Monday, June 29, 2009

Intercultural communication


With the internet and the facilities that brought people of different cultural backgrounds together, the issue of culture has started to appear on the surface of every situation involving the interaction of people from different backgrounds. To understand what has become to be known as intercultural communication, we need to clearly define the issue of culture and what the concept of culture brings to the table when people talk and try to make sense of what is being conveyed.Clearly, the language plays one of the most important roles in communication; it serves as a vehicle that holds speakers’ ideas, beliefs, feelings, conceptions and above all cultural traditions and issues



Language here comes to announce how different words can mean different things to people of different cultural backgrounds. Other than words, different people can also interpret gestures differently. One striking example is the colors; different colors can be related to different feelings and emotions to different cultures. To compare Arabic to English, yellow in Arabic is always related to sickness and it is not a color of hope or love. Definitely, speakers of other cultures may find yellow a color of hope and they may relate it to good health and wellness which the complete opposite for the Arabs.The same situation appears with green which refers to envy in English while it can never be related to being envy in Arabic or any other culture. I myself have found it very difficult to relate green to being envy and I was surprised when I first heard it as “someone is green with envy”

It is interesting when people of different cultures get to communicate and try to make sense of each other’s speech. It seems that people try to use every single clue to get to the conclusion, the context of situation, the tone, the speakers’ voice and gestures all come into play and will help better understand what it is being communicated. However, the previously built misconception or stereotypes will always block that stream of understanding. It is believed that people will always try to think and build certain conceptions about the others before trying to meet them. These stereotypes seem to play a major role in the interpretations of every speech act. I found it difficult to think of a person from Brazil who does not know how to play soccer well. It is stuck in the back of my mind that Brazilians are great soccer player and I have always imagined myself if I get the chance to talk to a Brazilian, I will definitely ask him about football. These characteristics that are attributed to specific people before even getting to know them are called stereotypes.

Another issue, which hinders the process of understanding somebody from another culture, is “Prejudice” which is an unfair disposition towards something. It is unjust to try to generalize an issue based on one instance. For me, I do not feel comfortable dealing with people with heavy tattoos and piercing because American movies have always depicted those tattooed and pierced people as criminals or dirty police officers. Now, I am trying to work on this issue and I am trying to get myself accustomed to the idea of dealing with those people with some ease.

All these issues come into play when somebody would like to build an understanding of a speech said by somebody belonging to a different culture. It is important to get rid of these stereotypes and prejudices and start from scratch and try to build our understanding based on individuals who represent themselves rather than their whole community. Moreover, It is essential to develop some kind of inner sense that would make us differentiate between what can be generalized and what can not from the one situation we are facing. The world is getting smaller and smaller with the new technology and it seems that we should really start to see the world as a small village where everybody knows everybody else.