Intercultural Communication Barriers Essay

Problems In Intercultural Communication Essay

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Problems In Intercultural Communication

Humans have been communicating since four million years. On the other hand, the birth of culture is estimated to have taken place about 35,000 years ago. Today, both culture and communication have evolved considerably and have become interdependent of one another, to the point that communication is considered to be a product of culture. Thus, our own culture has a deep impact on our thoughts and behaviors. Since each culture has its distinct aspects, intercultural communication can be the cause of conflict and disorder. There are three main issues which are at the root of the problem of intercultural miscommunication : language as a barrier, cultural diversity and ethnocentrism. I will analyze…show more content…

Among the most important concepts to emerge are those relating to dialects and language standards. Sociolinguists have documented the presence of dialects in every language. These dialects, all of which are legitimate, are associated with educational, economic, social and historical conditions. Hence, even if an individual scrupulously studies all the possible dictionaries of a random language, he would still be somewhat of a stranger to that language since he is unaware of all the dialectal changes.

In addition to differences in pronunciation, vocabulary and grammatical structures among cultural groups, variations also exist in the rules for general discourse in oral communication, covering such specific acts as narratives and conversation. In communicating with one another, teachers and students naturally will follow the assumptions and rules governing discourse within their respective cultures. Discourse rules govern such aspects of communication as: opening or closing conversations; taking turns during conversations; interrupting; using silence as a communicative device; interjecting humor at appropriate times and using nonverbal behavior. Once again, an American student studying in the middle east, who would constantly interrupt the teacher in order to clarify the professor’s opinion, would be considered to be

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Cultural Barriers to Effective Communication

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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.

Stella Ting-Toomey describes three ways in which culture interferes with effective cross-cultural understanding. First is what she calls "cognitive constraints." These are the frames of reference or world views that provide a backdrop that all new information is compared to or inserted into.

Second are "behavior constraints." Each culture has its own rules about proper behavior which affect verbal and nonverbal communication. Whether one looks the other person in the eye-or not; whether one says what one means overtly or talks around the issue; how close the people stand to each other when they are talking--all of these and many more are rules of politeness which differ from culture to culture.

Ting-Toomey's third factor is "emotional constraints." Different cultures regulate the display of emotion differently. Some cultures get very emotional when they are debating an issue.  They yell, they cry, they exhibit their anger, fear, frustration, and other feelings openly. Other cultures try to keep their emotions hidden, exhibiting or sharing only the "rational" or factual aspects of the situation.

All of these differences tend to lead to communication problems. If the people involved are not aware of the potential for such problems, they are even more likely to fall victim to them, although it takes more than awareness to overcome these problems and communicate effectively across cultures.


Links to Examples of this Problem:

Raymond Cohen--Negotiating Across Cultures: Communication Obstacles in International Diplomacy
Cohen examines the effects of cultural differences on international negotiations and diplomacy.
Raymond Cohen--Negotiating Across Cultures: Communication Obstacles in International Diplomacy (U.S. - India Diplomacy)
This essay (the three that follow) gives an example of the ideas Cohen discussed in the earlier article.
Raymond Cohen--Negotiating Across Cultures: Communication Obstacles in International Diplomacy (Cultural Differences)
(see Cohen, above)
Raymond Cohen--Negotiating Across Cultures: Communication Obstacles in International Diplomacy (The 1971 U.S. - Japan Monetary Crisis)
(see Cohen, above)
Raymond Cohen--Negotiating Across Cultures: Communication Obstacles in International Diplomacy (The Astoria Affair)
(see Cohen, above)
A Beginner's Guide to International Business Negotiation
This is a discussion of the cultural impact in a very different setting--international business negotiations.
Rethinking the Culture-Negotiation Link
This article reviews four different approaches to understanding the impact of culture on negotiation.
Managing Communication
This short piece illustrates that culture is a broader concept than nationality, language, or ethnicity-it can also refer to  professional roles which make people see the world differently from others.
**TOUR (Try 1st)**Andrea Williams - Resolving Conflict in a Multicultural Environment
This is an article which illustrates the way in which cultural differences can lead to misunderstandings.
Roger Fischer, Elizabeth Kopelman and Andrea Schneider - Explore Partisan Perceptions
This is a short but effective illustration of how people with different pre-dispositions can be   unaware of the possibility that others might see the same situation differently.
John Paul Lederach -- Building Peace, Introduction and Framework
This book, by an expert in cross-cultural issues discusses the interplay between culture and conflict.
Letty Cottin Pogrebin -- The Same and Different: Crossing Boundaries of Color, Culture, Sexual Preference, Disability and Age
This article explores the problems of and the adjustments that are required to forge cross-cultural friendships.

Links to Possible Treatments for this Problem:

**TOUR (Try 2nd)**Cross-Cultural Communication Strategies


Dialogic Listening

Active Listening



Links to Related Problems:

Failure to Understand an Opponent's Perspective

Language Differences

**TOUR (Try 3rd) **   Differences in Values

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