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INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION IN ENGLISH

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INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION IN ENGLISH

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vi

INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION IN ENGLISH

Contents

Unit 1 Communication Across Cultures ..................................................................... 1

Warm Up ...................................................................................................................... 2

Reading I Intercultural Communication: An Introduction ........................................... 3

Discovering Problems: Slim Is Beautiful? ........................................................................................... 9

Group Work ......................................................................................................................11

Debate .............................................................................................................................. 12

Reading II The Challenge of Globalization ....................................................................... 12

Writing ............................................................................................................................. 17

Identifying Difference: How We Address Each Other ........................................................................ 18

Survey .............................................................................................................................. 20

Intercultural Insight ....................................................................................................................... 21

Translation ........................................................................................................................ 22

Case Study: Cases 1-4 ..................................................................................................................... 23

Further Reading I Stumbling Blocks in Intercultural Communication ........................ 26

Further Reading II Communication in the Global Village ............................................. 31

Unit 2 Culture and Communication ........................................................................... 37

Warm Up .................................................................................................................... 38

Reading I What Is Culture .................................................................................................. 39

Fill-in Task ...................................................................................................................... 44

Sharing Knowledge: More About Culture ......................................................................................... 45

Writing ............................................................................................................................. 48

Reading II Elements of Communication ........................................................................... 49

Discovering Problems: Misleading Commercial Signs ......................................................................... 56

Matching Task ................................................................................................................... 57

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vii

Contents

Identifying Difference: Communicating or Communicating Effectively ............................................... 58

Group Work ..................................................................................................................... 59

Translation ........................................................................................................................ 60

Case Study: Cases 5�8 .................................................................................................................... 60

Further Reading I Understanding Culture ...................................................................... 64

Further Reading II Essentials of Human Communication ............................................. 68

Unit 3 Cultural Diversity .............................................................................................. 75

Warm Up .................................................................................................................... 76

Reading I Different Lands, Different Friendships ........................................................... 77

Cultural Information: American Friendship ..................................................................................... 81

Survey .............................................................................................................................. 82

Identifying Difference: Family Structure .......................................................................................... 83

Reading II Comparing and Contrasting Cultures ............................................................. 85

Interview ........................................................................................................................... 90

Group Work ..................................................................................................................... 90

Sharing Knowledge: Confucian Cultural Patterns ............................................................................. 91

Writing ............................................................................................................................. 93

Intercultural Insight ....................................................................................................................... 95

Translation ........................................................................................................................ 96

Case Study: Cases 9�12 ................................................................................................................... 96

Further Reading I Cultural Dimensions .......................................................................... 99

Further Reading II High-Context and Low-Context Cultures .................................... 110

Unit 4 Language and Culture .................................................................................... 117

Warm Up .................................................................................................................. 118

Reading I How Is Language Related to Culture .............................................................. 118

Fill-in Task .................................................................................................................... 124

Group Work ................................................................................................................... 124

Identifying Difference: Kinship Terms and More ............................................................................ 125

Reading II Language-and-Culture, Two Sides of the Same Coin ................................... 128

Sharing Knowledge: How to Say �Yes� and �No� ........................................................................... 133

Survey ............................................................................................................................ 137

Writing ........................................................................................................................... 137

Discovering Problems: Translating Across Languages ...................................................................... 138

Translation ...................................................................................................................... 141

Case Study: Cases 13�16 ................................................................................................................ 141

Further Reading I The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis ........................................................... 146

Further Reading II Language, Thought, and Culture .................................................... 150

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INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION IN ENGLISH

Unit 5 Culture and Verbal Communication ............................................................ 155

Warm Up .................................................................................................................. 156

Reading I Understanding the Culture of Conversation ................................................. 157

Fill-in Task .................................................................................................................... 161

Identifying Difference: Compliment Response ................................................................................. 162

Interview ......................................................................................................................... 163

Reading II The Way People Speak .................................................................................... 164

Group Work ................................................................................................................... 170

Cultural Information: Making Telephone Calls ............................................................................... 172

Intercultural Insight ..................................................................................................................... 174

Translation ...................................................................................................................... 175

Case Study: Cases 17�20 .............................................................................................................. 176

Further Reading I Cross-Cultural Verbal Communication Styles ............................... 179

Further Reading II Preferences in the Organization of Verbal Codes .......................... 184

Unit 6 Culture and Nonverbal Communication ..................................................... 189

Warm Up .................................................................................................................. 190

Reading I An Overview of Nonverbal Communication ................................................ 190

Matching Task ................................................................................................................. 200

Observation Task ............................................................................................................. 201

Sharing Knowledge: Factors that Influence Touch ........................................................................... 202

Reading II Gender and Nonverbal Communication ...................................................... 203

Writing ........................................................................................................................... 210

Group Work ................................................................................................................... 210

Identifying Difference: Posture and Sitting Habits .......................................................................... 211

Cultural Information: How the Japanese Communicate Nonverbally ............................................... 212

Translation ...................................................................................................................... 215

Case Study: Cases 21�24 ............................................................................................................... 215

Further Reading I Functions of Nonverbal Communication ...................................... 218

Further Reading II Sounds and Silence .......................................................................... 222

Unit 7 Time and Space Across Cultures ................................................................ 227

Warm Up .................................................................................................................. 228

Reading I The Heartbeat of Culture ................................................................................ 229

Identifying Difference: What�s the Rush? ...................................................................................... 233

Group Work ................................................................................................................... 235

Debate ............................................................................................................................ 236

Intercultural Insight ..................................................................................................................... 236

Reading II The Language of Space ................................................................................... 239

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ix

Contents

Writing ........................................................................................................................... 243

Cultural Information: Home in Various Cultures ............................................................................ 244

Sharing Knowledge: Cultures Built Into the Landscape ................................................................... 247

Translation ...................................................................................................................... 250

Case Study: Cases 25�28 .............................................................................................................. 250

Further Reading I Cultural Conceptions of Time ........................................................ 253

Further Reading II German Use of Space ...................................................................... 257

Unit 8 Cross-Cultural Perception ............................................................................ 263

Warm Up .................................................................................................................. 264

Reading I French Leave and Dutch Courage ................................................................... 265

Fill-in Task ..................................................................................................................... 268

Cultural Information: Who Is Gaijin? ........................................................................................... 269

Survey ............................................................................................................................ 271

Reading II Ethnocentrism and Ethnorelativism .............................................................. 272

Discovering Problems: The Image of Others ..................................................................................... 276

Group Work ................................................................................................................... 278

Writing ........................................................................................................................... 280

Sharing Knowledge: Culture and Perception ................................................................................... 281

Translation ...................................................................................................................... 284

Case Study: Cases 29�32 .............................................................................................................. 285

Further Reading I Behaviors That Separate Us ............................................................. 289

Further Reading II Stereotype and Prejudice ................................................................ 292

Unit 9 Intercultural Adaptation ................................................................................ 297

Warm Up .................................................................................................................. 298

Reading I Adapting to a New Culture ............................................................................. 298

Interview ......................................................................................................................... 305

Sharing Knowledge: Two Views of Culture Shock ............................................................................ 306

Discovering Problems: Chinese Students Abroad .............................................................................. 308

Reading II Overcoming Ethnocentrism in Communication ......................................... 309

Group Work ................................................................................................................... 313

Test Yourself .................................................................................................................... 314

Identifying Difference: Little things Where They Differ .................................................................. 315

Debate ............................................................................................................................ 316

Translation ...................................................................................................................... 317

Case Study: Cases 33�36 .............................................................................................................. 317

Further Reading I Sojourner Adaptation ........................................................................ 322

Further Reading II Developing Mindfulness ................................................................ 327

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INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION IN ENGLISH

Unit 10 Acquiring Intercultural Competence ........................................................ 333

Warm Up .................................................................................................................. 334

Reading I A Culture Learning Story ................................................................................ 334

Writing ........................................................................................................................... 341

Discovering Problems: First- and Second-Generation Immigrants ..................................................... 341

Sharing Knowledge: Metaphors of U.S. Cultural Diversity .............................................................. 344

Reading II Improving Intercultural Communication .................................................... 346

Group Work ................................................................................................................... 350

Intercultural Insight ..................................................................................................................... 351

Matching Task ................................................................................................................. 353

Identifying Difference: Description, Interpretation, and Evaluation ................................................. 354

Translation ...................................................................................................................... 355

Case Study: Cases 37�40 .............................................................................................................. 356

Further Reading I The Future of Intercultural Communication ................................. 359

Further Reading II Intercultural CommunicationºA Matter of Our Survival ......... 363

Acknowledgements ........................................................................................................ 367

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1

Unit 1 Communication Across Cultures

Communication

Across Cultures

Reading I Intercultural Communication: An Introduction

Reading II The Challenge of Globalization

Unit 1

The life which is unexamined

is not worth living.

� Socrates

Our most basic common link

is that we all inhabit this

planet.

� John F. Kennedy

We have to face the fact that

either all of us are going to die

together or we are going to live

together, and if we are to live

together we have to talk.

� Eleanor Roosevelt

Page 13: À ¢ï µ¾ œµ Ì - res.sflep.com

2

INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION IN ENGLISH

Warm Up

Read the following and answer the questions below.

There is a folk tale that comes to us from the foothills of the Himalayas. A man was trying to

explain to a blind friend what colors are. He began with the color white.

�Well,� he said, �it is like snow on the hills.�

�Oh,� the blind man said, �then it must be a wet and dampish sort of color, isn�t it?�

�No, no,� the man said. �it is also the same color as cotton or wool.�

�Oh yes, I understand. It must be fluffy color.�

�No, it is also like paper.�

�Then it must be a crackling or fragile color,� said the blind man.

�No, not at all. It is also like china.�

Notes

Himalayas ²í­Å½ö

dampish Щ±ªÄ

fluffy Þ«ÆĬîÉÄ

Questions

1. Why is it difficult to explain to a blind person what colors are?

2. Do you sometimes find it hard to make yourself properly understood by others? If you do,

why do you think it is hard?

Page 14: À ¢ï µ¾ œµ Ì - res.sflep.com

3

Unit 1 Communication Across Cultures

Reading I

Pre-reading questions

1. What problems have you ever had communicating with others?

2. How would you communicate with someone who does not share the same expe-

riences with you?

