Effective communication in different cultures

Descriptions verbal communication in different cultures. The languages as the particular set of speech norms. Analysis general rules of speaking. Features nonverbal communication in different countries. Concept of communication as complicated process.

Рубрика Иностранные языки и языкознание
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Язык английский
Дата добавления 25.04.2012
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Effective communication in different cultures


With more and more companies globalizing, employees in various international locations now have day-to-day communications with each other. Given different cultural contexts, this brings new communication challenges to the workplace. Even when these employees speak the same language (for instance, correspondences between English-speakers in the U.S. and English-speakers in the UK), there are some cultural differences that should be considered in an effort to optimize communications between the two parties. In such cases, effective communication strategy begins with the understanding that the sender of the message and the receiver of the message are from different cultures and backgrounds. Of course, this introduces a certain amount of uncertainty, making communications even more complex.

Without getting into cultures and sub-cultures, it is perhaps most important to realize that a basic understanding of cultural diversity is the key to effective cross-cultural communications. Without intently studying the individual cultures and languages, we must all learn how to better communicate with individuals and groups whose first language, or language of choice, does not match our own. Learning the basics about culture and at least something about the language of communication in the host country are necessary.

This is necessary even for the basic level of understanding required to engage in appropriate greetings and physical contact, which can be a tricky area inter-culturally. For instance, kissing a business associate is not considered an appropriate business practice in the U.S, but in Paris, one peck on each cheek is an acceptable greeting. And, the handshake that is widely accepted in the U.S. is not recognized in all other cultures. While many companies now offer training in the different cultures where the company conducts business, it is important that employees being thrust into communicating across cultures practice patience and work on their own to increase their knowledge and understanding of the different culture. This requires the ability to see that a person's own behaviors and reactions are oftentimes culturally driven.

Verbal communication in different cultures

Using an appropriate language

Effective communication with people of different cultures is especially challenging. Cultures provide people with ways of thinking--ways of seeing, hearing, and interpreting the world. Thus the same words can mean different things to people from different cultures, even when they talk the "same" language. When the languages are different, and translation has to be used to communicate, the potential for misunderstandings increases. Using an inappropriate language can lead to a serious conflict in multicultural society.

For example, the biggest barrier that native English speakers face in trying to learn other languages is overcoming the all devouring melting pot culture that the British, and de facto American Empires have been so succesful at spreading around the world. When we live in countries and cities with migrants who come from all over the world, we tend to be lulled into believing that the migrants coming have spent most energy on learning language, and that cultural adaptations amount to basically just learning the local rules and customs. Although we perceive culture in terms of race, age and class, I think many native English speakers have a huge blind spot for national cultures, either equating them with race, or dismissing such differences when faced by them as being excuses for doing something "wrong", as is often seen within frustrated foreign businesspeople operating in Japan.

The languages, now understood as the particular set of speech norms of a particular community, are also a part of the larger culture of the community that speak them. Humans use language as a way of signalling identity with one cultural group and difference from others. Even among speakers of one language several different ways of using the language exist, and each is used to signal affiliation with particular subgroups within a larger culture. In linguistics such different ways of using the same language are called "varieties". For example, the English language is spoken differently in the USA, the UK and Australia, and even within English-speaking countries there are hundreds of dialects of English that each signal a belonging to a particular region and/or subculture. For example, in the UK the cockney dialect signals its speakers' belonging to the group of lower class workers of east London. Differences between varieties of the same language often consist in different pronunciations and vocabulary, but also sometimes of different grammatical systems and very often in using different styles (e.g. cockney Rhyming slang or Lawyers' jargon). Linguists and anthropologists, particularly sociolinguists, ethnolinguists and linguistic anthropologists have specialized in studying how ways of speaking vary between speech communities.

