Chapter 11
Intercultural
communication
Copyright  2009 McGraw-Hill Australia Pty Ltd
PPTs t/a Communication Skills, by Bretag, Crossman and Bordia
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Topic overview
•
•
•
•
•
Introduction: impact of globalisation
Understanding the term ‘culture’
Defining ‘intercultural communication’
‘Third space’ communication
Strategies for effective intercultural
communication
Copyright  2009 McGraw-Hill Australia Pty Ltd
PPTs t/a Communication Skills, by Bretag, Crossman and Bordia
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Impact of globalisation
• Globalisation has resulted in diverse
societies and workplaces.
• Australia:
– 43 per cent of the population born overseas or at
least one parent born overseas.
– Over 200 languages are spoken (Department of
Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous
Affairs 2005).
• Increasing diversity: need to develop
intercultural communication competence.
Copyright  2009 McGraw-Hill Australia Pty Ltd
PPTs t/a Communication Skills, by Bretag, Crossman and Bordia
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Activity 1
•
Form groups of three to four students and
discuss the following questions:
1. What are the key components of culture?
2. Individually, or in pairs, write a simple
definition of ‘culture’.
3. Compare your definition with another
group. Note the similarities and
differences.
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Defining ‘culture’
• There are over 100 definitions of ‘culture’.
• The following definitions of culture are tied
together by an understanding that:
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–
–
–
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culture is learned
culture is shared
cultural experiences vary within a cultural group
culture changes continuously
every exchange with others is intercultural.
• Culture permeates everything we think, say,
do and are.
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PPTs t/a Communication Skills, by Bretag, Crossman and Bordia
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Defining ‘culture’ (cont.)
Chaney & Martin (2004, p. 268):
• Culture is ‘the structure through which the
communication is formulated and
interpreted; deals with the way people live’.
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Defining ‘culture’ (cont.)
Ferraro (2002):
• Culture is ‘everything that people have,
think, and do as members of their society’
(cited in Gudykunst & Kim 2003, p. 19).
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Defining ‘culture’ (cont.)
Gudykunst & Kim (2001, p. 15):
• ‘Our culture provides us with a system of
knowledge that generally allows us to know
how to communicate with other members of
our cultures and how to interpret their
behaviour.’
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Defining ‘culture’ (cont.)
Hofstede (2001):
• Culture is ‘the collective programming of the
mind which distinguishes the members of
one human group from another’ (cited in
Dwyer 2005, p. 201).
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PPTs t/a Communication Skills, by Bretag, Crossman and Bordia
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Defining ‘culture’ (cont.)
Mohan, McGregor, Saunders & Archee (2004,
p. 80):
• ‘… culture can best be understood if it is
broken up into four main dimensions:
– history and world view, including values, beliefs
and religion
– socialisation, including education, enculturation
and personal growth
– language
– non-verbal communication’.
Copyright  2009 McGraw-Hill Australia Pty Ltd
PPTs t/a Communication Skills, by Bretag, Crossman and Bordia
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Defining ‘culture’ (cont.)
Windschuttle & Elliott (1999, p. 481):
• ‘A culture is a shared system of behaviour,
values, beliefs, attitudes, manners, symbols
and assumptions.’
Copyright  2009 McGraw-Hill Australia Pty Ltd
PPTs t/a Communication Skills, by Bretag, Crossman and Bordia
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Activity 2
• Form groups of three or four students.
1. Working alone, write down five ‘rules’ or
conventions your family follows when
eating a meal together. In one household,
the five rules might be as follows:
–
–
–
–
Set the table.
Turn off the television.
Help bring the food to the table.
Wait until everyone is seated before starting to
eat.
– At the end of the meal, thank whoever cooked
the meal.
Copyright  2009 McGraw-Hill Australia Pty Ltd
PPTs t/a Communication Skills, by Bretag, Crossman and Bordia
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Activity 2 (cont.)
2. Now, compare your family’s ‘rules’ with
those in your group. What is different?
What is the same?
3. How much of your family meal rules are
based on your family’s own ideas and how
much on wider cultural expectations (e.g.
using a knife and fork vs using chopsticks)?
4. Spend some time in your group discussing
how the ‘rules’ change depending on
particular circumstances (e.g. when a guest
comes to dinner; when a family member
has a birthday; on the weekend, etc.).
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The unspoken ‘rules’
• Life is made up of hundreds of unspoken
expectations and ways of behaving.
• Even within the same ethnic and linguistic
background, the ‘culture’ will be distinct from
one family to another.
• Individual behaviour also depends on the
context and the other individuals with whom
the interaction is taking place.
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Understanding culture
• Understanding culture is about being
conscious of what we do everyday without
even thinking about it.
• The key to understanding culture is the
recognition that ‘culture is transmitted and
maintained solely through learning,
enculturation and group interaction’ (Dwyer
2005, p. 33).
Copyright  2009 McGraw-Hill Australia Pty Ltd
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Iceberg analogy of culture
• Tip (external culture):
– language, customs, typical food, dress
– acquired through observation, education/training
– easily learned and can be changed.