Intercultural Communication: An Introduction

1

The need for intercultural communication is as old as humankind.

From wandering tribes to traveling traders and religious missionaries, people

have encountered others different from themselves. These earlier meetings,

like those of today, were often confusing and hostile. The recognition of

alien differences, and the human propensity to respond malevolently to

them, were expressed more than 2,000 years ago by the Greek playwright

Aeschylus, who wrote: �Everyone�s quick to blame the alien.� This senti-

ment is still a powerful element in today�s social and political rhetoric. For

instance, it is not uncommon in today�s society to hear people say that most,

if not all, of the social and economic problems of the United States are

caused by minorities and immigrants.

Although intercultural contact has a long history, today�s intercul-

tural encounters are far more numerous and of greater importance than in

any previous time in the past.

New technology, in the form of transportation and communication

systems, has accelerated intercultural contact. Trips once taking days, weeks,

or even months are now measured in hours. Supersonic transports now

make it possible for tourists, business executives, or government officials to

enjoy breakfast in San Francisco and dinner in Paris � all on the same day.

Innovative communication systems have also encouraged and facili-

missionary «Ì¿

hostile ÐÔÄ

alien âúĬìå

Ä

propensity (»¼)È

ì±Ã

malevolently ñâØ

Aeschylus £¹âÞ

¹(«ª°¼ 525�

456)¬Å£°·ç

Ò

minorities Ùýñå

immigrant â´Æñ

supersonic ¬ôÙÄ

San Francisco Éð½

(Àú÷£¶ÇÐ)

Page 15: À ¢ï µ¾ œµ Ì - res.sflep.com

4

INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION IN ENGLISH

tated cultural interaction. Communication satellites, sophisticated televi-

sion transmission equipment, and digital switching networks now allow

people throughout the world to share information and ideas instantaneously.

Whether via the Internet, the World Wide Web, or a CNN news broadcast,

electronic devices have increased cultural contact.

Globalization of the economy has further brought people together.

This expansion in globalization has resulted in multinational corporations

participating in various international business arrangements such as joint

ventures and licensing agreements. These and countless other economic

ties mean that it would not be unusual for someone to work for an organi-

zation that does business in many countries.

Changes in immigration patterns have also contributed to the devel-

opment of expanded intercultural contact. Within the boundaries of the

United States, people are now redefining and rethinking the meaning of

the word American. Neither the word nor the reality can any longer be used

to describe a somewhat homogeneous group of people sharing a European

heritage.

With or without your desire or consent, you are now thrust into con-

tact with countless people who often appear alien, exotic, and perhaps even

wondrous. Whether negotiating a major contract with the Chinese, dis-

cussing a joint venture with a German company, being supervised by some-

one from Mexico, counseling a young student from Cambodia, or working

alongside someone who speaks no English, you encounter people with

cultural backgrounds that are often strikingly different from your own.

Understanding these backgrounds is essential if you are to be successful in

both your social and professional lives.

instantaneously²±

ج´ÌØ

globalization «ò¯

joint venture ÏÊó

µ

homogeneous Œ

Ĭ¬ÖĬùÊ

Ä

heritage Åú¬ÌÐ

ï

exotic â(ú)´Ä¬

Ðìúé÷Ä

wondrous æìĬ

æîÄ

Cambodia íÒ¯

Comprehension questions

1. Is it still often the case that �everyone�s quick to blame the alien� in the contempo-

rary world?

2. What�s the difference between today�s intercultural contact and that of any time in

the past?

3. What have made intercultural contact a very common phenomenon in our life today?

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5

Unit 1 Communication Across Cultures

22

22

2

People in Paris eat snails, but people in San Diego put poison on them.

Why? People in Iran sit on the floor and pray five times each day, but people

in Las Vegas stand up all night in front of slot machines. Why? Some people

speak Tagalog, whereas others speak English. Why? Some people paint and

decorate their entire bodies, but others spend millions of dollars painting

and decorating only their faces. Why? Some people talk to God, but others

have God talk to them. Why?

The general answer to all these questions is the same. Your culture

supplies you with the answers to these and countless other questions about

what the world looks like and how you live and communicate within that

world. From the instant of birth, a child is formally and informally taught

how to behave. Culture is everything and everywhere.

Remember, you are not born knowing how to dress, what toys to play

with, what to eat, which gods to worship, or how to spend your money and

your time. Culture is both teacher and textbook. From how much eye con-

tact you make to explanations of why you get sick, culture plays a dominant

role in your lives. It is the foundation of communication, and when cul-

tures are diverse, communication practices may be different.

Countless aspects of culture help determine and guide communica-

tion behavior. Some cultural elements have the potential to affect situa-

tions in which people from different backgrounds come together.

We experience everything in the world not as it is � but only as the world

comes to us through our sensory receptors. The world looks, sounds, tastes, and

feels the way it does because our culture has given you the criterion of perception.

The three major socio-cultural elements that directly influence per-

ception and communication are (1) cultural values, (2) worldview (religion),

and (3) social organizations (family and state).

Values. Although each of us has a unique set of values, some values

tend to permeate a culture. These are called cultural values.

Values inform a member of a culture about what is good and bad, right

and wrong, true and false, positive and negative, and the like. Cultural

values define what is worth dying for, what is worth protecting, what fright-

ens people, what are proper subjects for study and for ridicule, and what

types of events lead individuals to group solidarity. Most important, cul-

tural values guide both perception and behavior.

Values are learned; they are not universal. In many Native American

cultures, where there is no written history, age is highly valued. Older

people are sought out and asked to take part in many important decisions.

San Diego ¥üê(À

úÓÝÛЬë«

÷çàÚ)

Tagalog ûÓ»ï(Æ

ÉöÀκпû

Ó»ËÄïÔ)

sensory ÐÙÄ

receptor (úí)ÐÜ

÷

ridicule °¦¬Þª

solidarity Åá»Â

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6

INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION IN ENGLISH

Younger people admire them and include them in social gatherings.

Worldview. Each group of people from the earliest origins of civiliza-

tion has evolved a worldview. A worldview is a culture�s orientation toward

such things as God, nature, life, death, the universe, and other philosophi-

cal issues that are concerned with the meaning of life and with �being.�

Perhaps more than any other factor, worldview influences issues rang-

ing from how you view other people to how you spend your time. Reflect

for just a moment on how your concepts of death, illness, and the environ-

ment often direct the choices you make and the goals you seek. Diverse

concepts produce different choices and behaviors.

A Hindu, with a strong belief in reincarnation, will not only perceive time

differently than a Christian, but also will have different answers to the major

questions of life than will a Catholic, a Muslim, a Jew, a Taoist, or an atheist.

Social Organizations. The manner in which a culture organizes itself is

directly related to the institutions within that culture. The families who

raise you and the governments with which you associate and hold alle-

giance to all help determine how you perceive the world and how you

behave within that world.

The family is among the oldest and most fundamental of all human

institutions. We are born into a family, mature in a family, form new families,

and leave them at death. The family helps the culture �teach� the child

what the world looks like and his or her place in that world. The family is

charged with transforming a biological organism into a human being who

must spend the rest of his or her life around other human beings � human

beings who expect the individual to act much like all of the other people in

that culture. From your introduction to language to your ways of express-

ing love, the family is the first teacher.

When we speak of social organizations, we are talking about much

more than a culture�s political system. They also include one�s community

as well as the history of that community. For instance, China�s long con-

tinuous history as a country and culture will surely have a profound influ-

ence on the character of people raised in it.

The history of any culture serves as the origin of the cultural values,

ideal, and behaviors. History can help answer such questions as why one

type of activity evolved over another.

orientation ¡ò

philosophical ëܧ

ÐØÄ

reincarnation Ùú

Catholic Þíì÷Ì

½

Muslim ¹Ö

Jew ̫̽

Taoist À̽

atheist ÞñÛß

institution ú¹¬å

Ƭ°×

allegiance ÒϬÒÄ

organism Ðúå

Comprehension questions

4. How do you understand the sentence �culture is everything and everywhere�?

5. What are the major elements that directly influence our perception and communication?

6. What does one�s family teach him or her while he or she grows up in it?

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7

Unit 1 Communication Across Cultures

3

In his simple sentence, �language is the archives of history�, Ralph

Waldo Emerson is telling us that it is impossible to separate our use of

language from our culture because language is not only a form of preserv-

ing culture but also a means of sharing culture. Language is an organized,

generally agreed-upon, learned symbol system that is used to represent the

experiences within a cultural community.

Culture teaches us both the symbol �dog� and what the symbol stands

for �a furry, domesticated pet�. Objects, events, experiences, and feelings

have particular labels or names solely because a community of people (a

culture) has arbitrarily decided to so name them.

Different cultures can have both different symbols and different

responses. Culture even influences the word dog we used in the last

paragraph. In some areas of the world, such as China and Korea, dogs are

considered a culinary delight and often are eaten. In the United States, dogs

sit on the family couch and are not cooked; hence, the word �dog� conveys

a quite different meaning in the United States than it does in China. If you

take our example and then apply it to every word and meaning you know,

then you can begin to see the influence of culture on how you send and

receive message.

Even the way people use language shifts from culture to culture. In

the Arab tradition, verbal language patterns that emphasize creative artistry

by using rhetorical devices such as repetition, metaphor, and simile are

highly valued. Yet Japanese culture encourages minimum verbal

communication. A Japanese proverb gives credence to this outlook by of-

fering this advice: �By your mouth you shall perish.�

Most scholars agree that other people can attach meaning to our

gestures, postures, facial expressions, eye contact and gaze, touch, concepts

of time, and space, but the meanings for those actions often shift from cul-

ture to culture.

A culture�s use of both gestures and postures can offer considerable

insight into its deep structure and value system. For example, in many

Asian cultures the bow is much more than a greeting. It signifies a culture�s

concern with status and rank. In Japan, for example, low posture during the

bow indicates respect.

The manner in which we sit can also communicate a message. In

Ghana and Turkey, sitting with one�s legs crossed is extremely offensive.