A community's ways of speaking or signing are a part of the community's culture, just as other shared practices are. Language use is a way of establishing and displaying group identity. Ways of speaking function not only to facilitate communication, but also to identify the social position of the speaker. Linguists call different ways of speaking language varieties, a term that encompasses geographically or socioculturally defined dialects as well as the jargons or styles of subcultures. Linguistic anthropologists and sociologists of language define communicative style as the ways that language is used and understood within a particular culture

The differences between languages does not consist only in differences in pronunciation, vocabulary or grammar, but also in different "cultures of speaking". Some cultures for example have elaborate systems of "social deixis", systems of signalling social distance through linguistic means.] In English, social deixis is shown mostly though distinguishing between addressing some people by first name and others by surname, but also in titles such as "Mrs.", "boy", "Doctor" or "Your Honor", but in other languages such systems may be highly complex and codified in the entire grammar and vocabulary of the language. In several languages of east Asia, for example Thai, Burmese and Javanese, different words are used according to whether a speaker is addressing someone of higher or lower rank than oneself in a ranking system with animals and children ranking the lowest and gods and members of royalty as the highest . Other languages may use different forms of address when speaking to speakers of the opposite gender or in-law relatives and many languages have special ways of speaking to infants and children. Among other groups, the culture of speaking may entail not speaking to particular people, for example many indigenous cultures of Australia have a taboo against talking to one's in-law relatives, and in some cultures speech is not addressed directly to children. Some languages also require different ways of speaking for different social classes of speakers, and often such a system is based on gender differences, as in Japanese and Koasati

Using polite words

Knowledge of the so-called speech culture and speaking according to this knowledge is of great importance when success in communication is concerned. Speech culture naturally differs from country to country, from nation to nation, from different social group to another. Other than that there are certain universal rules about how to speak so that you will get what you ask for and at the same time speak so that your interlocutor will not be offended. General rules of politeness are not interrupting your interlocutor while he or she is speaking, speaking quite loudly and distinctly though not yelling, using normative language etc.

The politeness category is normally reflected in a language in a set of speech formulas characteristic of a certain communication sphere or situation (for instance, there are lots of those concerning speaking over the telephone). Quite formulaic is also speech communication between a client and a provider (seller). Politeness in formal situations tends to be reflected in a great number of such formulas, unlike politeness in an informal context. Undoubtedly, common rules of being polite in everyday communication should be acquired by English learners. To that belongs knowledge of the following:usage of a certain type of a speech act (e.g. request vs. command), implying certain content (excluding taboo questions like those about income, religion, nationality) and others. According to the data given by several American people, to speak politely means to:

- use good manners in everyday communication (e.g. not have food in your mouth when speaking)- use respectful language: use kind words and not swear, use certain form of an utterance (“when asking for something say 'May I please have that' - not 'give me that.'”)- “use a proper tone in your voice so as not to be condescending to the other person”- look at the person (make eye contact)- say greeting words, say `good-bye', `sorry' and `thank you' when it is necessary- introduce yourself/a new person- not interrupt when someone else is speaking- listen when someone else is speaking and hear what they are saying- apologize and ask for forgiveness when impoliteness happens, and try not to do it again

There exist some theories of politeness, one of those being Brown and Levinson's whose basic notion is `face', or `individual's self-esteem' [1]. In other words, it implies people's desire, on the one hand, for freedom to act (negative face), and, on the other hand, to be liked, approved of and included (positive face) [3]. Successful social interaction requires that speakers pay attention to both negative and positive face of their interlocutor; when either is potentially at risk, the speaker must take steps to minimise the threat by saying something in a way that offends as little as possible. So we can state that the greater the imposition and the greater the social distance between participants, the more `face-work' is required [3].

