StumblingBlocks to Intercultural Communication
StumblingBlocks to Intercultural Communication
Communicationis an important process that allows people to convey messages toother people and make them believe and feelings known by others.However, there exist several factors that hinder the achievement ofthese goals of communication during the intercultural communication.Intercultural communication refers to a form of communication that isintended to facilitate the process of sharing information betweenpeople from different social and cultural groups (Stire, para 12,2006). This type of communication faces more challenges thatcommunication between people from the same cultural and social group.This paper will address the key factors (including languagedifferences, stereotyping, ethnocentricism, anxiety, andmisinterpretation of non-verbal cues) that block interculturalcommunication.
Languagedifferences are among the most significant factors that hinderscommunication between individuals from different culturalbackgrounds. Cultural differences in syntax, idioms, dialects, andslang makes it difficult for people from different to understand eachother during verbal communication. For example, each language has itsown vocabulary that cannot survive translation (Levine & Wolff,para 20, 2003). Unfortunately, people struggling with these aspectsof language are not aware of their problems and tend to assume thattheir audience understands their message. This necessitates anincrease in awareness as part of enhancing diversity (Ingram, para43, 2001). In most cases, language affects interculturalcommunication when the speaker from a given cultural group lings on asingle meaning of a phrase or word while ignoring the context. Peoplefrom other cultural groups may interpret the message differently as aresult of the lack of a match between the phrase and the context.Americans think that Indians talk backwards, which makes it difficultto follow the conversation. For example, an Indian may say “Englishcentric view of grammatical structure you have” (Dagnall, para 13,2009). The sentence begins from the end towards the start.
Althoughbeing a multilingual is an advantage, speaking in a foreign languagehas its equal share of challenges. This is because it is impossibleto learn different vocabulary, idioms, and slang without making somemistakes. To a foreigner or an individual from a different culturalgroup, every other language speakers fast. Slowing down when speakingwith people from a different cultural background helps themcomprehend what the speaker is saying. In addition, combing verbalcommunication with non-verbal cues also enhances multiculturalcommunication. The worst challenge occurs when people from differentcultural groups assume that they understand certain phrases, buttheir understanding differs from what the speaker intended. Forexample, when a Japanese is asked, “Won’t you take some tea?” ,he is likely to get the literal meaning of the question and answer“No” to mean that he would like to have some (Barna, para, 12,2013). The hostess, on the other hand, is likely to get the literalmeaning the response. This is because some cultures find it politewhen someone refuses the first offer of refreshment. The two partieswill be communicating about the same subject, but interpret theresponses differently from what each of the speakers intends to mean.
Stereotypingcan block communication between people from different culturalgroups. This occurs when an individual holds some negativeperceptions about people from a different cultural group.Stereotyping includes exaggerated or generalized beliefs that aregrounded on half truth about a given cultural group (Keles, para 13,2013). Engaging stereotypical beliefs and prejudice in anintercultural setting increases the sense of security to an extentthat one cannot tolerate the sense of helplessness and ambiguity(Marcelle & Axner, para 20, 2013). At this level a stereotypicperson fails to deal with or even understand the situation or theother person. For example, the U.S. students believe that Arabstudents are “inflammable” (noisy and burning with anger) (Barna,para 16, 2013). The white students who hold this perception avoidcafeteria that are patronized by the Arab students. A conversationbetween the white and the Arab person can fail by because the whitehave already formed an opinion that the Arabic counterpart is makingnoise or driven by anger during the conversation.
Stereotypesare second hand believes that have been evangelized to provide someconceptual basis on which people try to make sense of things thatsurround them. In the content of intercultural communication,stereotypes interfere with people’s objective viewing of the worldaround them Miladinovic, para 10, 2014). Consequently, stereotypesdevelop the tendency to perceive information selectively and onlyreceive the part of information that corresponds with the image theyhold in their mind. In essence, a stereotypical person tends toqualify the conduct of an individual as being the representative ofthe entire cultural group. Failure to stay curious and flexible aboutnew information reduces one’s capacity to make sense of differentand complex intercultural situations.
Inconclusion, intercultural communication is quite challenging giventhe large number of barriers that reduce the ability of thecommunicating parties to understand each other. Verbal barriers aremore common than non-verbal ones, but they equally interfere withintercultural communication. In most cases, communication fails whenthe two parties misunderstand each other or misinterpret the cuesused by the other party. People from different cultures holdmisleading beliefs and misconceptions about other cultures, whichleads to prejudice, stereotyping, and anxiety. All these factorsblock intercultural communication.
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