People from Thailand believe that because the bottoms of the feet are the

archive µ¸

Ralph Waldo Emerson

­ûò¤Öûà¤

®¬ú( 1 8 0 3 �

1882)¬Àúܧ

Ò¬«Ë

furry »«¤²ÇÄ

domesticated »±¯

ËÄ

arbitrarily Îâج

æúØ

culinaryë¿Ä

artistryÕõÔ

rhetorical device ÞÇ

Ö¨

metaphor þ÷

simile ÷÷

give credence to ¹Ë

ÇàÅ(³Âï)

posture ËƬǬ

Ghana ÓÉ(÷Çú

Ò)

Turkey Áúä

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8

INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION IN ENGLISH

lowest part of the body, they should never be pointed at a person. In fact, for

the Thai people, the feet take on so much significance that people avoid

stomping with them.

Although most people agree that universal facial expressions do exist,

cultural norms often dictate how, when, and to whom facial expressions are

displayed. In many Mediterranean cultures, people exaggerate signs of grief

or sadness. It is not uncommon in this region of the world to see men crying

in public. Yet in the United States, white males often suppress the desire to

show these emotions. Japanese men even go so far as to hide expressions of

anger, sorrow, or disgust by laughing or smiling.

Instances of touch as a form of communication demonstrate how non-

verbal communication is a product of culture. In Germany, both women

and men shake hands at the outset of every social encounter; in the United

States, women seldom shake hands. In the Arab culture, men often greet

each other by kissing and hugging. In Thailand, people do not touch in

public, and to touch someone on the head is a major social transgression.

Concepts and uses of time are also important when people of different

cultures come together. Most Western cultures think of time in lineal-

spatial terms. Americans are time-bound. Their schedules and their lists

dominate their lives. The Germans and the Swiss are even more aware of

time than Americans. Trains, planes, and meals must always be on time.

This is not true for many cultures. Activity, not a clock, determines action.

Most Native American languages, for example, have no words for seconds,

minutes, or hours. Hence, for American Indians, and for many other

cultures, being tardy is quite different than it is for members of the domi-

nant culture in the United States.

The pace at which a culture carries out its life also reflects its use of

time. In Mexico a slower pace is valued, whether when conducting a busi-

ness meeting or visiting with friends. And in Africa, where a slow pace is

also valued, �people who rush are suspected of trying to cheat�.

It is well known that Arabs and Latins tend to interact more closely

than do North Americans, and you also know how uncomfortable you can

feel when people from these cultures get too close. This shows how use of

space is yet another behavior that is directly related to past experience.

Distance, however, is just one aspect of the use of space as a form of

communication; physical orientation is also influenced by culture. North

Americans prefer to sit facing or at right angles to one another, whereas

Chinese generally prefer side-by-side seating. This is a clear example of

how the use of space can send different messages.

stomp åŬØÈ

Mediterranean ØÐ

£ØøÄ

suppress ÖƬ¹Ö

transgression Ö½¬

¥¸

tardy ٽĬíÄ

Latin ­¡ÀÞË

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9

Unit 1 Communication Across Cultures

Living in the �global village� today, we must be prepared to accept and

tolerate the potential conflicts embedded in cultural differences. A free, cul-

turally diverse society can exist only if diversity is permitted to flourish

without prejudice and discrimination, both of which harm all members of

the village. Remember the words of Thomas Jefferson as you begin your

study of intercultural communication. In just a single written sentence he

was able to capture the need for all of us to be tolerant of divergent views: �It

does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God.�

(Adapted from L. A. Samovar & R. E. Porter, �Understanding Intercultural

Communication: An Introduction and Overview�)

prejudice Éû¬«û

discrimination çÓ

Thomas Jefferson Ð

í ¹ ¤ Ü ³ ·

¨1743�1826©¬À

ú Ú ý Î Ü ³

¨1801�1809©¬¶À

¢ûÔ·÷ªðÝ

Ë

divergent »¬Ä¬Ð

ÖçÄ

Comprehension questions

7. Why is it impossible to separate our use of language from our culture?

8. What are the nonverbal behaviors that people can attach meaning to?

9. How can a free, culturally diverse society exist?

Discovering Problems: Slim Is Beautiful?

With no success, Nigeria had been send-

ing contestants to the Miss World pageant

for years. Winners of the Most Beautiful Girl

in Nigeria went year after year to the Miss

World competition, and year after year the

beauty queens performed remarkably poorly.

It seemed that black African women had

little chance of winning an international com-

petition in a world dominated by Western

beauty ideals. A great many of the most beau-

tiful women who have ever succeeded in such

competitions are tall and blond, and all of

them are slim.

Then in 2000 Nigeria carried out a dras-

tic change of strategy in picking the Most

Beautiful Girl and its next international

representative. The judges had always looked

for a local queen, someone they considered a

beautiful African woman. The new strategy�s

success was immediate. The Most Beautiful

Girl of 2001, Agbani Darego, went on to clinch

the Miss World title in Sun City, South Africa.

She became the first African winner in the

contest�s 51-year history.

However, her victory stunned Nigerians.

Now, all of a sudden, Nigeria was No. 1 in

beautiful women. Ms. Darego, who was 18 at

the time, instantly became a national heroine.

Nigeria áÕûÇ(ÇÞÐ÷¿úÒ)

Miss World pageant Àç¡ã¢°íÝ

drastic ÍÒĬ¤øÄ

clinch ¡¤¬ñÃ

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10

INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION IN ENGLISH

But soon pride gave way to puzzlement. In

contrast to many Western cultures where thin

is in, people in Nigeria, especially in south-

eastern Nigeria, hail a woman�s rotundity as

a sign of good health, prosperity and allure.

In a culture where Coca-Cola-bottle vo-

luptuousness is celebrated and ample back-

sides and bosoms are considered ideals of

female beauty, the new Miss World shared

none of those attributes. She was 6 feet tall,

stately and so, so skinny. Some even say she

was just a white girl in black skin.

The perverse reality was that most

Nigerians, especially those over 40, did not

find the new Miss World particularly beautiful.

The story does not end there, though. Since

her victory, a social transformation has be-

gun to take hold across this nation, Africa�s

most populous. The change is an example of

the power of Western culture on a continent

caught between tradition and modernity.

Older Nigerians� views of beauty have not

changed. But among young, fashionable

Nigerians, voluptuousness is out and thin is

in.

After Agbani won, many girls began to

try to get slim. Before, fat girls were the rave

of the moment. Some fat girls thought they

had an advantage over thin ones. Here in

Lagos, the commercial capital, the thin �It�

girls are now called lepa, using a word of the

local language that means thin but that was

not applied to people before. Nigeria�s boom-

ing film industry has capitalized on the trend

by producing a movie, �Lepa Shandi�; the title

means a girl as slim as a 20-naira bill. To any-

one who has traveled across the continent,

especially in West and Central Africa, the cul-

tural shift is striking. In the United States

slimness may be an ideal, but many ethnic

groups in this region hold festivals celebrat-

ing big women.

Among people living in southeastern

Nigeria, fat has traditionally held a cherished

place. Before their weddings, brides are sent

to fattening rooms, where their caretakers

feed them huge amounts of food and mas-

sage them into rounder shapes. The fatten-

ing room is at the center of a centuries-old

rite of passage from maidenhood to

womanhood. The months spent in pursuit of

poundage are supplemented by daily visits

from elderly matrons who impart tips on how

to be a successful wife and mother. Nowadays,

though, girls who are not yet marriage-bound

do a tour in the rooms purely as a coming-

age ceremony. And sometimes, nursing moth-

ers return to the rooms to put on more

weight. In the fattening room, the girl is fed

constantly whether she likes it or not. After

weeks inside the fattening room, the big

brides are finally let out and paraded in the

village square.

The fattening room is like a kind of school

where the girl is taught about motherhood.

The girl�s daily routine is to sleep, eat and

grow fat. As for how fat is fat enough, there

is no set standard. But unwritten rule is the

rotundity ò´¬²Î

prosperity ±Ù¬ú¢»Ò£

allure Õó¦¬È¦¬üý¦

voluptuousness âЬÔÐ

ample (¯ñï)ʳÄ

perverse ¹íĬ´£Ä

modernity Öú¬Â±

rave ·õ¬ñÈ

Lagos ­÷¹(áÕûÇ×¼ÍÃúîóÇÐ)

capitalize ûÃ

naira έ(áÕûÇõÒ)

massage ´¦¬ÆÃ

supplement ¹ä

matrons Ñé¾®(ȸл¨çáػĢÉì

êäÄ¢ÐíÝĸ×)

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11

Unit 1 Communication Across Cultures

bigger the better. Beauty is in the weight.

The average African woman is robust, has big

hips, a lot of bust. That�s what she offers in

terms of beauty. To be called a �slim prin-

cess� is an abuse. Therefore, Agbani may seem

particularly unattractive to her own people.

If she was in a crowd of other African women,

local people, at least the older generation,

would not regard her as a beautiful woman.

The transformation in youthful tastes is

obviously linked to the Miss World victory.

Questions for discussion

Which do you think is the mark of beauty, thin or fat? Why is it often said that beauty

is in the eye of the beholder?

Group Work

Intercultural communication can be simply defined as communication between people of

different cultures. The need for intercultural understanding does not begin or end with national

boundaries. One does not necessarily need to cross an ocean to have a cross-cultural experience,

for virtually every country around the world is undergoing increased diversity within its own

borders. Even within our own country, communication can often be somewhat intercultural.

First share with your group members whatever experiences you have had in communica-

tion that can be considered as intercultural. Then work together to decide whether each of the

following cases of communication is possibly intercultural or not and, if it is, to what extent it is

intercultural.

Communication between

a Chinese university student and an American professor,

a white Canadian girl and a black South African boy,

a male manager and a female secretary,

a father who is a farmer all his life and his son who works as an engineer,

a teenager from Beijing and a teenager from Tibet,

a first-generation Chinese American and a third-generation one,

Now more and more parents are urging their

daughters to take part in beauty pageants.

Before, if you were thin, people thought you

were sick, like an AIDS patient. Now if you

have a skinny member in your family, you don�t

have to be ashamed. However, no one is pre-

dicting whether the youthful preference for

thinness represents a fad or a lasting cultural

change. To many of African people who still

believe in their cultural traditions, fat, instead

of thin, is always a mark of beauty.

abuse èÙ

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12

INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION IN ENGLISH

a businessperson from Hong Kong and an artist from Xi�an,

a software technician and a fisherman.