One speech act that is a potential threat to an interlocutor's face is the request [3]. Politeness is connected with mitigating a direct form of asking for something and expressing an idea “non-directly” which means one applying a different grammatical form in the sentence, in this case the form of a question, most often a modal one. If you want somebody to bring you a definite book you would sooner say “Can you bring me the book?” rather than “Bring the book”. The two phrases are likely to leave quite a different impression on one and the same hearer, the former perceived naturally as a request to bring the book, the latter a command. Phrase #1 serves a good start for a probably successful minidialogue. Phrase #2 can make a native speaker doubt the interlocutor's intentions and make him or her think of the speaker as a rude person.

So, we can say that speaking politely means saying sentences of the kind “Could you…?”, “Can you…?” and so on. However, once we recall such an enormously important speech feature as intonation we could be struck how significantly it may change our view of politeness. Just pronounce the same sentence “Can you bring the book for me?” with different intonation imagining that you are irritated or annoyed by your interlocutor who won't bring you the book though he had promised to. If you try this difference when speaking to people, the effect is sure to be different. Intonation is surprisingly powerful in making a conversation either a failure or success. “Will you please sit down” can be pronounced with a lot of variations of voice tone, timbre, loudness, accentuation and tempo and at the same time the speaker will have a certain intention which is going to be reflected in these changes of the intonation of the whole phrase.

Intonation is first to be perceived by ear, rather than the verbal component of an utterance. So any utterance or just sentence has intonation because even if it is not pronounced it is meant to either out loud or in the inner speech. Intonation is a complex phenomenon consisting of pitch, or speech melody, intensity, or loudness, tempo, or rate of speech, sentence stress, or accentuation, and rhythm (though different linguists distinguish different number and quality of the components). It is not only melodic characteristics that can make an utterance polite or impolite. For example, if in reply to my having given her what she had asked for, my friend will say “Thank you” rather quickly and quickly as well will leave me, I wouldn't consider such “Thank you” polite. There are general rules of speaking politely that must exist in various cultures. They include speaking not very loudly (using moderate intensity); speaking not very fast; speaking with a certain melody (e.g. using not very high tone); speaking with not very high emotion but in a more or less reserved way; not using gruff and rude gestures.

However each language has a set of special rules of polite speaking including rules of usage of vocabulary, grammatical forms and intonation patterns. The way politeness is expressed in the English language must be very interesting to know for non-native speakers. There exists a real problem with the word `please' which can be considered a politeness marker though does not necessarily make an utterance polite. English (as well as Russian) children are taught that it is the `magic' word to be used when asking for something. How does this `magic word' relate to politeness? According to Francis Lide, `please' is a word more optional than necessary for polite communication [2]. If we take a modal question with `will' inserting there `please' and say something like `Will you please sit down' “the most likely situation for this sentence would be when the speaker is angry at someone who refuses to sit down” and would be pronounced with emphasis on almost each word [2]. According to Anne Wichmann, `please' occurs mainly in requests, but not all types of request require `please' [3]. The Compact Oxford English Dictionary says `please' serves to “add urgency and emotion to a request”. On the other hand, the addition of `please' can be considered a further way of softening the force of requests, particularly if they are in the form of imperatives, in which case the force of command is reduced to that of a request [3]. `Please' typically occurs in `standard situations' for example in service encounters, where the right to ask for something and the obligation to give it is inherent in the event [3]. It also occurs when what is being requested is a minimal imposition on the hearer (such as passing the salt at table, e.g. Can you pass the sour cream please). In situations where the imposition is greater or the rights and obligations of the participants are not self-evident, please does not occur [3].

Nonverbal communication in different countries

Part 1 Etiquette

Etiquette is dependent on culture; what is excellent etiquette in one society may shock another. Etiquette evolves within culture. The Dutch painter Andries Both shows that the hunt for head lice (illustration, right), which had been a civilized grooming occupation in the early Middle Ages, a bonding experience that reinforced the comparative rank of two people, one groomed, one groomer, had become a peasant occupation by 1630. The painter portrays the familiar operation matter-of-factly, without the disdain this subject would have received in a 19th-century representation.

