ABSTRACT with other cultures should be a work

                                                                                ABSTRACT

Language and cultural misinterpretations can be avoided by
increasing our understanding of other people and their cultures. The study of
cross-cultural communication addresses this need by examining the
communications and interactions between people of different cultures and sub
cultures. The fundamental principle of cross-cultural communication is that it
is through culture that people communicate. Globalization has made
intercultural communication inevitable. Communicating with other cultures characterizes
today’s business, classroom, and community. Technology especially the internet
has increased the probability that whatever is documented online will be read
by someone from another culture. Since one of the purposes of education in the
21st century is our coping with the multicultural knowledge society, we have to
prepare to acknowledge its differences in terms of cultural values,
communication and behaviour patterns, habits and attitudes. Intercultural
communication is of importance in any career field thus the art of knowing how
to communicate with other cultures should be a work place skill that is
emphasized. Business firms will inevitably have to be accustomed to different
working styles of their workers who are drawn from different cultural
backgrounds. It is imperative for business firms to understand the cross
cultural differences in their operations and this understanding acquires more
importance in the sphere of communicating with people hailing from diverse
cultures. Hence a Multinational Company (MNC) will have to ensure that steps
are taken to overcome the barriers to cross cultural communication in order to
attaining organizational objectives effectively and efficiently. The paper
deals with understanding and significance of cross cultural communication,
barriers to cross cultural communication and measures to overcome these cross
cultural barriers by developing intercultural competence in the organizational
set up. The argument lies in the fact that cross-cultural understanding and
cultural knowledge for politically-correct approaches are key issues to be
considered for a safe and successful integration into our multicultural
knowledge society.

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WHAT IS CULTURE?

Culture is the integrated pattern of human behaviour that
includes thoughts, communication, actions, customs, beliefs, values and
institutions of a racial, ethnic, religious or social group. It reflects the
norms and values of a given society and constitutes, to a large extent, the way
in which individuals in that society views the world. Culture is the
characteristics and knowledge of a particular group of people, defined by
everything from language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music and arts. It
is essential for today’s work force to be aware of the differences in
communication across cultures at their workplaces. A major component of a
culture is its systems of values, beliefs, and material products. First,
culture includes belief systems that involve stories, or myths, the
interpretation of which can give people insight into how they should feel,
think, and/or behave. Second, culture includes value systems. Values are formed
based on how we learned to believe things ought to be or how people ought to
behave, especially in terms of qualities such as honesty, integrity, and
openness.

Third, culture is also defined by material products such as
food, clothing, and music. Some of the elements of culture include:

• language;

• dress and appearance;

• food and eating habits;

• music and dance;

• time and time-consciousness;

• interpersonal relationships; and,

• beliefs and attitudes.

 Some other definitions
that are useful when considering cultural difference include:

• Acculturation – the process of adapting to or adopting a
different culture.

 • Ethnic – refers to
membership of a group linked by race, nationality, language or a common
cultural heritage

• Race – a socially defined population that is derived from
distinguishable physical characteristics.The notion that all people from a
given group are the same.

Some of the most common cultural differences relate to the
use of names – how and why people are named and how they are addressed in
certain situations. An example is placing the family name first when addressing
someone in many collectivist cultures. Greetings such as handshakes,
interaction between men and women, family structures, signs of respect,
attitudes to education, and body language, also play central roles in most
cultures, and are where most common misunderstandings occur. For example in
many African and Asian cultures, avoidance of eye contact can indicate respect
rather than discomfort or a lack of interest.

