Intercultural competence helps us to understand our own and other cultures and allows us to avoid communication misunderstandings. In this sense, cultural particularities of another community are always reflected in the mirror of one's own culture, which also sensitizes for one's own cultural imprint. The learner's look is thus directed towards 'the other' community and the own community at the same time.
There are different approaches to the teaching of 'realities' and culture: factual, communicative and intercultural. The factual approach relies on obtaining knowledge of culture and society, the communicative approach is concentrated on interaction without barriers and the intercultural approach aims for a better understanding of each other and ourselves. A combined approach is often considered the most effective. It says that to behave properly it is necessary to acquire the patterns of behaviour and knowledge about otherness that influence our attitudes and leads us to reflections on our own culture.
Intercultural communication may occur also when there are gaps in communicative abilities and in the knowledge of people. The most important is then the attitude and creativeness in experimenting with communicative strategies, which bring success in understanding each other.
Last but not least, it is central to remember the societal and political role of intercultural competence for fulfilling actual communication needs of learners (cf. also The recommendation CM/Rec(2022)1 of the Committee of Ministers to member States on the importance of plurilingual and intercultural education for democratic culture).