Culture Is Communication and Communication Is Culture

Topics: Communication, Culture, English language Pages: 7 (2383 words) Published: April 26, 2012
"Culture is communication and communication is culture."

Every culture around the world has a unique language. This language is made up of ideals, values, beliefs, traditions, and further attributes that constitute the essence of one’s ways of communication. Understanding how a culture communicates will, not only, allow people to convey a message to one another the way it was intended, but it will also help individuals to find identity in the differences and commonalities of the numerous cultures. The miscommunication or ignorance of a cultural group can cause segregation, division and, even war.

In looking at culture and communication, undoubtedly, the written and spoken language is one of the most obvious distinctions. All the same, Edward T. Hall (1959), an American anthropologist, outlines the importance of recognising that communication proceeds in more ways than this. It is not just the visible deed of exchanging information or a message from one person to another through words, pictures or the arts. But a less visible yet, the more dominant substance of communication is the unspoken, the "silent language". It is in the non-verbal gestures; the commonalities, within the culture in which they are part, of attitudes towards work, leisure, learning, values, beliefs; it is in the way relationships are handled and in the way 'time' and 'space' is treated. It is in the enlightenment of these modes of communication where we can discover culture. Furthermore, it is in looking at culture where we can find the means to communicate. Consequently, Hall states, "Culture is communication and communication is culture." (Hall, 1959, p.???)

Culture and communication exist in accordance with each other. So as is the verbal language, where words exists to verbalise things that could be a norm of thought to one culture but, in another, cannot be translated into just a single word. A word could have a deep significance that has been shared amongst a cultural group for many generations yet; another group of people could only capture the surface of its meaning when shared, and not fully grasp the essence of it. For example, the word 'hongi' in the Maori language cannot be translated directly into a single word but needs to be explained as a gesture in which one presses nose and forehead with another. It has a similar objective to a handshake but also represents the exchanging of breath or the 'breath of life' (Wikipedia). The cultural implication of this word goes as far as to represent a gesture that is passed down from the gods. Many languages, including English, involve communicating ‘time’, ‘past’, ‘present’ and ‘future’. However, a number of cultures have either a vague concept of time or none at all. The Aboriginal population of Australia, for example, count 670 languages and dialects and not one of them have words to communicate the concept of time (Davis, 2011). Cultures that put more value into having a more specific organisation of time will find this difficult to grasp. The Aborigines live with the satisfaction that traditions answer all that is to know of the how and whys of existence. The absence of these words does not, by all means, show that they are ignorant of 'time', but their values and concepts of the movement of life lie, almost literally, in other realms, such as dreams. (Davis, 2011).

Moreover, M. E. Guffey and D. Loewy (2011) explains that, "Language does not serve as a tool for communication, but in addition it is a "system of representation" for perception and thinking." Wade Davis (2011) writes:

"A language is not merely a set of grammatical rules or a vocabulary. It is a flash of the human spirit, the vehicle by which the soul of each particular culture comes into the material world. Every language is an old-growth forest of the mind, a watershed of thought, an ecosystem of spiritual possibilities."

Language has been proven to reflect the way in which different cultures think. Or vice...
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