In the case of resolving conflicts, managers from the west
tend to adopt a competing style whereby parties to the conflict are encouraged
to air their grievances freely. The issues as the managers perceive them need
not be swept under the carpet rather they need to be brought to the surface to
understand the intricacies connected with them. In contrast to this Asian
managers prefer to avoid direct expression bordering on criticism or
provocation as they believe in a healing of wounds through a long term
perspectives. Managers may not want to discuss certain sensitive issues as they
regard them to be affecting one’s privacy. Communication may be affected due
these varying styles since the staff may not be clear on what to say & how
to give expressions to their thoughts

Culture shock is
a strange psychological phenomenon which acts a barrier in communicating with
others especially in a global environment. The term “culture shock” was first
introduced in the 1950s by Kalvero Oberg to describe the phenomena people might
experience after moving to a new environment. Culture shock can be described as
the feeling of disorientation experienced by a person suddenly subjected to an
unfamiliar culture or way of life. Culture shock is the physical and emotional
discomfort a person experience when entering a culture different from his or
her own. Culture shock is not a sudden phenomenon; rather, it builds up slowly
and is often a series of small events. Culture shock may involve any of these
symptoms like sadness, loneliness, melancholy, preoccupation with health,
insomnia, desire to sleep too much or too little, depression, feeling
vulnerable, feeling powerless, changes in temperament, anger, irritability,
resentment, unwillingness to interact with others, loss of identity, unable to
solve simple problems and lack of confidence. For some people, culture shock
can be brief and hardly noticeable. For others, it can bring intense physical
and emotional discomfort. Though it is inevitable it can be managed or overcome
with conscious awareness of one’s own reactions.

WHY IS COMMUNICATING ACROSS
CULTURES SO DIFFICULT?

More than 80% of the world’s people live in societies that
are collectivist in nature. Those living in Western societies live in societies
that are individualist in nature. This is a fundamental difference that has the
potential to create constant misunderstanding and, therefore, miscommunication.
The comparison provided in the table on the following page is a useful starting
point for interpreting those fundamental differences as they arise. Remembering
that we are all human beings driven by the same emotions, instincts and
ambitions may also help us to see cultural difference as something that is on
the surface and not so threatening. In a global environment the ability to
communicate effectively can be a challenge. Even when both parties speak the
same language there can still be misunderstandings due to ethic and cultural
differences. Over the last decade, there have been countless examples from the
business sector that demonstrate how poor communication can lead to poor
organizational performance. For companies involved in global business
operations the relationship of managers and subordinates in multinational firms
is important. In research conducted by Thomas and Ravlin, it was found that
participants to whom nationality was more important indicated lower perceptions
of similarity with the manager, lower intentions to associate, and lower
perceptions of managerial effectiveness. The results of the study strongly
indicate that teaching members of different cultures to behave like each other
is an ineffective approach to improving intercultural interactions in business
settings.

Business firms will inevitably have to be accustomed to
different working styles of their workers who are drawn from different cultural
backgrounds. It is imperative for business firms to understand the cross
cultural differences in their operations and this understanding acquires more
importance in the sphere of communicating with people hailing from diverse
cultures. Intercultural communication that takes place in business entities
will have to take cognizance of the differences but at the same time it has become
a challenge for them to develop a synthesis whereby unity is brought about in
the midst of diversity. The obsession to overemphasize the differences between
different cultures may result in stereotypes being conceived and such perceived
notions may prove to be a hindrance in communicating with people. A low context
communication culture encourages direct expression of ideas and one can be
frank in assessment of situations. In a culture of this nature Mangers may be
blunt in their comments and very often what is being conveyed is not marred by
hidden meanings. Many people find it easy to come to grips with the expressions
of low context cultures as the messages are clear & loud for anyone to
attach a universal meaning.

Fast changing nature of business transactions and the need
to save precious time has meant low context communication is being preferred by
MNCs in their operations. However in putting out a detailed press statement, a
business firm has to appreciate the context in which the statement is made,
underlying messages and the choice of words if the firm operates in a high
context communication culture. A business firm may get tangled if the words are
understood in a different light. The above dimensions of a national culture
necessarily influence communication process when business firms operate across
cultures. Firstly the internal communication process of business organization
would be affected by divergence of national cultures. Internal communication
system in a business organization comprises of management style & staff
behavior. The former is concerned with the conduct of the superiors & the
latter deals with subordinates. Barriers to communication are found between
these two layers since the two parties operate with divergent objectives.