��

Try to place all the cases along a continuum of interculturalness, from the most intercultural to

the least intercultural.

Debate

The class is to be divided into two groups and debate on the two different views mentioned in the

following on intercultural communication. State your point of view clearly and support your

argument with convincing and substantial evidence.

There are many viewpoints regarding intercultural communication but a familiar one is that

�people are people,� basically pretty much alike; therefore increased interaction through travel,

student exchange programs, and other such ventures should result in more understanding and

friendship between nations.

Others take a quite different view, particularly those who have done research in the field of

speech communication and are fully aware of the complexities of interpersonal interaction, even

within cultural groups. They do not equate contact with communication, do not believe that the

simple experience of talking with someone insure a successful transfer of meanings and feelings.

Even the basic commonalities of birth, hunger, family and death are perceived and treated in

vastly different ways by persons from different backgrounds. If there is a universal, it might be

that each has been so subconsciously influenced by his own cultural upbringing that he as-

sumes that the needs, desires, and basic assumptions of others are identical to his own.

Reading II

Pre-reading questions

1. What is globalization?

2. Why do we have to communicate with people who are culturally different from us?

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13

Unit 1 Communication Across Cultures

The Challenge of Globalization

On September 11, 2001, the world did not change at all, our under-

standing of the world did. In some ways, September 11 was a harrowing

reminder of how truly we all live in the same �global village� now, even if

the differences and distances between the �villagers� remain as great as ever.

Many things have changed the world very rapidly, for instance, political

changes such as the unification of Germany, or boundaries dissolved by the

unification of the European nations, and the war in Iraq. It might be said

that technological advances have been most effective in creating the borderless

world, the global community. Thus, all people are faced with the challenge

of understanding this world, the people who inhabit it, and their cultures.

In the past most human beings were born, lived, and died within a

limited geographical area, never encountering people of other cultural

backgrounds. Such an existence, however, no longer prevails in the world.

The wheel of human history has moved us inexorably forward from isola-

tion to integration. As our world shrinks and its inhabitants become

interdependent, people from remote cultures increasingly come into con-

tact on a daily basis. It is no longer hard to find situations in which members

of once isolated groups of people have to communicate with members of

other cultural groups. Now these people may live thousands of miles away

or right next door to each other.

The term �globalization� has already become a commonplace word

throughout the world in the last two decades or so. Webster�s New World

College Dictionary (1996) defines the word �globalize� as to organize or

establish worldwide. It might be said that globalization dated from ancient

times, or perhaps, from the beginning of modernity, the end of the 15th

century. It should be considered a post-1945 occurrence whose driving force

is technology, particularly telecommunications and computers.

In a sense, globalization refers to the establishment of a world economy,

in which national borders are becoming less and less important as

transnational corporations, existing everywhere and nowhere, do business

in a global market. This aspect of globalization can be experienced by sim-

ply walking down your �local� high street, where �local� goods and services

are displayed alongside �global� goods and services. We encounter the �glo-

bal� in the clothes we wear, in the music to which we listen, the television

programs and films we watch, on the Internet sites we visit. Perhaps it is

most visible when we eat out (or eat in via telephone takeaways). Think, for

harrowing ÃË´à

ĬۥËÄ

dissolve Üâ¬â¢

unification ªÏ¬³

»

Iraq Á­Ë

inexorably »Éè²

ج»ÝäüØ

transnational çú

Ĭ¬½úçÄ

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14

INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION IN ENGLISH

example, of the culinary pluralism of most British or American towns and

cities, where, say, fish and chips competes with food which is Indian, East-

ern African, Thai, Turkish, Mexican, Chinese, Italian, Spanish, Japanese,

and so on. An example of this new culinary pluralism is that Tikka Masala

is now regarded as the most popular British dish.

Globalization also refers to what is called �time-spacescompression�.

That is, the way in which the world appears to be getting smaller. �Shrink-

ing� seems to be occurring in two ways. First, the increasing global mobility

of people. We can now board a plane and fly anywhere in the world in a

matter of hours. The increased speed and range of travel, together with the

fact that more people travel, makes the world seem smaller. Second, the

impact of new electronic media on human communications. For example,

being near or being distant no longer organizes with whom we communicate:

Electronic media (fax, telephone, email, the internet) give each of us access

to a world well beyond our �local� community. As a consequence, we may

communicate, using, say, email, more with people in Australia, Germany,

or the USA, than we do with neighbors who live within 200 meters of

where we live. Similarly, television news provides us with images and in-

formation about events that are taking place thousands of miles away; un-

less we watch the �local� news or read the �local� newspapers, it is likely that

we will be better informed about �global� events than we are about �local�

events. In this dual sense, then, the �global� may be more local than the

�local�.

The recent trend is toward increasing the flow of goods, labor, materials,

technology and funds between nations. It implies looking at the world as

borderless, and perhaps, even without national identities. Goods, capital

and personnel move freely, either in reality or by the use of technology.

Information and communication travel quickly among the peoples of the

world who are culturally different from each other. Therefore, for this to be

done successfully, cultural diversity must be recognized, and appreciated.

In a global economy, the challenge of incorporating diverse populations,

cultures and subcultures is experienced. Effective communication may be

the most important competitive advantage that firms have to meet diverse

consumer needs on a global basis. Succeeding in the global market today

requires the ability to communicate sensitively with people from other

cultures, a sensitivity that is based on an understanding of cross-cultural

differences. All workers including the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) to

the employee with the least significant responsibility must be educated

pluralism ય

Turkish ÁúäÄ

Tikka Masala (¡È)

¾â®

time-spacescompression

±Õ¹õ

shrink õ¡¬Õõ

dual «ØÄ

incorporate áϬ

¹­Ï¢ª»å

subculture Çį

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15

Unit 1 Communication Across Cultures

accordingly to be able to solve problems and make decisions wisely. These

decisions must be made with the intent of improving the quality of life for

all. Thus, intercultural education is essential. Such education provides un-

derstanding of different cultures, and results in true respect for other human

beings.

If you look ahead five to ten years, the people with the top jobs in large

corporations will be those who have lived in several cultures and who can

converse in at least two languages. Most CEO�s will have had true global

exposure, and their companies will be all the stronger for it.

At the same time, people all over the world are faced with the same

environmental issues that affect all cultures. Melting ice caps, droughts,

and rising sea levels are just a few possible environmental disasters human-

ity can look forward to because of increasing global temperatures. Diseases

that know no boundaries also threaten the citizens of the planet. Nations are

beginning to realize that we must work together to solve these problems or

face common disaster.

Besides, global instability stems from clashes between cultures as hu-

mankind creates catastrophes that are far worse than natural disasters. To-

day it has become impossible for any nation to remain detached and isolated

from global tensions and conflicts. When people of different nationalities

and ethnic origins, who frequently speak different languages and hold dif-

ferent convictions, attempt to get along with each other, conflicts can easily

arise. Human beings have to cope with living in harmony on a planet with

a volatile international economy, too many people arguing over shrinking

resources, mounting environmental contamination, and epidemics with-

out borders.

With the rapidly changing world, people throughout the world have

found it increasingly necessary to minimize the rate of misunderstanding

due to miscommunication in their contacts with one another. However, it

seems to be not easy for us to put ourselves in the place of someone who is

�different.� Many people may still have great difficulty in doing so because

of the lack of understanding of other cultures.

For example, the 1994 case of Michael Fay, a 19-year-old from the

United States, demonstrates how an alleged spray-painting spree in

Singapore became an international incident because of different cultural

conceptions of justice. Most U.S. citizens expressed outrage when Michael

was sentenced in Singapore to punishment by caning, a painful and physi-

cally injurious beating with a specially prepared bamboo and leather cane,

converse »¸

catastrophe ÖѬÆ

Ù

detached ÖëĬô

ªÄ

contamination Û¾

epidemic ÷С

spray-painting çá

spree ñ¶

cane Ã×Èò

injurious ˦ÔÄ

volatile ×äĬ»

鬀

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16

INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION IN ENGLISH

for an offense as minor as graffiti spray painting. Operating with the West-

ern principles of jurisprudence that �the punishment should fit the crime�

and that �cruel and unusual punishment� is not appropriate, the sentence of

caning struck Americans as excessive and violent. Singapore defended its

justice system by displaying its low crime statistics compared to the United

States and many other nations. President Bill Clinton intervened with a

strong appeal for leniency, and the boy�s father vowed to pressure for an

embargo and a review of most-favored-nation trade for Singapore. The can-

ing took place, but with a reduced number of lashings. This incident put the

clash of notions about justice on center stage.

Therefore, in a world of international interdependence, the ability to

understand and communicate effectively with people from other cultures

takes on extreme urgency. However, we may find intercultural communi-

cation different from communication within our own cultural group. Even

if we overcome the natural barriers of language difference, we may fail to

understand and to be understood. Misunderstanding may even become the

rule rather than the exception. And, if we are unaware of the significant role

culture plays in communication, we may place the blame for communica-

tion failure on those other people. This is unfortunate because our problem

is really culture and the difficulty of communicating across cultural

boundaries.

Globalization, for better or for worse, has changed the world greatly.

Whether we like it or not, globalization is all but unstoppable. It is already

here to stay. It is both a fact and an opportunity. The challenges are not

insurmountable. Solutions exist, and are waiting to be identified and

implemented. From a globalistic point of view, there is hope and faith in

humanity.

Economic, political, environmental, and cultural interdependence have

made humanity aware that no one nation can meet the challenges of the

current global frontier alone. We are confronted with newer ways of living

in the world together that require our seeing things through the eyes of

others and adding the knowledge of others to our repertoire. The develop-

ment of a global mind-set has become pivotal for further human progress.

We all will have to learn to speak, interact and negotiate with others from

another culture with ease, sensitivity, openness, and respect. It is then that

our efforts will be reciprocated.

