Communications and Cross Cultural Differences Not only do cultural differences affect the messengers, they also affect the message transmission and reception in several ways Cultural Differences Affect the Message • • • The only way a concept can be transferred is the messenger must use forms of communication the people understand The message must be translated so that the people understand it with a minimum of distortion. The message must be contextualized into local cultural forms Church buildings Forms of worship Leadership style People must develop a theology in which Scripture speaks to them in their historicalcultural setting Symbols and Communication Communication is the transmission of information from a sender to a receiver. Ideas and emotions cannot be communicated directly from mind to mind—must first be expressed in forms that others can receive them through their senses. The linkage of meanings and feelings to forms that create “symbols.” Nature of Symbols Symbols link together: • • • • • Meanings Forms Persons Functions Contexts Ex. “tree”: type of plant; genealogical descent; a certain kind of animal (tree frog); a symbol of craziness, “up a tree”. Types of Symbols Symbols do not stand alone, but are parts of a larger system, within which individual symbols have their meanings. Words are used to communicate cognitive messages Gestures and tones of voice to communicate feelings Several systems are used simultaneously • Spoken language • Paralanguage • Kinesics or body language • Temporal and spatial symbols • Estimates are 38% is communicated verbally; 62% is communicated nonverbally! Meaning of Symbols Symbols acquire meanings of ideas, feelings and values in two ways: • Many symbols refer to events in everyday life, but in pointing to specific things, they do not point to others. • Symbols gain their meanings partly from their relationship with other symbols that belong to their same domain or field. • Things that point to some things and not to others are called denotative meanings. Also called explicit meaning • Some symbols have meanings that come from other domains or thought and feeling, which are called connotative meanings. • Ex. “Red neck”, “Reds”, “red-eye special.” The word red does not mean the color, but some definition from politics, sports, or travel. Also called implicit meaning Denotative and Connotative It is easy to learn denotative meanings of symbols, but often difficult to learn connotative meanings • It is not obvious that they exist • Must look at how it is used in context to discern the meaning • Important to learn both sets of language Words have Implicit as well as Explicit Meaning Explicit and Implicit Denotative Meaning Connotative Meaning Explicit Meanings The meaning of words Ideas, feelings, and values consciously associated with the words Implicit Meanings Basic structure of the words as category systems Deep beliefs, feelings and judgments unconsciously associated with the words Cultural Differences in Symbol Systems Different cultures have different symbols Body motions, tones of voices, tastes and use of silence all can mean different There are cultural variations in the symbol system • Blackfoot Indians do not talk for 5 min in greetings • Gbeya (CAR) talk only after a meal, never during the meal There are cultural variations in the symbol system used for different types of communication • Protestants communicate religious messages by song and spoken words • Tribal cultures express the same through dance, drums, drama, bardic chants. Translation If symbols only had explicit, denotative meanings, translation would not be too difficult Words have connotative meanings, many of which are implicit—this is difficult Form and Meaning Initially we tend to equate the two: we associate denotative and connotative meanings to sounds, within our own culture When translating to another language the distinction is necessary. If you want to communicate you must use their words, and other symbols that communicate as well: gestures, architecture, worship forms and dress. Some cultures communicate respect by removing a hat, while others, by removing their shoes Songs need to be written in the melodies and rhythms native to the culture Even if translated correctly, if the music is foreign— the message spoken communicates that this religion is for foreigners. Importance of the connotative meanings for translation Most early missionaries emphasized on denotative meanings, thus resulting in a “literal” or formal translation. (shepherd, door) In statements of fact, denotative meanings are usually most important With the use of analogies, allegories, metaphors, humor and idioms. etc. in connotative meaning: In societies where “fathers” are seen as unfaithful, distant and authoritarian, thus referring to God as “father” can be confusing More on Connotative meanings for translation To minimize misunderstandings, recent translations emphasize “Dynamic Equivalents” to convey the same idea or meaning. • This may mean changing the symbol or word. • In Bible referred to a tax collector “beating his breast”, but in West Africa, this same action conveys taking pride in one’s accomplishment. When speaking of repentance they would say, “He beat his head.” Nida’s Guideline for Dynamic Equivalence Translators should not alter the original text, when it refers to historical events. Idioms and figures of speech are more difficult: “white as snow”, “millstone”, “camel” [“very, very white”, “a heavy stone”, “an animal called camel”] Nida warns: • In certain cases a literal translation is impossible because of connotative meanings associated with certain cultural objects—In Balinese, the viper is considered a snake of paradise. The phrase “generation of vipers” (Mt 3:;7) is not a denunciation at all. The meaning can be maintained by substituting a more generic term, as “vermin.” Translating Implicit Meanings The words in any culture have implicit meanings that reflect the world view of that culture. If no equivalent words for biblical words exists, what do we do to preserve divine revelation? It is understood that there is always some distortion of the original message. • There is the addition of meanings not found in the original How do we avoid the loss of meanings or of addition of unintended meanings to the Bible Translation? (same question in preaching/teaching?) • In a few cases a new word is created or imported from another source • Must chose the most suitable word in the local language, then make explicit through teaching and preaching Cross-Cultural Communication We spend most of our time in communication— Only when communication breaks down do we stop to see what went wrong The process is: • • • • • • • A sender whishing to communicate a message Encodes the message into symbols Transmits the encoded message to a receiver Receives the symbols Decodes the symbols Learns the message Responds to the message Many things could go wrong in the process hindering