Edward T. Hall's High Context Low Context Theory on Chinese Culture

Topics: Hong Kong, China, Overseas Chinese Pages: 5 (1655 words) Published: March 19, 2013

Alfred Chung
100 682 953
International Communication
COMM 2201
Annika Hannan

Messages are transcended without much explanation or explicit descriptions because it is assumed that the receiver will understand. This is Edward T. Hall’s High Context theory. This is the Chinese culture. I am an immigrant from Hong Kong. Although I relocated to Toronto before I came to understand most of my teachings, I did not forget them. As one of the oldest civilizations in the world with almost four thousand years of history, the Chinese culture is most difficult to decipher but not impossible to comprehend. [ (Riel) ] The characters that construct the Chinese language are endless; and it is in the complexity of the language that ‘reading between the lines’ becomes a necessity, not an option. The values of the culture itself can also be seen as a direct result of this high context nature due to the strong beliefs in mutual beneficial relationships, face, and other ideas that are gravely important to being identified as a Chinese individual.

Covert and overt messages can also interchangeably be described as indirect and direct messages. As Hall explains, high-context cultures such as the Chinese transmit and receive messages in a nature where, “very little of the interpretation of the message is left to chance because people already know…the communicative behaviors will have a specific and particular message.” [ (Myron W. Lustig, 2013) ] I interpret this explanation to stem largely from the Chinese language itself. I was raised to speak, read, and write Cantonese. It is required for an individual to familiarize with approximately two thousand characters in order to be considered literate in the language. [ (Cantonese.ca, 2013) ] In the 1950s a reform occurred giving birth to Simplified Chinese in order to promote a broader understanding of the language and aim at a higher literacy rate in China. The overwhelming statistics presented inevitably prove an individual must be very careful with words because you can only say or write so much to carry a point across. This is why one must not only be selective when transmitting a message in the Chinese culture, but receiving it as well. Due to the vast selection of words one can use, the tone chosen to emit the vowels and consonants must also be done delicately as each small detail may deteriorate or ultimately convey an entirely different meaning. It is next to impossible for anyone to hear the phrase “giving clock” in Chinese. It is also highly unlikely for the occurrence of someone giving a clock as a gift. The reason for the avoidance of such a small action is simply because the enunciation of the characters are exactly the same as “walking a dead person to his grave”. Threats are made the same way. Often times, individuals or parties threaten rivals and enemies by using sincere verbal gestures and statements. The one defining variable is the tone used to carry the message, which is often lower pitched, louder, and accompanied by rude hand gestures. The Chinese culture can be very interesting to learn about due to the endless variations and forms a message can take. However, it is also a culture that demands individuals to tread carefully when conversing because the line between appraising someone and offending someone is far too thin.

Ingroups and outgroups are easily detected within the Chinese culture. This is so because the norms of the Chinese community are all widely known within the culture and those who choose to oppose it are ousted as soon as such misconduct is witnessed. The norms, or values that binds the actions of a Chinese individual can all be traced back to one key point – face. Face explains how carefully one treads when making a point in respect to the opposing party’s image. The way in which an individual is perceived is of utmost importance to the individual. Therefore, the Chinese culture demands that all...
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