Etiquette can vary widely between different cultures and nations. In China, a person who takes the last item of food from a common plate or bowl without first offering it to others at the table may be seen as a glutton and insulting the generosity of the host. Traditionally, if guests do not have leftover food in front of them at the end of a meal it is to the dishonour of the host. In America a guest is expected to eat all of the food given to them, as a compliment to the quality of the cooking. However, it is still considered polite to offer food from a common plate or bowl to others at the table.

In such rigid hierarchal cultures as Korea and Japan, alcohol helps to break down the strict social barrier between classes. It allows for a hint of informality to creep in. It is traditional for host and guest to take turns filling each other's cups and encouraging each other to gulp it down. For someone who does not consume alcohol (except for religious reasons), it can be difficult escaping the ritual of the social drink.]Etiquette is a topic that has occupied writers and thinkers in all sophisticated societies for millennia, beginning with a behavior code by Ptahhotep, a vizier in ancient Egypt's Old Kingdom during the reign of the Fifth Dynasty king Djedkare Isesi (ca. 2414-2375 BC). All known literate civilizations, including ancient Greece and Rome, developed rules for proper social conduct. Confucius included rules for eating and speaking along with his more philosophical sayings.Early modern conceptions of what behavior identifies a "gentleman" were codified in the 16th century, in a book by Baldassare Castiglione, Il Cortegiano ("The Courtier"); its codification of expectations at the Este court remained in force in its essentials until World War I. Louis XIV established an elaborate and rigid court ceremony, but distinguished himself from the high bourgeoisie by continuing to eat, stylishly and fastidiously, with his fingers. An important book about etiquette is Galateo, overo de' costumi by Monsignor Giovanni della Casa; in fact, in Italian, etiquette is generally called galateo (or etichetta or protocollo). As noted above, across the world, Debrett's is considered by many to be the arbiter of etiquette; its guides to manners and form have long been and continue to be the last word among polite society. In the American colonies Benjamin Franklin and George Washington wrote codes of conduct for young gentlemen. The immense popularity of advice columns and books by Letitia Baldrige and Miss Manners shows the currency of this topic. Even more recently, the rise of the Internet has necessitated the adaptation of existing rules of conduct to create Netiquette, which governs the drafting of e-mail, rules for participating in an online forum, and so on. In Germany, there is an "unofficial" code of conduct, called the Knigge, based on a book of high rules of conduct written by Adolph Freiherr Knigge in the late 18th century entitled exactly Uber den Umgang mit Menschen (On Human Relations). The code of conduct is still highly respected in Germany today and is used primarily in the higher society. Etiquette may be wielded as a social weapon. The outward adoption of the superficial mannerisms of an in-group, in the interests of social advancement rather than a concern for others, is considered by many a form of snobbery, lacking in virtue.

Examples of etiquette in different cultures

The Japanese are very formal. Moments of silence are far from awkward. Smiling doesn't always mean that the individual is expressing pleasure. Business cards are to be handed out formally following this procedure: Hand card with writing facing upwards, bow when giving and receiving the card grasp it with both hands and read it carefully. Put it in a prominent place. The Japanese feel a “Giri” an obligation to reciprocate a gesture of kindness. They also rely on an innate sense of right and wrong.

Some DO's and DONT'ts: * DO NOT mix sake with any other alcohol. * Do not stash away a business card in a pocket or in a place where it is likely to be misplaced or damaged. Kenyans believe that their tribal identity is very important. Kenyans are also very nationalistic. It is rare that you will find a Kenyan that prefers to be alone, most of the time they are very friendly and welcoming of guests. Kenyans are very family oriented.

Cultural use of space

Culture also tells us how to organize space in such a way as to control the nature of interaction. In North American corporate offices, for instance, the boss is usually physically isolated in a very separate private room. This tends to minimize his or her personal contact with ordinary workers. In contrast, Japanese offices commonly are set up with the boss's desk at the end of a row of pushed together desks used by subordinate employees. This maximizes his interaction with them.