communication, esp. in a cross-cultural setting Messages and Para-messages Communications occurs in each of the 3 dimensions of culture • Cognitive: transmission of information and meaning • Affective: sharing of feeling • Evaluative: conveyance of judgments such as acceptance and censure Ways of transmitting cognitive information Rituals and dramas – enacting ideas Signs – stoplights, turn signals, bells to transmit directions Language – spoken or written to transmit abstract human thoughts Ways of communicating feelings and sentiments Whether we like the person we are talking to or not How to indicate anger over the subject Whether we are joking, serious sarcastic, reserved or critical Techniques: poetry, ironic comments, tongue-in-cheek statements, sermons, proposals, etc. Ways of communicating our judgments Western-style teaching: focus on ideas Music, poetry, art and drama: focus on moods and feelings Preaching: focus is on values and decisions Secondary or Para-message Transition Unconscious communication of secondary message by: • Facial expression, gestures, tones of voice, body postures, standing distances, use of time • Techniques of transmitting feelings and values, distrust, concern, disdain, indifference, agreement and love Determines the way the primary message is understood • Is the primary message irony, sarcasm, humor or double-meaning, or straight • Tells what the speaker thinks of the receiver Media and Para-media • • • • Words, tones, gestures, space, time, etc Choice depends upon the occasion, personal preference and culture Touching is way of showing affection in some cultures, but in others it is taboo Drama and ritual and dance are important in some cultures, but does not communicate in others Several media normally used at same time With one we communicate one message With the other we communicate another message simultaneously Multimedia communication helpful for retention of message. Percentage of Things we Remember After 3 hours After 3 days What we hear 70% 10% What we see 72% 20% What we see and hear 86% 65% Medium to store information • • • Literates depend on the written page almost exclusively, with limited mental retention Oral societies depend on memory and reinforce it with media techniques Songs, poems, proverbs, riddles, chants, stories Repetition and multi-media to retain their knowledge: singing the same song over and over, reenacting their stories in drama, dances and rituals Icons are used in houses, temples paintings to recall religious beliefs Senders and Receivers— in missions both are people Usually unconscious, but when attempting to communicate in another language we become conscious of the encoding process Depends on many factors • Use of appropriate cultural symbols • Encoding according to our own experience: vocabulary, pronunciation, feelings, etc. are determined by our age, sex, position in society, past experience and present attitudes Encoding takes into account the context (home, court) Encoding is Multilayered • Encoding is almost as fast as we can think • Encoding of paramessages of attitudes and values through tone, gestures, etc. Receivers reverse the process Filtered through beliefs and values of their culture and personal experience If their culture sees Christianity as an enemy, it is difficult to communicate If they have had a bad experience, Christians become stereotyped and most of message is blocked Filters and Feedback People tend to see and hear what they want to see and hear! Beliefs, values and feelings act as filters that open when they want to hear the message They will reinterpret the meaning to fit their purposes, or fail to change in response The audience decide whether our message gets through or not. How do we know if we communicated? Feedback—listening to those receiving the message Usually so intense on sending the message we ignore the responses Good communication begins with the “Art of Listening” • Tune in to para-messages • Formal methods of getting feedback: discussion, formal research survey, ask key questions to see if message is understood and its implications. May mean to modify our communication • Slow down, simplify the material, repeat, illustrate with concrete examples, stop for questions • If hostile, dubious or rejecting, must stop to build trust and examine our paramessages Static and Incongruity Static barriers to distract people from receiving message • Classroom conditions, environment noise, distracting mannerisms of the teacher (sender) or a heavy accent • Foreign clothing and behavior of sender, magic of his technology or poor mastery of local language Incongruity • When sender speaks of sacrifice and simple Christian living, but drives an expensive car or dresses in tailored suits • Missionary talks of loving people, but will not let them into his house • Foreignness is a type of incongruity: though message is understood, sender’s mannerisms (dress or stinginess) nullify the value of the message. Two-Way Communication Best communication is a dialogue Both parties listen and learn Danger is that neither side really listens to the other The more we listen and learn, the more we are trusted, thus the more possible we can communicate our message Reinterpretation and Response Receivers interpret messages within their culture and personal context • Discard what they dislike or do not understand – usually without trying to understand • Even within the same culture people only understand about 70% of what is said • In cross-cultural settings the level seldom rises above 50% is understood • Must be clear, explicit, concrete and redundant if we hope to be understood New information leads to decisions Information is not the only factor in decisionmaking: feeling is very important Feelings influenced by the manner and context of how the message is sent Feelings are influenced by the degree of trust in the communicator • If messenger lacks credibility in their eyes, the message is rejected • If they sense the sender accepts and loves them, they are more open Deepest decisions tend to change lives: evaluative determinations from the core of conversion • Changes in knowledge and feeling are not enough • Only when decisions lead to shifts in allegiances and behavior can we speak of lordship of Christ and Christian discipleship Post decision evaluation Peer pressures can be great If there is little support for their new beliefs from the local community, without reinforcement from peers, then reevaluation of new faith often results in a weakening of their faith Communication and the Missionary 1. 2. 3. 4. Effective communication is essential to our task Need to be more aware of the implicit elements of communication Must become receptor-oriented in our thinking – if not understood, it is we who must change As we communicate the gospel it is God who works through His Spirit in the hearts of the listeners, equipping them to hear and understand the Gospel. Without this divine work, conversion is impossible.