(Adapted from M. L. Bruno, �The Challenge of Globaliztion�)

graffiti Ò¿¬Ò­

jurisprudence ¨§¬

¨í§

Bill Clinton Èû¤

ËÖÙ¬ÀúÚ42

Îܳ

leniency ÊȬíÝ

embargo ³×û¹ò

ÞÆ

most-favored-nation

trade ³×îÝú

ýö

the rule rather than

the exception £¬

øÇýâ

unstoppable »Éè

²Ä

insurmountable ȃ

â½Ä

identify ·¨

implement ÄЬµ

©

repertoire «¿¼Ü¬

âæ

pivotal ðÐÄ÷Ã

ĬØüÄ

reciprocate ب¬ê

ð

excessive ýàĬý

ÖÄ

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17

Unit 1 Communication Across Cultures

Comprehension questions

1. Why does the author say that our understanding of the world has changed?

2. What is a �global village� like?

3. What is considered as the major driving force of the post-1945 globalization?

4. What does the author mean by saying that �the �global� may be more local than the

�local��?

5. Why is it important for businesspeople to know diverse cultures in the world?

6. What are the serious problems that countries throughout the world are confronted

with?

7. What implications can we draw from the case of Michael Fay?

8. What attitudes are favored by the author towards globalization?

Writing

Read the following and then try to write a short essay on what one has to learn to get prepared

for working and living in a new cultural environment.

Anna was a political science major at a large state university in the Midwest, U.S.A. Upon

graduation she went into business, getting a promising job with a large firm. After 12 years she

had risen to a middle-management position. One day, her firm assigned her to the newly opened

Beijing office. What did she need to know, and how well did her education prepare her for

success in her new role? In a middle-management position, Anna is working with both Chinese

and American employees, both male and female. She needs to know how Chinese people think

about work (and not to assume there is just one way); she needs to know how cooperative

networks are formed, and what misunderstandings might arise in communication between Chi-

nese and American workers. She needs to know so much to prepare herself well for her work

and life in China.

However, Anna had only a small part of this preparation � some courses in world history,

but few that dealt with the general issue of cultural diversity, and few that dealt with variety of

understandings in intercultural communication. More important, she had no courses that

prepared her for the shock of discovering that other places treated as natural what she found

strange, and as strange what she found natural. Her imaginative capacity to enter into the

lives of people of other nations had been blunted by lack of practice. Therefore Anna had a

rough time getting settled in China, and the firm�s dealings with its new context were not

always successful.

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18

INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION IN ENGLISH

Identifying Difference:

How We Address Each Other

In every language and society, whenever one person speaks to another, there are a host of

options concerning how people will be addressed or named. Usually the person has to choose

what is considered as the most appropriate to the occasion. This is just one of those seemingly

trivial things in which cultures differ greatly. The following is what an American friend tells us

about such cultural differences:

I have noticed that in restaurants my Chi-

nese friends hail waitresses by calling out

�xiaojie� (miss) and, for waiters, �xiansheng�

(mister) or �shifu� (master). In the US it is pos-

sible to address a waiter or waitress with his

or her job title, but generally the more polite

�Excuse me!� is used to draw their attention.

�Excuse me� is a very useful phrase. Whenever

you are interrupting a person�s activities or ask-

ing for his attention, you should preface your

questions or remark with �Excuse me�. This is

unlike China, where people commonly use ex-

pressions such as �lao daye� (aged uncle), �lao

dama� (aged aunt) or �lao shifu� (aged master

� in theory a master craftsman) to draw a

stranger�s sympathetic attention.

I think that the forms of address used in

China are rather complicated, but also quite

interesting. For instance, I am amused by the

recent Chinese tendency to call Mr Li, if he

happens to be the leader of a �ju� (a bureau),

Li ju (�Li bureau� or �bureau Li�), or Ms Wang,

if she happens to be head of a �ke� (a

department, more or less), Wang ke. If some-

body is a chief engineer or a chief editor, he

will be called something like �Li chief � or �chief

Li�. There is no equivalent practice in the En-

glish-speaking world. Bosses are not addressed

by their title and surname, much less by their

surname plus part of the name of their

organization. In informal conversation in rela-

tively friendly environments it is common to

call one�s director �Boss�, but remember that

the word boss is not a title. If you are an Ameri-

can addressing your immediate supervisor, in

most cases you will call him by his given name

just as you address colleagues on the same

level as yourself. If the superior is several de-

grees above you in the organization hierarchy,

you are expected to call the person �Mr

Schmidt� or �Ms O�Brien�.

There is, by the way, significant differ-

ence in how Chinese and Americans view titles.

Americans, in contrast not only to Chinese but

to many Europeans as well, tend to regard

titles as trivial unless they give a clear idea of

what kind of work a person does, what his or

her responsibilities are. Chinese people always

seem expected to let you know what they are,

for example, �senior engineer� � a title that

says nothing about what a person�s functions

are. For Americans it�s what you actually do

that counts, not where you fit on organiza-

tional chart. Your professional role defines you.

The Americans treat titles like �vice president

for marketing� and �sales manager� as

meaningful. Nonetheless they will not use them

to address a person, even reduced to �man-

ager� or �vice president�.

Chinese people tend to address 40-year-

sympathetic ЬéÄÄ¬í¾¬éÄ hierarchy ȶ¬È¶ÆÈ

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19

Unit 1 Communication Across Cultures

old people as �Old Wang� or �Old Li�, and

young or youngish people as �Young Zhao�

or �Young Liu�. There is nothing comparable

in English. You might refer to someone in the

third person as �young Throckmorton� if you

were emphasizing his youth, but this would

be descriptive, not a title, and would never

be used to address him. To call someone �old

Throckmorton� can imply a whole range of

things, from familiarity to contempt to re-

spect for shrewdness and experience, but

�old� here is never the equivalent of the Chi-

nese �lao�, and again is not used to address

Mr Throckmorton.

Americans don�t like excessive formality,

and to some Americans any formality at all can

seem excessive. Young employees are free to

call older, even much older, co-workers by their

given names. This may sound intimate to non-

Americans, but it�s so commonplace in the US

that it connotes nothing at all about their

relations. I am intrigued by the tendency of

younger staffers in some Chinese units that

are not schools to call older employees �laoshi�

(teacher). In US primary schools children will

sometimes address an instructor as �teacher�

(more often, though, they will use Ms or Ms

plus the surname), but the term is not other-

wise used to hail anyone. University students

address their instructors as �professor� or

�professor Lindkvist� or �Mr Lindkvist� � or

John, if the instructor prefers to be on a first-

name basis with students. If an instructor has

a PhD, he may also be called �Dr Lindkvist�.

In the US, even if a 10-year-old child is in-

troduced to an 80-year-old woman, he would

not address her as �Grandma�. His parents will

establish the names to be used: Mrs Carstairs,

say, or perhaps the first name in certain

situations. Chinese, in contrast, prefer their

children to call guests by such family-derived

names as �Uncle Zhang� or �Auntie Zhao� or

�Grandpa Wang�. If Americans ever do go over

to such names with nonrelatives, it usually re-

flects either their ethnic background or long

and deep friendship with the person so addressed

� in other words, the person really is a trusted

family friend who operates as a sort of elective

brother or godmotherly figure to the adults in

the family. But there is no instant family inti-

macy or even a semblance of it.

In most American families, children call

their parents �mom� and �dad�. In a very few

families that are especially informal, children

call their parents by their given name � a

practice that people in other families may find

troubling or shocking. On the other hand,

calling a stepfather or stepmother by a given

name is far more common, and there is a good

deal of resistance on the part of teenaged

children to calling their biological parent�s new

spouse �mom� or �dad�. Some children feel

that there is something objectionable in such

use of parental titles with newcomers. Sis-

ters and brothers, whether elder or younger,

always call each other by their given names,

most often in the form of a nickname. A

daughter-in-law calls her mother-in-law

�mom�, �MrsÁÁ � or by her personal name,

depending on the formality or ease of their

relations. Frequently a son-in-law will stick

to Mr and Mrs plus surname in the early pe-

riod of a marriage and gradually go over to

something more intimate � their given

names or �mom� and �dad� � at some later

stage, often at a signal from his in-laws.

(Adapted from M. Waller: �How Do Ameri-

cans Address People�)

comparable àÆĬÉÔÈÃÏÄ

shrewdness «÷¬úé

excessive ý¿Ä¬ýÈÄ

connote â¶Å¬µ¾

intrigue ýðÃæÄ

ethnic ëÖåÐØÄ

godmotherly ̸ÆÄ

semblance íó¬àÆ

objectionable áýð´ÔĬîË»äìÄ

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20

INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION IN ENGLISH

Questions for discussion

How do you address a friend from an English-speaking country? And how should you

do it if he or she knows our culture very well or if you speak Chinese to each other?

Survey

Conduct a survey among some Chinese students to find how much they know about the pos-

sible cultural differences between Chinese and English-speaking people in the speech behav-

iors listed below.

Speech behavior China English-speaking countries

Greeting

Apologizing

Making requests

Expressing gratitude

Expressing disapproval

Leave-taking

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21

Unit 1 Communication Across Cultures

Intercultural Insight

In the following, an American man describes some of his experiences of using French as a

foreign language.

I had crossed the line, and René let me

know immediately. �Attention!� he cautioned,

wagging his finger playfully at me, but seriously,

I could tell. We were in the courtyard behind

the house, in the middle of a game of boules.

I had just congratulated him on a fine play he

had made, knocking my boule away from le

cochonnet. My mistake? In my words of praise

to him, Tu as bien joué, I had used the tu form

instead of vous (the informal �you� instead of

the formal �you�). Even though I had known

René for well over 15 years at that time, he

insisted that I use the vous form with him,

while he used the tu form with me. After all,

he explained, I was the son-in-law, he was the

father-in-law. It was the right thing to say.

This lesson on the use of tu and vous in

French is one among many that I�ve learned

over the years. Like all French students, I

learned the linguistic forms early on, with all

the appropriate verb endings for tu and for

vous, but the lessons on appropriate use, or

culture, started with my first encounters with

French speakers and have continued to this

day. Some may say that this is a relatively

obvious example of the intersection of lan-

guage and culture, but in my experience with

French and French speakers, learning the ap-

propriate use of tu/vous has been an ongoing

challenge of figuring out social relationships

in the culture and my place within them. The

formulas of formality/informality, politeness/

intimacy that I first learned, although useful,

have proved too simplistic.

Once, at a dinner party in France with a

gathering that included a few French high

school teachers, I told them of the difficulty I

had in teaching the �rules� of tu/vous to stu-

dents in the United States, since there is no

equivalent in English. I asked them all the

question, �How do you use tu/vous with the

students in your classes?� Naively, I expected

them to answer with one voice, providing a

simple formula that I could pass on to my

students. In fact, there was great variation.