Each society has its own culture and values. These are the
ways they live and interact with each other. It is not “bad” to have Indian or
American values. What is important is that the way of doing things may not be
the same. Ethnocentrism is a belief in the centrality of one’s own culture. It
often involves judging aspects of another culture by the standards of one’s
own. Bennet (1993) defines ethnocentrism as “assuming that world view of one’s
own culture is central to all reality”

Methodology:

In order to develop the engineering students’ communicative
strategies and awareness of the importance of getting informed about the basic
rules of communication and behaviour pertaining to the different cultures they
can encounter in their future work environment, in their academic and social
life, the focus will be on the communicative method of teaching a foreign
language, which implies an interactive, cooperative learning and teaching. By
encouraging the engineering students to use English in given real-life contexts
of communication and by developing their speaking, reading, writing and
listening skills, we enhance their ability to cope with the heterogeneous
knowledge society replete with dangerous communication pitfalls unless tackled
and avoided appropriately. The students and the teachers’ attitudes towards
various types of interlocutors pertaining to various cultures will be changed
and revalued. They will understand other cultural values, will appreciate them
and will respond to them in a politically-correct manner. Cooperative learning
and teaching contributes to encouraging the students’ independent thinking,
enabling them to find their own meanings and solutions to the situations
encountered, to understand the interlocutor’s attitudes and manners of communication,
and to act responsively in the given communication situation. Thus, learners
will advance their own knowledge and understanding of other cultures by sharing
ideas in well-organized pair or groupwork activities under the teacher’s
careful supervision. Williams and Burden (1997) point out the idea that “every
learner will bring a different set of knowledge and experiences to the learning
process, and will ‘construct’, in different ways, their own sense of the
situation with which they are faced. An individual’s understanding of the world
is constantly being reshaped as he or she adapts existing knowledge to new
information. Rather than being seen as something that is fixed or static,
knowledge is viewed as transitory, provisional and relative” The “Low”
involvement training is aimed at understanding the behavior that is appropriate
in other cultures. These behaviors can include but are not limited to greetings
(non-verbal messages) and distances (proxemics).

“High” involvement utilizes more sophisticated training
methods. An example is the analysis of the rules of social interaction
(male-female, boss-subordinate, sales clerkcustomer, etc.). Daily situational
routines that are done without conscious thought can be viewed as rude or
anti-social behavior in another culture. In the affect area, class simulations
can be utilized. An example would be a business meeting role play with
customers from different cultural backgrounds.

Staff working in an organization would form a vital element
in a business organization. At an MNC, workers hail from different backgrounds.
They bring varied skills and a knowledge base but at the same time have a
multitude of expectations. The language barriers owing to workers belonging to
different ethnic groups are an issue to grapple with in communication. As has
been discussed under low context and high context communication, the words
spoken in a different culture may carry a different meaning in another cultural
setting.

The context in which these words
are used may vitiate or steer clear issues:

Beliefs and values:

 Beliefs and values
are different from person to person. In a globalized working community each and
every person’s beliefs and values depend on his culture .The cross cultural
belief and value prevailing should be known to the person in order to
communicate efficiently.

Stereotyping:

 Value judgments about
people. Inadequate information about the people leads to unintelligent choices
in the cross cultural communication. Cultural stereotypes exaggerate or over generalize
what we perceive about people, and leads to increase anxiety. Every individual
enacts one stereotype on other individuals or group of people. Generally
stereotypes are born out of fear of the group we stereotype or lack of
knowledge of the group .These stereotypes are the major reasons for difference
of opinions about the opposite culture and leads to miscommunication.

 Ethnocentrism:

 Thinking about our
own culture, our group behavior as the standard against all the other groups.
One’s own cultural experience unintentionally makes us to feel that our culture
is distinctive. This ethnocentrism increases the level of the anxiety .In work
places the ethnocentrism is directly proportional to anxiety level.
Multicultural team members face a lot of issues due to ethnocentrism.