Typical North American Office Typical Japanese Office

A court room similarly alters behavior. In the United States, the judge usually wears a black robe and sits behind an elevated desk. The other desks and chairs in court are positioned so that all attention is focused on the judge. This intentional setting makes those present feel respectful and subservient to the judge, thereby making it easier for him or her to control the proceedings.

Culture also guides our perception of space by defining units of it. In the industrial world, space is divided into standardized segments with sides and position. Acres and city lots with uniform dimensions are examples of this in the United States. Our property boundaries are referenced to such segments of space. As the density of population increases, the importance of defined spatial boundaries grows. Land owners in densely occupied neighborhoods have been known to get angry enough to kill each other over disputed fence lines between their properties. In less dense rural areas of the American West, where people own ranches of hundreds and even thousands of acres, the movement of a fence three feet one way or another is rarely of consequence

Cultural use of time

Culture tells us how to manipulate time in order to communicate different messages. When people appear for an appointment varies with the custom, social situation, and their relative status. In North America, if you have a business meeting scheduled, the time you should arrive largely depends on the power relationship between you and the person who you are meeting. People who are lower in status are expected to arrive on time, if not early. Higher status individuals can expect that others will wait for them if they are late. For instance, most people who have medical appointments are expected to arrive early and to wait patiently for their doctor to see them rather than the other way around. An invitation to a party is an entirely different matter. It is often expected that most guests will arrive "fashionably late." It generally takes a North American child at least 12 years to master these subtle cultural aspects of time. By 5-6 years old, they usually only know the days of the week, the difference between day and night, morning and afternoon, meal and nap time. By 7-8 years old, most can consistently use the clock to tell time. However, it is not until about 12 years or older that they begin to know the situational aspects of time, such as when to arrive at a party.

When people come together with very different cultural expectations about time, there is a potential for misunderstanding, frustration, and hurt feelings. This could occur, for instance, if a Brazilian businessman does not arrive "on time" for a meeting with a potential North American customer in New York and fails to give an apology when he arrives. For the Brazilian, time may be relatively "elastic" and the pace-of-life a bit slower. He believes that he was sufficiently prompt for the scheduled business meeting, having arrived within a half hour of the appointment. It is not surprising that he is astonished and offended when he is treated coldly by the North American who also feels slighted by what he perceives as rudeness. Compounding the situation is likely to be differences in their comfortable physical interaction distances. This dismal scenario can be avoided, of course, by foreknowledge about the other culture and a willingness to adopt a cultural relativity approach. The old saying "when in Rome do as the Romans do" is still good advice.


communication process norm

Communication in itself is a complicated process, but when you introduce different cultures into the mix, the amount of `disturbing' factors gets so large that it's a near miracle that we usually more or less understand each other!

Specific cultural barriers to effective communication are:

Language: Often, two parties do not have a language in common, or not enough knowledge of a language to effectively communicate. Especially if one party speaks his/her native tongue and the other party has a limited or reasonable command of that language, miscommunication can easily occur, especially by use of ambiguous or difficult terms, use of expressions or slang. Often, parties have a third language in common; in business this is often English. Using a third language with both parties not knowing much of the cultural context of their conversation partner, misunderstandings are very common.

Cultural norms:Attitudes, etiquette and the divisions within a cultural background can prevent effective communication. Culture-specific restrictions on the communication between genders or between age groups may affect effective communication. Unintended breaches of etiquette and behavioral norms can inadvertently send a wrong signal.

History between groups:Negative aspects of a shared history between two cultures can effective communication. Competition for resources, political disputes and the effects of past conflicts can create such strong opinions and prejudices that effective communication is not possible.

List of literature

1.RACIAL AND ENTHNIC GROUPS Richard T. Schaefer ( New Jersey 2008)

2.website sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outline_of_culture#Sociology_of_culture


4. http://www.lanqua.eu/theme/intercultural-communication

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