderson said. She hopes that this will leave students “feeling safe to be a little more vulnerable.”

“Much of how we communicate is subconscious,” said Anderson. She explained that as technology advances, communication changes and that “we have to embrace it by finding that balance.” The course aims to improve communication and understanding in students.

“It’s going to be an awesome class,” Anderson said.