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COMMUNICATION 1A: An introduction to interpersonal communication

Cross Cultural Communication Barriers:

Directly cited from:

Hofstede, G., Pedersen, P., & Hofstede, G. (2002). Exploring culture: Exercises, stories and synthetic cultures. Maine: Intercultural Press. p. 17-20.

LaRay Barna (1982) has elaborated on the distinction between observations and interpretation in cross cultural communication. Five areas of practice constitute potential barriers. In order to overcome these barriers, postpone interpretation until you know enough about the other culture. In other words observed behavior but try not to attach attribution to it.

First, there’s the obvious barrier of language differences. Language is much more than learning new vocabulary and grammar. It includes cultural competence: knowing what to say and how, when, where, and why to say it. Knowing a little of the foreign language may only allow you to make a “fluent fool” of yourself. Also, within the same language the same word may have a different meaning in different settings. Ways to decrease the language barrier are [1] learn the language, [2] find someone who can speak the language as an interpreter, and [3] ask for clarification if you are not sure what someone says.

Second, there is the area of nonverbal communication such as gestures, posture and other ways we show what we feel and think without speaking. Our culture has taught us to communicate through unspoken messages that are so automatic that we rarely even think about them. An interviewer might put his or her own cultural interpretation on your hand gesture, facial expression, posture, clothing, physical closeness or distance, eye contact, or personal appearance, and that attribution may not be what you intended to at all. Ways to cross the nonverbal communication area are [1] do not assume you understand any nonverbal signals or behavior unless you are familiar with the culture, [2] don’t take a stranger’s...
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