Identity Negotiation in Relation to Context of Communication

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ISSN 1799-2591 Theory and Practice in Language Studies, Vol. 1, No. 3, pp. 219-225, March 2011 © 2011 ACADEMY PUBLISHER Manufactured in Finland. doi:10.4304/tpls.1.3.219-225

Identity Negotiation in Relation to Context of Communication Ying Huang
School of Foreign Languages & Literature, Yunnan Normal University, Kunming, China Email: nancyhuang1207@yahoo.com.cn Abstract—This paper explores how tour guides negotiate their identities in a multiple context of communication. The context is characterised as professional, commercialized and Chinese. The discussion is based on an investigation into the communication between Chinese tour guides and their international tourists. Findings indicate that to communicate effectively and appropriately in these contexts, tour guides have to actively construct meaning through a negotiated balance of content, identity and relationship. Index Terms—identity, context of communication, tour guides, intercultural communication

I. INTRODUCTION In intercultural communication, perceptions and strategies of communication, to some degree, are determined by the context of communication. In terms of context, there are two perspectives: a specific context of situation and a larger context of culture. The latter includes tribal economics, social organization, kinship patterns, fertility rites, seasonal rhythms, concepts of time and space. It is a more abstract, and not easy to change (Kramsch, 2008, p. 26). With the development of globalization, communication between people from different cultures is increasing every day. People travel cross-culturally for different purposes: education, tourism, business, leisure and so on. Among them, tourism has attracted quite a large number of people. As an important component in tourism industry, tour guides’ service quality means quite a lot to the experience of the tourists. In China, foreign language speaking tour guides are also called international tour guides. They are employed by travel agencies which are authorised by China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) for receiving foreign tourists. International tour guides provide service to people from a country other than China. Their service is different from the service to domestic tourists because they will encounter both language and cultural barriers (Cai & Woods, 1993). When international tourists visit China, they bring with them different cultural baggage filled with cultural norms, behaviours, value systems, and communication styles. These differences may lead to misunderstanding, miscommunication or even conflicts. But what strategies do tour guides employ to overcome these difficulties, to solve problems and to sooth conflicts? In front of conflicts, how do tour guides negotiate their identities? To answer these questions, a research was conducted in Yunnan Province of China. Ting-Toomey’s mindful intercultural communication model was chosen as the starting point to build a possible theoretical framework. In addition, this study take into account the perspective of tourism as the context for understanding the essence of tour guides’ communication and the strategies they employ in their interaction with international tourists, and how they negotiate their identities in the specialized context. II. LITERATURE REVIEW In Ting-Toomey’s (1999, p.28) identity negotiation perspective, identity means “the reflective self-conception or self-image that we each derive from our cultural, ethnic, and gender socialisation processes. It is acquired via our interaction with others in particular situations”. According to this definition, identity is the reflective view of a person’s self, and this reflection is relevant to his or her culture. Identity meaning is relevant to questions such as “Who am I and who are you?” Ting-Toomey differentiates two groups of identities: primary and situational identity. The primary identities include cultural identity, ethnic identity, gender identity and personal identity....
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