One said, �I use vous with students, and they

use vous with me.� Another said, �I use tu

with them, and they use vous with me.� A

third said, �I use tu with the students, and

they use tu with me.� All three teachers

worked in the same school. When I asked them

to explain their answers, all talked about how

they wanted to present themselves to stu-

dents and how they wanted the students to

perceive them and their role in the classroom.

Each had a different view of these roles and

relationships. �So much for the teacher-student

formality theory,� I thought to myself.

Ironically, during the course of this very

dinner party, we had been using vous with one

another, those of us who had met for the

first time. As time passed and as we talked,

the ambiance became warmer and more re-

laxed among us. At some point, I don�t re-

member exactly when, I noticed that every-

one had begun using tu with one another and

with me. I joined in, assuming that we had all

now reached the kind of friendlier relation-

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22

INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION IN ENGLISH

Exploration

Try to describe and explain the possible similar experiences in your use of English as

a foreign language when communicating with native speakers.

Translation

Read the following carefully and translate it into Chinese.

The growth of intercultural communication as a field of study is based on a view of

history that clearly demonstrates people and cultures have been troubled by a persistent

inability to understand and get along with groups and societies removed by space, ideology,

appearance, and behavior from their own. What is intriguing about many of human civilization�s

failures is that they appear to be personal as well as global. The story of humankind is

punctuated with instances of face-to-face conflicts as well as international misunderstand-

ing � major and minor quarrels that range from simple name-calling to isolationism or even

armed conflict.

It is obvious that increased contact with other cultures and subcultures makes it impera-

tive for us to make a concerted effort to understand and get along with people whose beliefs and

backgrounds may be vastly different from our own. The ability, through increased awareness

and understanding, to peacefully coexist with people who do not necessarily share our lifestyles

or values could benefit us not only in our own neighborhoods but could be the decisive factor in

maintaining world peace.

ship that called for tu. We continued this way

right through to the late hour when we all

said our goodbyes. By chance, the next morn-

ing on my way to buy a newspaper in town, I

met one of these people in the street. I

greeted her, using the tu form. Coolly, she

responded with vous. The color rushed to my

face; I had made another mistake. Obviously,

the �now-we-know-each-other-so-we-can-

use-tu theory� did not apply here.

(Excerpted from P. R. Moran, Teaching

Culture: Perspectives in Practice, Chapter 4)

wag ´Ø¡¯¬Î¯

boules <¨ï>¨½ö¾òη

le cochonnet <¨ï>ö¾òηÃÄ¡ò

Tu as bien joué <¨ï>ãÄòòûí

tu <¨ï>ã

vous <¨ï>ú

linguistic ïÔĬïÔ§Ä

intersection »ã¬»Ó

figure out ª®¬ãåþ

ambiance øÕ

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23

Unit 1 Communication Across Cultures

While visiting Egypt, Richard, an engi-

neer from the United States, was invited to a

spectacular dinner at the home of an Egyp-

tian friend. And what a dinner it was! Clearly

the host and hostess had gone out of their

way to entertain him. Yet, as he was leaving

their home he made a special effort to thank

them for their dinner and sensed something

he said was wrong. Something about his sin-

cere compliments was misunderstood.

In Japan he had an even less pleasant ex-

perience though he thought he had handled

it well. A number of serious mistakes had

occurred in a project he was supervising.

While the fault did not lie with any one

person, he was a supervisor and at least partly

to blame. At a special meeting called to dis-

cuss the problem, poor Richard made an ef-

fort to explain in detail why he had done what

he had done. He wanted to show that any-

body in the same situation could have made

the same mistake and to tacitly suggest that

he should not be blamed unduly. He even went

to the trouble of distributing materials which

explained the situation rather clearly. And yet,

even during his explanation, he sensed that

something he was saying or doing was wrong.

Even in England where he felt more at

home, where he had no problems with

language, this kind of misunderstanding

occurred. He had been invited to take tea

with one of his colleagues, a purely social,

relaxed occasion. Tea was served along with

sugar and cream. As he helped himself to

some sugar and cream, he again sensed he

had done something wrong. But what went

wrong?

spectacular á¢Ä

tacitly »Ôø÷ج¬¾Ø

unduly »Ê±Ø¬ýÖØ

Questions

1. Why were Richard�s sincere compliments misunderstood by the Egyptian family?

2. What was wrong in the way Richard dealt with the problem in Japan?

3. Which behavior was considered improper in England when Richard was taking

tea?

Case 2 In the following case, an American ESL teacher describes a situation where he ex-

pected Mexican and Korean students to ask questions in class when they needed

clarification.

Case Study

Case 1

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24

INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION IN ENGLISH

I was frustrated with a low-English-level

Korean student who never asked questions

in class. My goal was to equalize classroom

participation, and one aspect of it was to have

students ask questions when they didn�t un-

derstand something during class. I taught tech-

niques of how to ask a question, which the

students from Mexico readily adopted, but not

the Korean student.

At the end of the course, I interviewed

the Korean student (with a translator) and

learned, in her culture, that asking questions

in class is an insult to the teacher. Furthermore,

she reported, �To learn English one must lis-

ten very carefully to the teacher and study hard

after class.� Through interviewing her, I real-

ized that she was being a good student by not

asking the teacher a lot of questions. She

could work hard with the homework to grasp

a concept she couldn�t get in class. Numer-

ous questions would show a disrespect for

the teacher. Listening to the teacher is a sign

of a good student.

There is also the concept of losing face

if one is seen as not knowing something the

teacher is talking about. It reflects on the

student, who must not have studied enough.

I realized that I hadn�t addressed the underly-

ing values of her culture or mine, and that

just teaching techniques wouldn�t produce the

behavior I was hoping for.

equalize ¹ùȬùÖ¬ù¯ disrespect »ð´¬§ñ

Questions

1. What do you think of the Korean student�s behavior in class? If you were in the

same situation, what would you do?

2. Why did the students from Mexico readily adopt the techniques of asking ques-

tions in class?

Case 3 The following is what a high school Spanish teacher describes about an incident

experienced by one of his students during an international exchange program.

Our school offers a term abroad in the

Dominican Republic, where students have

homestays with Dominican families. Mary,

one of our students, brought a Sony Walkman

and three of her favorite tapes with her to

the Dominican Republic because she likes to

listen to music when going on long trips. The

other day, when Mary�s homestay sister Luz

asked to borrow her Walkman to do her En-

glish listening homework, she said yes be-

cause she wasn�t using it at that moment.

Later that night, Mary saw Luz with the head-

set on, the Walkman in her hands, and she

was dancing merengue. Luz returned the

Dominican Republic à×áÓ²Íú

homestay (ÚúâÄÃÊß)Ú±ØËÒÓ¡»Î±

ä

merengue (ð´Ú£ØÍà×áÓÄ)¬Êñè

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25

Unit 1 Communication Across Cultures

Walkman to Mary that night. But since then,

Luz took the Walkman to listen to music ev-

ery day. As the way it was going, the batter-

ies of the Walkman would soon run out and

Mary would not be able to listen to music on

the trip the next Sunday. What made Mary

feel more upset was that Luz didn�t even

A young Japanese student came to the

United States, and he was overwhelmed by

the cordial reception he was given. He said,

�The American people are wonderful. They

are so warm, so friendly � much beyond my

expectations.�

Some time later, while traveling in the

West, this same young man had had dinner

with an American family and had remarked that

he greatly admired the country�s efficiency,

organization, and accomplishment. But, he

said, there was one thing he would never

quite understand, and that was why Ameri-

cans were so cold, so distant. His host was

deeply hurt, and the visit ended on a bit of a

sour note.

The first and last statements by the young

Japanese are typical. Very often, upon arrival

in the United States, many foreign visitors

may be astonished by the warmth and friend-

liness of the American people. But often af-

ter a few months, especially when they begin

to feel homesick and lonely, they may blame

the Americans for causing these feelings by

being cold. Now, why does this happen?

the visit ended on a bit of a sour note ÝÃð¤ØáøË

Questions

1. What had made the Japanese young man change his view about Americans?

2. What can you infer about American friendship based on this case?

bother to ask; she just took it without Mary�s

permission. Though Mary would be glad to

loan the Walkman to Luz sometimes, obvi-

ously she didn�t like the way Luz used it now.

However, Mary didn�t know what she should

do about it.

Questions

1. Why do you think Luz just took the Walkman without asking for Mary�s permission?

2. What would you do if you were in Mary�s position? And what would you do if you

were Luz?

Case 4

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26

INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION IN ENGLISH

Further Reading I

Stumbling Blocks in Intercultural Communication

Why is it that contact with persons from other cultures is so often

frustrating and fraught with misunderstanding? Good intentions, the use

of what one considers to be a friendly approach, and even the possibility of

mutual benefits don�t seem to be sufficient to ensure success � to many

people�s surprise. Sometimes rejection occurs just because the group to

which a person belongs is �different.� It�s appropriate at this time of major

changes in the international scene to take a hard look at some of the reasons

for the disappointing results of attempts at communication. They are actu-

ally stumbling blocks in intercultural communication.

Assumption of similarities

One answer to the question of why misunderstanding and/or rejec-

tion occurs is that many people naively assume there are sufficient similari-

ties among peoples of the world to make communication easy. They expect

that simply being human and having common requirements of food, shelter,

security, and so on makes everyone alike. Unfortunately, they overlook the

fact that the forms of adaptation to these common biological and social

needs and the values, beliefs, and attitudes surrounding them are vastly

different from culture to culture. The biological commonalties are not much

help when it comes to communication, where we need to exchange ideas

and information, find ways to live and work together, or just make the kind

of impression we want to make.

Since there seem to be no universals of �human nature� that can be

used as a basis for automatic understanding, we must treat each encounter

as an individual case, searching for whatever perceptions and communica-

tion means are held in common and proceed from there. If we realize that

we are all culture bound and culturally modified, we will accept the fact

that, being unlike, we do not really know what someone else �is�.

