Down Second Avenue

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1. Introduction to intercultural communicationp. ii

2. Seven cultural variablesp. iii
2.1 Languagep. iv
2.2 Non-verbal communicationp. v
2.3 Cultural world-viewp. vi
2.4 Perceptionp. vii
2.5 Values and attitudesp. viii
2.6 Prejudicep. ix
2.7 Stereotypesp. x

3. Conclusionp. xi

4. Sources consultedp. xii

Introduction to intercultural communication

The main characteristic of intercultural communication is the difference between the communicator and the recipient. This includes any difference, from cultural backgrounds to different settings: interpersonal, small group, organizational and mass communication.

The communicator is influenced by cultural variables related to his/her culture. The message is encoded by the communicator. The recipient is influenced by cultural variables related to his/her culture and background. The message has to be interpreted by the recipient, where it undergoes a transformation when it is decoded.


Language is often the most problematic of the cultural variables. It is the primary means of transmitting one's beliefs, values, norms, world-view, etc. to others. Language influences perception and transmits meaning. Words don't have the same meaning to all cultural groups and our understanding of language differ. In Western societies language is applied completely different than in Eastern societies. In Western societies speech is used to express ideas and thoughts as logically as possible. In Eastern societies words are inseparable from the total communication context. The participants and the nature of their relationship are also important. The link between language and culture is very strong. Difficulties and misunderstandings arise due to mistranslation during the translation process. Our language reflects our own culture that moulds our patterns of thought. It's usually processed through cognition.

Non-verbal communication

Non-verbal communication is closely related to language. It can either contradict or reinforce the verbal messages. Unlike language, non-verbal communication is spontaneous, ambiguous, fleeting and sometimes beyond our conscious awareness and control. Because it is largely an unconscious process, it is often misinterpreted and can't be easily corrected. The different categories of non-verbal communication are as follows: Kinesics [body movements, posture, gestures, and eye contact], Proxemics [distance between people], Haptics [touch], Chronemics [time, volume of speech]. The greatest barrier in non-verbal communication is that people don't always know or understand and are unable to interpret the non-verbal communication of other cultures. Hand gestures are especially misunderstood. A hand gesture that would mean wait to someone from Jewish descent, might mean idiot or small child to someone from a different cultural background.

Cultural world-view

The three major cultural world-views are Afrocentric, Eurocentric and Asiocentric. Afrocentric world-view is mainly based on the ubuntu philosophy which is more traditional in nature and more people-centered and collective. It depends more on their intuitive side. The Eurocentric/Westernized world-view is more goal oriented with a more individualistic and materialistic approach. They depend on a more rational way of thinking. According to the Asiocentric world-view, materialism is an illusion and reality is closely related to the spiritual.

Cultural world-view is a particular culture's explanation and interpretation of the universe and their roles in it. It's about how people function and how their lives are influenced by things such as luck, fate, interpersonal relationships, the age they live in and their natural surroundings and resources. It's a set of systematized beliefs and values by which our group evaluates it. It is accepted as "the way things are"....
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