• Under water (internal culture):
– values, ways of thinking and perceiving, nonverbal communication
– overtly learned (formal education) or implicitly
learned through socialisation
– influences/motivates our behaviour
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Ethnocentrism
• ‘The belief in the superiority of one’s own
culture’ (Guffey 2001, p. 12)
• Judging others by our own values
• Often results in stereotypes
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Stereotypes
• Oversimplified behavioural patterns applied
to entire groups
– e.g. ‘all Australians drink beer’
• Fixed and distorted generalisations about all
members of a group
• Ignore individual differences and specifics of
the person or the situation
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Stereotypes (cont.)
•
•
•
•
Support underlying prejudices or biases
Support a superiority/inferiority belief system
Used to justify unfair differential treatment
Learnt through socialisation and often
reinforced or perpetuated by the media
(adapted from Cross-cultural awareness
training module n.d.).
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Activity 3
• In groups of three or four, write a brief
stereotype for each of the following
nationalities:
–
–
–
–
–
–
–
Australians
New Zealanders
Chinese
British
Japanese
German
French
• Present your feedback to class.
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Activity 3 (cont.)
1. Was it easy to agree on a simple
stereotype for each nationality?
2. Who taught us these stereotypes?
3. Based on your own experience, are these
stereotypes true?
4. How are stereotypes used to discriminate
against others?
5. Can you think of any situations where
stereotypes might be useful?
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Conceptualising
communication
• Communication is a symbolic activity
– words, non-verbal displays and objects (e.g. the
national flag).
• The meanings of symbols vary from culture
to culture.
• Communication is a process involving the
transmitting and interpreting of messages
– messages can be transmitted, but meanings
cannot.
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PPTs t/a Communication Skills, by Bretag, Crossman and Bordia
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Creation of meaning
• The channel used to transmit the message
influences how we interpret the meaning.
For example:
–
–
–
–
face-to-face
telephone
computer-mediated (e.g. email, Internet)
handwritten message.
• The context also influences the
interpretation of the message (e.g. work,
home, school) and issues of power affect
the interpretation of a message.
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PPTs t/a Communication Skills, by Bretag, Crossman and Bordia
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Communication awareness
• Communication takes place at varying levels
of awareness.
• Much of what we know was learned
unconsciously.
• Most of the time we are unaware of the
process of communication.
• Awareness is heightened in new or strange
situations.
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Communication intention
• Intention is not a necessary condition for
communication.
• Other conditions include:
– habits (rituals such as greetings)
– emotions (responding to others without thinking,
e.g. becoming defensive if we feel we have been
insulted).
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Non-verbal communication
• Only 7 per cent of what is communicated
between people is transmitted through
words (Lahiff & Penrose 1997, p. 61).
• So often we focus on language (the words),
when effective communication is much more
about culture.
Copyright  2009 McGraw-Hill Australia Pty Ltd
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Activity 4
Working in pairs, complete the following
exercises:
1. List five communication symbols (words,
non-verbal displays or objects).
2. Consider issues of power in an educational
setting. How does this affect the
communication between student and
teacher?
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Activity 4 (cont.)
3. Think of a recent communication exchange
with a person from another country. Can
you recall any non-verbal issues that
impeded your communication (e.g. kissing,
touching, hand signals)?
4. Consider the same question in relation to
communicating with a person from your
own country.
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Intercultural or crosscultural?
• Intercultural communication: social
interaction, sharing of meanings between
people from diverse cultures, focus on
‘understanding and sharing’ rather than
‘comparing’
• Cross-cultural communication: focus on
comparison of communication styles
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Intercultural
communication
• Concept of ‘stranger’: anyone unknown or
unfamiliar
• Self-disclosure: a major factor in development of personal relationships with strangers
• Need for communication partners to validate
and confirm the other
• Speaking the same language is no guarantee
of shared understandings (consider gender,
age, status)
• ALL interactions could be called ‘intercultural’
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‘Third space’
• Effective communicators ‘step outside’ their
own culture when communicating, taking on
a ‘third space’ perspective
– Describes the possibility for a negotiated reimagining of cultural identity
– Identity is constructed and deconstructed
• Removal of ‘us vs. them’ distinctions
• Requires mutual commitment
• Need to find ‘common ground’
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Strategies for effective
intercultural communication
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•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Resist stereotypes.
Resist assumptions.
Recognise own cultural position.
Develop empathy.
Communicate respect.
Be aware of non-verbal communication.
Aim for clarity.
Recognise and rectify mistakes.
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Activity 5
• Do an Internet search on Geert Hofstede
and the five cultural dimensions. How useful
do you think Hofstede’s cultural dimensions
are in developing effective intercultural
communication skills?
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PPTs t/a Communication Skills, by Bretag, Crossman and Bordia
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Summary
• To develop intercultural communication
competence, we need first to understand the
concept of ‘culture’.
• Compare cross-cultural communication with
intercultural communication.
• Be aware of ethnocentrism, stereotypes and
other barriers to communication.
• Aim for ‘third space’ communication.
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