Persons from the United States seem to hold this assumption of simi-

larity more strongly than some other cultures do. The Japanese, for example,

have the reverse belief that they are distinctively different from the rest of

fraught with äú

ŬéæÅ

commonalty ²Ô¬

²¬Ø÷

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27

Unit 1 Communication Across Cultures

the world. This notion brings intercultural communication problems of its

own. Expecting no similarities, they work hard to figure out the foreign

stranger but do not expect foreigners to be able to understand them. This

results in exclusionary attitudes and only passive efforts toward mutual

understanding.

As Western trappings permeate more and more of the world, the illu-

sion of similarity increases. A look-alike facade deceives people from con-

trasting cultures when each wears Western dress, speaks English, and uses

similar greeting rituals. It is like assuming that New York City, Tokyo, and

Tehran are all alike because each has the appearance of a modern city. But

without being alert to possible underlying differences and the need to learn

new rules for functioning, persons going from one city to the other will be

in immediate trouble, even when taking on such simple roles as pedestrian

or driver.

The stumbling block of assumed similarity is a problem not only for

the foreigner but also for the people in the host country with whom the

foreign visitor comes into contact. The native people are likely to be lulled

into the expectation that since the foreign person is dressed appropriately

and speaks some of the native language, he or she will also have similar

nonverbal codes, thoughts, and feelings.

The confidence that comes with the myth of similarity is much stron-

ger than with the assumption of differences, the latter requiring tentative

assumptions and behaviors and a willingness to accept the anxiety of not

knowing. Only with the assumption of differences, however, can reactions

and interpretations be adjusted to fit what is really happening.

Language differences

The second stumbling block � language difference � will surprise

no one. Vocabulary, syntax, idioms, slang, dialects, and so on all cause

difficulty, but the person struggling with a different language is at least

aware of being in trouble.

A greater language problem is the tenacity with which some people

will cling to just one meaning of a word or phrase in the new language,

regardless of connotation or context. The variations in possible meaning,

especially when inflection and tone are varied, are so difficult to cope with

that they are often waved aside. This complacency will stop a search for

understanding. Even �yes� and �no� cause trouble. When a nonnative

speaker first hears the English phrase, �Won�t you have some tea?� he or she

listens to the literal meaning of the sentence and answers, �No,� meaning

that he or she wants some. The U.S. hostess, on the other hand, ignores the

exclusionary attitude

ÅâĬÈ

trappings þÎ

permeate ø¸¬Öþ

facade íó¬íæ

Tokyo «©(Õ¾×

¼)

Tehran ÂÚ¼ (ÁÊ

×¼)

pedestrian ½Ð߬

ÐË

lull ¹ËÅɯè¬

å­

tentative ÔéÔĬ

¢ÔĬݱÄ

tenacity Ì´¬ÍÔ

connotation þ¬â

å

context ï³

inflection ïÔÄü

Ûä¯(ÊÎä¯)

complacency úã¬

Ôú(é÷)

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28

INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION IN ENGLISH

double negative because of common usage, and the guest gets no tea. Also,

in some cultures it is polite to refuse the first or second offer of refreshment.

Many foreign guests have gone hungry because they never got a third offer.

This is another case of where �no� means �yes.�

There are other language problems, including the different styles of

using language such as direct, indirect; expansive, succinct; argumentative,

conciliatory; instrumental, harmonizing; and so on. These different styles

can lead to wrong interpretations of intent and evaluations of insincerity,

aggressiveness, deviousness, or arrogance, among others.

Nonverbal misinterpretations

Learning the language, which most visitors to foreign countries con-

sider their only barrier to understanding, is actually only the beginning. To

enter into a culture is to be able to hear its special �hum and buzz of

implication.� This suggests the third stumbling block, nonverbal

misinterpretations. People from different cultures inhabit different sensory

realities. They see, hear, feel, and smell only that which has some meaning

or importance for them. They abstract whatever fits into their personal

world of recognition and then interpret it through the frame of reference of

their own culture.

The misinterpretation of observable nonverbal signs and symbols �

such as gestures, postures, and other body movements � is a definite com-

munication barrier. But it is possible to learn the meanings of these observ-

able messages, usually in informal rather than formal ways. It is more diffi-

cult to understand the less obvious unspoken codes of the other cultures,

such as the handling of time and spatial relationships and the subtle signs of

respect of formality.

Preconceptions and stereotypes

The fourth stumbling block is the presence of preconceptions and

stereotypes. If the label �inscrutable� has preceded the Japanese guests, their

behaviors (including the constant and seemingly inappropriate smile) will

probably be seen as such. The stereotype that Arabs are �inflammable� may

cause U.S. students to keep their distance or even alert authorities when an

animated and noisy group from the Middle East gathers. A professor who

expects everyone from Indonesia, Mexico, and many other countries to

�bargain� may unfairly interpret a hesitation or request from an interna-

tional student as a move to get preferential treatment.

Stereotypes are overgeneralized, secondhand beliefs that provide

refreshment èã¬

ûÏ

expansive ªöÄ

succinct òàÄ

argumentative Ûç

½Ä

conciliatory §¿Ô

Ä

instrumental ¤ßÔ

Ä

harmonizing ­÷Ô

Ä

insincerity »æϬ

é±

deviousness »â÷

ýó¬Û©

arrogance Áý¬¾Á

Ôó

implication ‰µ

¾

abstract ᡬé¡

spatial ÕäÄ

preconception Èë®

û¬«û

stereotype Éû¬Ì

å¡ó

inscrutable »Éâª

ĬîËÑâÄ

precede »Ú­®°¬

Ú­°ÓÏ

inflammable »¥´

¢Ä¬«×¢ðÄ

preferential treatment

Åý

overgeneralized ýÈ

ŨÄ

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29

Unit 1 Communication Across Cultures

conceptual bases from which we make sense out of what goes on around us,

whether or not they are accurate or fit the circumstances. In a foreign land

their use increases our feeling of security. But stereotypes are stumbling

blocks for communicators because they interfere with objective viewing of

other people. They are not easy to overcome in ourselves or to correct in

others, even with the presentation of evidence. Stereotypes persist because

they are firmly established as myths or truisms by one�s own culture and

because they sometimes rationalize prejudices. They are also sustained and

fed by the tendency to perceive selectively only those pieces of new infor-

mation that correspond to the images we hold.

Tendency to evaluate

The fifth stumbling block to understanding between persons of differ-

ing cultures is the tendency to evaluate, to approve or disapprove, the state-

ments and actions of the other person or group. Rather than try to compre-

hend thoughts and feelings from the worldview of the other, we assume our

own culture or way of life is the most natural. This bias prevents the open-

mindedness needed to examine attitudes and behaviors from the other�s

point of view.

Fresh from a conference in Tokyo where Japanese professors had em-

phasized the preference of the people of Japan for simple natural settings of

rocks, moss, and water and of muted greens and misty landscapes, I visited

the Katsura Imperial Gardens in Kyoto. At the appointed time of the tour a

young Japanese guide approached the group of twenty waiting Americans

and remarked how fortunate it was that the day was cloudy. This brought

hesitant smiles to the group, who were less than pleased at the prospect of a

shower. The guide�s next statement was that the timing of the summer visit

was particularly appropriate in that the azalea and rhododendron blossoms

were gone and the trees had not yet turned to their brilliant fall colors. The

group laughed loudly, now convinced that the young man had a fine sense

of humor. I winced at his bewildered expression, realizing that had I come

before attending the conference, I would have shared the group�s belief that

he could not be serious.

The miscommunication caused by immediate evaluation is height-

ened when feelings and emotions are deeply involved; yet this is just the

time when listening with understanding is most needed.

The admonition to resist the tendency to immediately evaluate does

not mean that one should not develop one�s own sense of right and wrong.

The goal is to look and listen empathetically rather than through the thick

conceptual ÅîÄ

truism Ô÷®í¬»

Ôø÷Äíî

rationalize ¹Ïí¬

Ô­öÔÒç¤

open-mindedness ¼

ëªÅ¬Þ«û

Kyoto ©¼ (Õ¾Ç

Ð)

azalea and rhododen-

dron Åé¨

wince (òÛ´Èø

»ÉÔ÷Ø)³¿

¤ú»Ëõ

bewildered »ªý¿

ËÄ

admonition ¯æ¬

æë

empathetically Æé

جåÂØ

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30

INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION IN ENGLISH

screen of value judgments that impede a fair and total understanding. Once

comprehension is complete, it can be determined whether or not there is a

clash in values or ideology. If so, some form of adjustment or conflict reso-

lution can be put into place.

High anxiety

High anxiety or tension, also known as stress, is common in cross-

cultural experiences due to the number of uncertainties present. The two

words, anxiety and tension, are linked because one cannot be mentally anx-

ious without also being physically tense. Moderate tension and positive

attitudes prepare one to meet challenges with energy. Too much anxiety or

tension requires some form of relief, which too often comes in the form of

defenses, such as the skewing of perceptions, withdrawal, or hostility. That�s

why it is considered a serious stumbling block.

Anxious feelings usually permeate both parties in an intercultural

dialogue. The host national is uncomfortable when talking with a foreigner

because he or she cannot maintain the normal flow of verbal and nonverbal

interaction. There are language and perception barriers; silences are too

long or too short; and some other norms may be violated. He or she is also

threatened by the other�s unknown knowledge, experience and evaluation.

The foreign members of dyads are even more threatened. They feel

strange and vulnerable, helpless to cope with messages that swamp them.

Their own normal reactions are inappropriate. Their self-esteem is often

intolerably undermined unless they employ such defenses as withdrawal

into their own group or into themselves. None of these defenses leads to

effective communication.

Conclusion

Being aware of the six stumbling blocks is certainly the first step in

avoiding them, but it isn�t easy. For most people it takes insight, training,

and sometimes an alteration of long-standing habits or thinking patterns

before progress can be made. The increasing need for global understanding,

however, gives all of us the responsibility for giving it our best effort.

We can study other languages and learn to expect differences in non-

verbal forms and other cultural aspects. We can train ourselves to meet

intercultural encounters with more attention to situational details. We can

use an investigative approach rather than stereotypes and preconceptions.

