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Cross-Cultural Communication Barriers

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What are our attitudes, values, and beliefs, and what role do they play in communication with others from different cultures? Presentation for the state Association of International Educators

Cross-Cultural Communication Barriers

  1. 1. “ There is…no more noble calling than to help the people of the world live together in peace and understanding with a fully developed spirit of inquiry about other cultures and their ways.” - L. Robert Kohls (1994)
  2. 2. Communicating Across Cultural Barriers <ul><li>Nancy G. Abney, MA-TESOL </li></ul><ul><li>The University of Alabama at Birmingham </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>Graduate School </li></ul><ul><li>Professional Development Program </li></ul>
  3. 3. Today’s Goals <ul><li>Raise our awareness of culture(s) </li></ul><ul><li>Identify some barriers to communication </li></ul><ul><li>Discuss ways to overcome these barriers </li></ul>
  4. 4. Communicating Across Cultural Barriers <ul><li>Definitions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What are the components of Communication? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What is Culture? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What are barriers? </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. What is Communication? <ul><li>Communication is “…a process by which two individuals ‘try’ to exchange a set of ideas, feelings, symbols…meanings.” </li></ul><ul><li>Pierre Casse Teaching for the Cross-Cultural Mind </li></ul>
  6. 6. What is Cross-Cultural Communication? <ul><li>Pause & make a short list of the groups to which you belong: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Occupation Teacher </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Status homeowner </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Gender female </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Hobbies snowboarding </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Components of Communication <ul><li>Language elements </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Verbal </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Non-verbal </li></ul></ul><ul><li>External elements </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Cultural norms, relationships, context </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Internal elements </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Purpose, attitude </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. <ul><li>Who Am I? </li></ul><ul><li>A Cross-Cultural Guessing Game </li></ul>
  9. 9. Read the following descriptions & discuss with a partner to guess which country you think each represents. <ul><li>When I meet you, I may bow. You may ask my age, but I will be embarrassed if you ask me about my religion, and, as a result of my embarrassment, I may laugh. I will pause for perhaps 20 seconds before answering, allowing time for a shared communication without words. If you become uncomfortable with my silence and say “I’m sorry,” I will apologize to show my wish to cooperate, and will probably not look you in the eye when I answer. However, I would not complain to tell you that your question about my religion is considered impolite. </li></ul><ul><li>I am from… </li></ul>
  10. 10. Who am I? <ul><li>My rapidly-growing country is ethnically diverse, with as many as 20 major languages being spoken, along with many local dialects. In this constitutional monarchy, most people live in rural areas, and 80% of the people are farmers. When I greet you, I will put the palms of my hands together in front of my chest or chin or I may raise my right hand in a salute (salaam), and will always call a professor by title. Things I would never do: touch another’s head, wink at you, point the bottom of my foot at someone, eat with my left hand. </li></ul><ul><li>I am from . . . </li></ul>
  11. 11. Who am I? <ul><li>When people in my country greet, we say “hello” or “good afternoon” in English and are cheerful and courteous to show respect; neglecting to greet someone is a sign of disrespect. With more than 250 ethnic groups, we have more than 250 languages, thus English is our official language, though less than 50% of people speak English. We do not pass things with our left hand alone, nor should we show the bottom of our foot to someone; the most vulgar gesture to me, however, would be to push the palm of the hand forward with the fingers spread. We visit friends and relatives frequently, and welcome unannounced guests. If we wish our children to leave the room while guests are visiting, we often wink at them. </li></ul><ul><li>I am from . . . </li></ul>
  12. 12. Who am I? <ul><li>Answers: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>1. I am from Japan </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>2. I am from Nepal </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>3. I am from Nigeria </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Source: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>CultureGrams World Edition (2004) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Lindon, UT: Axiom Press </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. Who am I? Caveat <ul><li>These are broad generalizations, which do not necessarily represent individuals, but are meant only to introduce to you some cultural practices of which you may be unaware. The goal is for you to understand the culture of the individual so that you may better communicate with individuals . </li></ul>
