Intercultural Communication Barriers

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Humans have been communicating since four million years. On the other hand, the birth of culture is estimated to have token place about 35,000 years ago. Today, both culture and communication have evolved considerably and have become interdependent of one another, to the point that communication is considered to be a product of culture. Thus, our own culture has a deep impact on our thoughts and behaviors. Since each culture has its distinct aspects, intercultural communication can be the cause of conflict and disorder. There are three main issues which are at the root of the problem of intercultural miscommunication : language as a barrier, cultural diversity and ethnocentrism. I will analyze these three notions in situations in which intercultural communication is frequent such as : the workplace, the classroom and vacation trips.

The way people communicate varies widely between, and even within, cultures. One aspect of communication style is language usage. Language has always been perceived as a link between people but it can also constitute a barrier. Across cultures, some words and phrases are used in different ways. For example, even in countries that share the English language, the meaning of "yes" varies from "maybe, I'll consider it" to "definitely so," with many shades in between . Furthermore, communication between cultures which do not share the same language is considerably more difficult . Each culture, has its distinct syntax, expressions and structure which causes confusion in intercultural communication. For example , in Asian countries the word "no" is rarely used, so that "yea" can mean "no" or "perhaps". Therefore, an American traveling to Japan might be considered impolite if he ignores this rule. Furthermore, individuals who are not comfortable with a certain language may not be taken seriously. Such is the case in the classroom, where a student who has a perfect knowledge of the subject in question may have difficulty expressing his idea due to his inability to write properly and therefore he would not receive the grade he truly deserves. Similarly intercultural communication is dominant in the workplace. In the past, many companies and organizations could operate entirely within their country of origin and conduct their activities exclusively in their own native language. But now, due to an increasingly amount of intercultural business, some American companies require for their employees to have a good knowledge in languages such as Japanese, German, Italian… Sociolinguists examine social and cultural influences on language behavior. Among the most important concepts to emerge are those relating to dialects and language standards. Sociolinguists have documented the presence of dialects in every language. These dialects, all of which are legitimate, are associated with educational, economic, social and historical conditions. Hence, even if an individual scrupulously studies all the possible dictionaries of a random language, he would still be somewhat of a stranger to that language since he is unaware of all the dialectal changes. In addition to differences in pronunciation, vocabulary and grammatical structures among cultural groups, variations also exist in the rules for general discourse in oral communication, covering such specific acts as narratives and conversation. In communicating with one another, teachers and students naturally will follow the assumptions and rules governing discourse within their respective cultures. Discourse

rules govern such aspects of communication as: opening or closing conversations; taking turns during conversations; interrupting; using silence as a communicative device; interjecting humor at appropriate times and using nonverbal behavior. Once again, an American student studying in the middle east, who would constantly interrupt the teacher in order to clarify the professor's opinion, would be considered to be extremely rude...
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