5th Station – Communication
You need to be online (with audio) to watch some short films and carry out some research. You will also need to have a pen and paper to hand to capture your thoughts. If you have been filling in a Cultural Iceberg/ Cultural Tree Worksheet from stations 3 and 4, find it now so that you can complete the final “deep culture” section on communication.
The way in which we communicate with other people is both influenced by our culture and also helps to create a culture. When we communicate in an international context the most obvious challenge to overcome might be differences in the languages we speak, but there are many other factors to consider that often have even more of an impact on our ability to understand one another than language alone. Before we get into that let’s take a look at language.
Watch and Learn:
Watch the following videos about language and consider these questions:
- Does culture determine language or does language determine our culture?
- In what ways does language influence the way we think and, in turn, the way we communicate?
- Can you capture at least three benefits of speaking more than one language?
- Based on your experiences from the languages you speak do you agree with the comments made about whether or not personality changes when you change language? Why?
Do we think differently in different languages? | BBC Ideas
There are more than 7,000 languages in the world so does that mean there are more than 7,000 ways of seeing it? The Whorfian hypothesis is the idea that the language we speak affects the way we think and even how we see and structure the world around us.
What You Didn’t Know about Language Barriers | Roxanne Pomerantz | TEDxBGU
In this film Roxanne brings our attention to language barriers. Using examples from linguistics, cognitive sciences, and her personal experience as an American living in Israel, she makes a case for replenishing the world with multi-lingual people. She invites us to imagine a world without language barriers, and consider whether the amazing ability that all children have to learn languages may be a helpful tool in conflict resolution.
How language shapes the way we think | Lera Boroditsky
Each of the thousands of different languages spoken around the world has all have different sounds, vocabularies and structures. But do they shape the way we think? Cognitive scientist Lera Boroditsky shares examples of language – from an Aboriginal community in Australia that uses cardinal directions instead of left and right to the multiple words for blue in Russian – that suggest the answer is a resounding yes.
Understanding how we communicate
Now ask yourself: Do we always communicate in the same ways or do we adapt our communications to the situation and to the people that we are communicating with? Do you communicate with your friends in the same way that you communicate with your parents or your teachers? Do you communicate with strangers in the same ways that you do with people you know?
Consider the following and note down anything else you would add to the lists before using these questions to help you think about the specific ways in which you communicate. Make some notes to refer back to when you come to the final challenge.
What are the different ways in which we intentionally communicate? Different:
- methods: such as verbal, written, non-verbal (e.g. voluntary body language, eye contact, gestures)
- platforms: such as face-to-face, on the phone, virtual (e.g. video call, social media), written (letter, text, email, online chat)
- languages: depending on who you are communicating with and their language and context
- formalities of greeting e.g. How and when we say hello or goodbye
What influences intentional communication in your cultural contexts? What are your own behaviours?
In what ways do we unintentionally communicate: Different:
- non-verbal communication (e.g. involuntary body language, eye contact, gestures);
- ways in which we display and interpret surface culture: the food we share, the way in which we present ourselves through the clothes we wear, and our creative expressions such as art, music or dance;
- behaviours that result from deep cultural influences, including the opinions we share, the beliefs and cultural norms we uphold, and the manners and etiquette we observe
What influences non-verbal communication in your cultural contexts? What are your own behaviours?
Watch and Learn:
Next, watch the film clips below and consider how your cultural influences inform the way in which you communicate. If you have been filling in a Cultural Iceberg/ Cultural Tree Worksheet at stations 3 and 4, find it now so that you can make some notes in the “communication” box based on your notes from the questions above and what you discover in the film clips below. Think about:
- Is yours a high-context or low-context culture? How might this influence your expectations when you communicate with others and how can you adapt when you connect with people from the opposite culture?
- What are the norms of non-verbal communication in your culture and what advice would you give to a visitor from another country about gestures, personal space and greetings?
What Is The Difference Between a High-Context and Low-Context Culture?
Edward T. Hall, a cultural anthropologist, found that cultures can be separated into two groups with regard to communication. High context cultures (in which it is not necessary for everything to be said explicitly, and non-verbal cues often communicate what is not said) and low-context cultures, where the opposite is usually the case. This film discusses some of the challenges this creates in international communications.
How is body language different around the world?
People around the world discuss and compare cultural norms for body language: how they greet people, how many kisses if any and just how close is too close.
Gestures around the world
Take a tour of gestures around the world – from the French sign for “drunk,” to obscene Brazilian gesturing, as well as the Bulgarian custom of nodding to mean “no” instead of “yes.”
Consolidate your learning
Consider these questions:
- When you are a visitor to another country whose culture is different to your own, whose responsibility is it to adapt their expectations and behaviours in the ways in which they communicate? Is it your host’s or yours? How should you prepare before you next travel overseas?
- When you communicate at a distance with someone from another culture/ country, who should make allowances for the difference in cultural norms? Is it the person that is speaking/ writing or the one that is listening/ reading? Why?
Practical Activity: Connect and Communicate
Based on the discoveries you have made about intercultural communications (and about deep and surface culture from stations 3 and 4) write some brief “Dos and Don’ts” guidance notes for a foreign student of your age visiting your country, under the following headings:
- How to meet and greet people (e.g. do you say “hi”, do you shake hands, bow, hug or kiss?)
- Verbal communication (e.g. how we speak, what language we use, are there formal communication structures or particular ways of talking?)
- Body language (e.g. gestures, body language, personal space)
- Etiquette in Social situations (e.g. what is considered good manners)
Now put your theory into practice and connect with someone from a different cultural background to compare notes and test out what you have learnt. This might be a student in your class that is from a different country than your own, or someone that you connect with in a different country (follow your teacher’s guidance on this).