  14. 14. Communicating Across Cultural Barriers <ul><li>Definitions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What is Culture? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What are cultural barriers to successful communication? </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. What is Culture? <ul><li>Culture is that which distinguishes one group from another– Jan Hofstede </li></ul><ul><li>Surface culture vs deep culture </li></ul>
  16. 16. Iceberg of Culture Surface culture (tangible) _____________________________________ Deep Culture Values Attitudes & Belief systems
  17. 17. 3 Cultural Value Dimensions <ul><li>Identity </li></ul><ul><li>Collectivism   Individualism </li></ul><ul><li>Hierarchy </li></ul><ul><li>Large power distance  Small power distance </li></ul><ul><li>Gender </li></ul><ul><li>Femininity   Masculinity </li></ul>
  18. 18. Misinterpreting Behavior Disrespectful, improper Large Power distance Dishonest, corrupt Individualist Insulting, stressed, rude Collectivist … may misinterpret the other’s behavior as… A listener who is culturally more… Weak (men); Unfeminine (women) Masculine Aggressive (men); Playing “baby doll” (women) Feminine Bossy, rigid (high-status) Cowardly (low-status) Small Power distance
  19. 19. Awareness of Cultural Values <ul><li>Form small groups or pairs </li></ul><ul><li>Read the scenarios on the yellow handout </li></ul><ul><li>Identify words & phrases that indicate cultural differences in the scenario </li></ul><ul><li>Activity from Hofestede, Pederson & Hofestede (Exploring Culture, 2002) </li></ul>
  20. 20. What are the barriers? <ul><ul><li>Language </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Non-verbal communication </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Beliefs/Values/attitudes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Misinterpretations & stereotypes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Stress of intercultural interactions Hofestede, Pederson & Hofestede (Exploring Culture, 2002) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Which of these do you think would be easiest to address/adjust? </li></ul>
  21. 21. Some simple strategies <ul><li>Language </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Always ask for clarification </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Non-verbal communication </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t take it personally </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Attitudes/Beliefs/Values </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Educate yourself </li></ul></ul>
  22. 22. More simple strategies <ul><li>Stereotypes/misinterpretations </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Recognize that you cannot change the culture or yourself overnight </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Try not to judge others by your own cultural values </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Stress </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Accept some ambiguity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Be patient and forgiving </li></ul></ul>
  23. 23. 7 Pieces of Practical Advice <ul><li>Don’t assume sameness. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Normal” behavior is not universal. </li></ul><ul><li>“ yes” can mean many things. </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t assume you were understood. </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t assume that you understand. </li></ul><ul><li>You don’t have to like “different” behavior, but try to understand where it comes from. </li></ul><ul><li>Most people do behave rationally; you just have to discover the rationale. </li></ul>
  24. 24. References <ul><li>CultureGrams , World Edition (2004) Lindon, UT: Axiom Press. (available at www.culturegrams.com ). </li></ul><ul><li>Fantini, E ., Ed. (1997) New Ways in Teaching Culture: TESOL Series II Innoavative Classroom Techniques . Alexandria, VA: TESOL. </li></ul><ul><li>Flaitz, J ., Ed. (2003) Understanding your International Students: An Educational, Cutltural, and Linguistic Guide . Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. </li></ul><ul><li>Hofstede, G. J., Pederson, P. B., & Hofstede , G. (2002) Exploring Culture: Exercises, Stories and Synthetic Cultures. Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press. </li></ul><ul><li>Kohls, L. R., and Knight, J. M. (1994) Developing Intercultural Awareness: A Cross-Cultural Training Handbook (2nd ed) . Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press </li></ul><ul><li>Lewis, R. D . (1999) Cross Cultural Communication: A Visual Approach. Riverside, Warnford Hampshire, UK: Transcreen Publications. </li></ul><ul><li>Storti, C. (1994) Cross-Cultural Dialogs. Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press. </li></ul>
  25. 25. <ul><li>“ There is…no more noble calling than to help the people of the world live together in peace and understanding with a fully developed spirit of inquiry about other cultures and their ways.” - L. Robert Kohls (1994) </li></ul>