We can gradually expose ourselves to differences so that they become less

threatening. We can even learn to lower our tension level when needed to

impede Á­¬è¹

ideology â¶Î¬

moderate ÐÈĬ

ÂÍĬÊÈÄ

skew «±¬áú

withdrawal Ëõ¬ä

­¬ÓÜ

dyad »«¬þËé

Ï

vulnerable ×ÜËĬ

àõĬ×Ü¥÷

Ä

swamp ѹ¬Í»

investigative ÷éĬ

½¿Ä

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31

Unit 1 Communication Across Cultures

avoid triggering defensive reactions. The overall goal should be to achieve

intercultural communication competence. As Roger Harrison, a commu-

nication expert, has pointed out:

The communicator cannot stop at knowing that the people he

is working with have different customs, goals, and thought patterns

from his own. He must be able to feel his way into intimate contact

with these alien values, attitudes, and feelings. He must be able to

work with them and within them, neither losing his own values in

the confrontation nor protecting himself behind a wall of intellec-

tual detachment.

(Adapted from L. M. Barna, �Stumbling Blocks in Intercultural

Communication�)

detachment ¬»»

Öë

Questions for thinking

1. What do you think are the greatest difficulties in achieving understanding in inter-

cultural communication?

2. What are the things we should do if we hope to become a competent intercultural

communicator?

Further Reading II

Communication in the Global Village

Many years ago, the word �neighbor� referred to people very much

like one�s self � similar in dress, in diet, in custom, in language � who

happened to live next door. Today relatively few people are surrounded by

neighbors who are cultural replicas of themselves. Tomorrow we can ex-

pect to spend most of our lives in the company of neighbors who will speak

in a different tongue, seek different values, move at a different pace, and

interact according to a different norm. Within no longer than a decade or

two the probability of spending part of one�s life in a foreign culture will

exceed the probability a hundred years ago of ever leaving the town in

which one was born. As our world is transformed our neighbors increas-

replica ´Æ·¬ê«

»ùÄÂï

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32

INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION IN ENGLISH

ingly will be people whose life styles contrast sharply with our own.

McLuhan characterized today�s world as a �global village�. The tech-

nological feasibility of such a global village is no longer in doubt. The

means already exist: in telecommunication systems linking the world by

satellites, in aircraft capable of moving people faster than the speed of sound,

in computers which can disgorge facts more rapidly than men can formu-

late their questions. The methods for bringing people closer physically and

electronically are clearly at hand. What is in doubt is whether the erosion of

cultural boundaries through technology will bring the realization of a dream

or a nightmare. Will a global village be a mere collection or a true commu-

nity of people throughout the world? Will its residents be neighbors

capable of respecting and utilizing their differences, or clusters of strangers

living in ghettos and united only in their antipathies for others?

Can we generate the new cultural attitudes required by our techno-

logical virtuosity? History is not very reassuring here. It has taken centu-

ries to learn how to live harmoniously in the family, the tribe, the city

state, and the nation. And now we are forced into a great leap from the

mutual suspicion and hostility that have marked the past relations be-

tween peoples into a world in which mutual respect and comprehension

are requisite.

Even events of recent decades provide little basis for optimism. In-

creasing contact has brought no millennium in human relations. If

anything, it has appeared to intensify the divisions among people rather

than to create a broader intimacy. Every new reduction in physical distance

has made us more painfully aware of the psychic distance that divides people

and has increased alarm over real or imagined differences. If today people

occasionally choke on what seem to be indigestible differences between

rich and poor, male and female, specialist and nonspecialist within cultures,

what will happen tomorrow when people must assimilate and cope with

still greater contrasts in life styles? Wider access to more people will be a

doubtful victory if human beings find they have nothing to say to one

another or cannot stand to listen to each other.

Time and space have long cushioned intercultural encounters, con-

fining them to touristic exchanges. But this insulation is rapidly wearing

thin. In the world of tomorrow we can expect to live � not merely vacation

� in societies which seek different values and abide by different codes.

There we will be surrounded by foreigners for long periods of time, work-

ing with others in the closest possible relationships. If people currently

show little tolerance or talent for encounters with alien cultures, how can

McLuhan óˬº

(1911�1980), ÓÃ

󫥧Ò

feasibility ÉЬÉ

Ü

disgorge Âö¬ÅÅ

erosion Ö´¬õÙ¬

÷õ

antipathy ´Ð¬á

ñ

virtuosity «¿¼É

millennium «½¢

À¬Æð±ú

intensify Ó笹â

ñ

indigestible ÑÔû

¯Ä¬ÑíâÄ

assimilate üÕ

cushion ø­Óæ

Ó¬õð¬ºå

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33

Unit 1 Communication Across Cultures

they learn to deal with constant and inescapable coexistence?

Anyone who has truly struggled to comprehend another person �

even those closest and most like himself or herself � will appreciate the

immensity of the challenge of intercultural communication. A greater ex-

change of people between nations, needed as that may be, carries with it no

guarantee of increased cultural empathy, experience in other lands often

does little but aggravate existing prejudices. Studying guidebooks or memo-

rizing polite phrases similarly fails to explain differences in cultural

perspectives. Programs of cultural enrichment, while they contribute to

curiosity about other ways of life, do not cultivate the skills to function

effectively in the culture studied. Even concentrated exposure to a foreign

language, valuable as it is, provides access to only one of the many codes

that regulate daily affairs; human understanding is by no means guaran-

teed because communicators share the same dictionary. (Within the United

States, where people inhabit a common territory and possess a common

language, mutual understanding among Mexican-Americans, White

Americans, Black-Americans, Indian-Americans � to say nothing of old

and young, poor and rich, male and female, pro-establishment and anti-

establishment cultures � is a sporadic and unreliable occurrence.) Useful

as all these measures are for enlarging appreciation of diverse cultures, they

fall short of what is needed for a global village to survive.

What seems most critical is to find ways of gaining entrance into the

world of another culture, to identify the norms that govern face-to-face

relations, and to equip people to function with a social system that is foreign

but no longer incomprehensible. Without this kind of insight people are

condemned to remain outsiders no matter how long they live in another

country. Its institutions and its customs will be interpreted inevitably from

the premises and through the medium of their own culture. Whether they

notice something or overlook it, respect or ridicule it, express or conceal

their reaction will be dictated by the logic of their own rather than the alien

culture.

Every culture expresses its purposes and conducts its affairs through

the medium of communication. Cultures exist primarily to create and pre-

serve common systems of symbols by which their members can assign and

exchange meanings. It is just differences in meaning, far more than mere

differences in vocabulary, that isolate cultures, and that cause them to re-

gard each other as strange or even barbaric. It is not too surprising that

many cultures refer to themselves as �the people�, relegating all other hu-

man beings to a subhuman form of life. To the person who drinks blood, the

immensity Þó¬ã

ó

empathy ¬é¬¬

ЬÐéÆë

aggravate ÓجÓ

ç

pro-establishment µ

¤ÖæåÆÄ

anti-establishment

´ÔÖæåÆÄ

sporadic ¼¢Ä¬ã

¢Ä¬öðÄ

condemn ȹ(³

Ë)¦Ú(³Ö´

¬)

premise (ֻ際

þÄ)Ù¨¬°á

barbaric °ùĬÖ

°Ä

relegate ¹µ¶¬

Ñ­éà

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34

INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION IN ENGLISH

eating of meat is repulsive. Someone who conveys respect by standing is

upset by someone who conveys it by sitting down; both may regard kneel-

ing as absurd. Burying the dead may prompt tears in one society, smiles in

another, and dancing in a third. If spitting on the street makes sense to

some, it will appear bizarre that others carry their spit in the pocket; neither

may quite appreciate someone who spits to express gratitude. The bullfight

that constitutes an almost religious ritual for some seems a cruel and inhu-

mane way of destroying a defenseless animal to others. Although staring is

acceptable social behavior in some cultures, in others it is a thoughtless

invasion of privacy. Privacy, itself, is without universal meaning.

Every society has its own way of viewing the universe, and each has

developed a coherent set of rules of behavior. Each tends to be blindly com-

mitted to its own style of life and regard all others as evil. Cultural norms so

completely surround people, so permeate thought and action, that few ever

recognize the assumptions on which their lives rest. As someone has put it,

if birds were suddenly endowed with scientific curiosity, they might exam-

ine many things, but the sky itself would be overlooked as a suitable subject;

if fish were to become curious about the world, it would never occur to

them to begin by investigating water. For birds and fish would take the sky

and sea for granted, unaware of their profound influence because they com-

prise the medium for every act. Human beings, in a similar manner, take

their own cultural frames for granted. So much so that they rarely notice

the ways they interpret and talk about events are distinctively different from

the ways people conduct their affairs in other cultures.

As we move or are driven toward a global village and increasingly

frequent cultural contact, we need more than simply greater factual knowl-

edge of each other. We need, more specifically, to identify what distinguish

one culture from another. For to grasp the way in which other cultures

perceive the world, and the assumptions and values that are the foundation

of these perceptions, is to gain access to the experience of other human

beings. Access to the world view and the communicative style of other

cultures may not only enlarge our own way of experiencing the world but

enable us to maintain constructive relationships with societies that operate

according to a different logic than our own.

When people within a culture face an insurmountable problem they

turn to friends, neighbors, associates, for help. To them they explain their

predicament, often in distinctive personal ways. Through talking it out,

however, there often emerge new ways of looking at the problem, fresh

incentive to attack it, and alternative solutions to it. This sort of interper-

repulsive îË´Ð

ĬîËáñÄ

bizarre ¡æÅÖĬ

ìõ°£Ä

endow ³è

comprise ü¬¬¹É

insurmountable ÑÔ

ËþĬ»Éâ½

Ä

predicament §³¬

ÏÎĦ³

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35

Unit 1 Communication Across Cultures

flounder õú¬ÔÄ

sonal exploration is often successful within a culture for people share at

least the same communicative style even if they do not agree completely in

their perceptions or beliefs.

When people communicate between cultures, where communicative

rules as well as the substance of experience differ, the problems multiply.

But so, too, do the number of interpretations and alternatives. If it is true

that the more people differ the harder it is for them to understand each

other, it is equally true that the more they differ the more they have to teach

and learn from each other. To do so, of course, there must be mutual respect

and sufficient curiosity to overcome the frustrations that occur as they floun-

der from one misunderstanding to another.

(Adapted from D. C. Barnlund, �Communication in a Global Village�)

Questions for thinking

1. Do you think technological progress in communication and transportation can

really help bring people together in today�s world?

2. How should we communicate in intercultural contact of the global village?