Sunday, May 28, 2006

Bibliography #1

Twitchin, John.

Video Title:
CROSSTALK: Cross-cultural Communication

This video analyses the different situations to demonstrate what can happen when lines of communication breaks down.


1st January 1979

British Broadcasting Corporation

Simple misunderstandings can easily interfere with business when you work in a multi-racial society. Different goals, different styles of communication or simply, different accents can make people from different cultures unintelligible to one another. Different situations are analyzed to demonstrate what can happen when lines of communication break down.

The 15-minute video covers the different ways people from different ethnic groups use the English language. It examines how these unrecognized conventions in ways of speaking could affect the most ordinary exchanges. Cultural misunderstandings and the different ways of an ethnic speaker in presenting information can produce impatience on both parties. Both parties could interpret incorrectly the other person’s way of speaking, which can sometimes lead to an increasing feeling of impatience.

The video starts off with a scene in a bank, where they compare an English native speaker with an Asian person, a non-native speaker, engaging in banking activities that is conducted in English. One example:

Asian guy: Excuse me. I want to deposit some money.

Cashier: Excuse me. I want to deposit some money, please.

Explanation: In the first sentence, the Asian person’s speech is perfectly grammatical and pretty much the same as the words the cashier used. But there is a difference in an Asian’s person tone of voice and emphasis. The Asian voice rises and falls giving special emphasis to the word; some money. Where the necessary word that should be emphasized is the word deposit. The cashier unconsciously expects the English emphasis, the cashier may think the Asian is unnecessarily stating the obvious, or is using a tone, associated in English convention with pushiness.

Sometimes, to the English ear the Asian customer might seemed a little unnecessarily abrupt or even rude, but he doesn’t mean to be, and to another Asian he might come across as quite polite. Unfortunately such inter-ethnic misunderstandings are not just irritating, they may serve to confirm the sort of stereotypes and attitudes that can lead to prejudice on both sides.

Proper communication is hard to achieve especially when both parties have different understanding on making sense of things. Inter-ethnic communication can sometimes be unnecessarily long-winded which could be irritating to the people engaging in it.

What a word or term means to the native speaker of a particular language, sometimes have a different meaning for other non-speakers.

People who are not used to inter-ethnic communication will sometimes thinks of the other non-native speaker as being pushy or rude. It could sometimes make people think a particular person has a slightly aggressive or a difficult character.

It’s this cumulative effect, which damages inter-ethnic communications. When words are emphasized unexpectedly, irritated feelings are likely to result. Feelings often explained in terms of the group stereotype.

Levels of Misunderstanding in Cross-cultural Communication.


2. Asians and English people have DIFFERENT WAYS OF STRUCTURING INFORMATION OR AN ARGUMENT. In other words they have different ideas about what sounds logical and different ways of arranging, ordering and emphasizing what they want to say. A characteristic Asian tendency is to outline general activities first and then coming on to the relevant point to a question, where English speakers expect the English convention of making the relevant point first, with explanatory background afterwards.

3. On top of those, the DIFFERENT WAYS OF SPEAKING. They have different unconscious conventions about using English, for example how to emphasize a point, or to indicate a contrast by tone of voice. It’s this third level of misunderstanding; because it’s unconscious that often makes it impossible to sort out difficulties based on the other two.


What is interesting about this video is that it suggested some tips on interviewing for English professional people such as social workers, teachers, or employers, who wants to avoid failure, mutual frustrations and misunderstandings.

CHECK EVERYDAY ASSUMPTIONS – an Asian person may not share the same expectations and assumptions about what’s correct in a situation. An interviewer could check out different assumptions by discussing them with people from the different ethnic groups. Equally, the interviewer may need to share and STATE THEIR OWN ASSUMPTIONS about what is required or customary. Explain clearly what is or isn’t required in matters such as the production of certificates and qualifications. Then use VERY EXPLICIT QUESTIONS rather than rely on stress and intonation to carry on meaning. The interviewer probably doesn’t share the same system for expressing implications through tone of voice and emphasis. TALK OPENLY ABOUT DISCRIMINATION. If the interviewee has suffered from this, it may explain some of their reactions and feelings, and they may well have a fear or expectation of it, which needs to be openly acknowledged and reassured. LISTEN UNTIL THEY FINISH, important points may be at the end of their answers. And if, the interviewer doesn’t share the same ways of explaining things and giving information, it’s fateful to switch off, jump to conclusions or interrupt. And, to avoid unintentional discrimination resulting from misunderstandings of different ways of using English, ALLOW THE EXTRA TIME NEEDED to get to know the other person.

Another tip to share when engaging in inter-ethnicity communication is to try to become aware of the differences and also think about the different conventions and ways they communicate.

Note: So to all you English speakers, if you find an ethnic person rude or irritating, please do consider first the point I stressed out above and don't just run into conclusions straight away.


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