OVER COMING THE CROSS CULTURAL
BARRIERS:

In an era of having to operate with multiculturalism, a
communicator has to be competent in intercultural communicating. This
competence in cross cultural communication would enable an organization to
achieve objectives while according due respect to values, norms, beliefs of the
people being affected by its operations. A business organization has to develop
intercultural competence in organizational set up to overcome the barriers to
cross cultural communication.

Intercultural competence is defined as the ability to
participate in a set of activities the core of which happens to a common
communication code. This ability is aided by knowledge, skills & attitudes.
Successful Development of intercultural competence rests on three pillars.
These components that facilitate orderly cross cultural communication would be
intercultural sensitivity, intercultural awareness and intercultural
adroitness. The affectionate aspect of intercultural communication is
identified as intercultural sensitivity. This aspect is to be developed in
order to equip individuals with the ability to appreciate other cultures’
differences. Through the development of intercultural sensitivity, an
individual would be able to grasp self-concept, neutrality &
self-possession.

Respecting the cultural norms, values and ethos of others
stem from a belief that such cultures need to be treated with dignity. The
belief is coupled with treating others as equals. The spirit of respecting
other culture would find expression in being empathetic about use of language.
Openness has to do with being respective towards accepting people from various
cultures. Openness would avoid prejudgment of individuals and circumstances to
leave room for listening to others. Openness promotes engagement through a
polite manner of seeking clarifications. In the process an individual would be
enabled to view the world from others point of view. Curiosity is inherent with
ambiguity but this ambivalence can be used as a stimulating urge in order to
understand peculiar aspects of other cultures.

 Measures to
overcome barriers in cross cultural communication:

 Cross cultural
communication competence enables an organization to achieve objectives while
according due respect to values, norms, beliefs of the people being affected by
its operations. A business organization has to develop cross – cultural
competence in organizational set up to overcome the above mentioned barriers to
cross cultural communication.

 IMPROVING THE CROSS CULTURAL COMPETENCE:         

 Cross-cultural
competence is defined as the ability to participate in a set of activities the
core of which happens to a common communication code. This ability is aided by
knowledge, skills & attitudes. Successful Development of Cross-cultural
competence rests on three pillars. These components that facilitate orderly
cross cultural communication would be Cross-cultural sensitivity,
cross-cultural awareness &cross-cultural ability. The affectionate aspect
of cross-cultural communication is identified as intercultural sensitivity.
This aspect is to be developed in order to equip individuals with the ability
to appreciate other cultures’ differences. Through the development of
cross-cultural sensitivity, an individual would be able to grasp self-concept,
neutrality & self possession. The cognitive aspect of cross-cultural
communication is known as cross-cultural awareness. Intercultural awareness
results in enhancing not only cultural- awareness but also self awareness in
the process.

The
cross cultural competence could be improved through the following methods:

Cross cultural knowledge training:

 Employees need to
recognize and admit the existence of differences between cultures. The
differences in values beliefs, perceptions, interpretations. Employees should
be given a basic cross culture training which will make them aware of the cross
culture in the work place.

Language Training:

 Language barrier is
the greatest problem encountered in multi-cultural team .Language training
should be given for those who have more chances of coming into contact with
foreigners.

 

 Conclusion:

 Our 21st century
multicultural knowledge society urges teachers and students to carefully
prepare to cope with its differences by developing their cultural competence
and raising their cross-cultural awareness. To accomplish this goal, English
language courses in a technical university should not only insist on developing
the engineering students’ linguistic competence, but should also focus on
gaining and increasing cultural competence for enhancing their cross-cultural
awareness. Thus, the students will successfully rethink and plan their
discourse strategies and communicative approaches according to the different
cross-cultural contexts and interlocutors they will have to cope with. By
designing a motivating syllabus and applying the communicative method of teaching,
the students will be motivated to learn, demonstrating their capacity to locate
and acknowledge cross-cultural differences, knowing how to respond to them in a
politically correct manner. Understanding and respecting cultural differences
by getting informed about them, by illustrating them and enlarging upon them
within course discussions and activities, the students will ensure their safe
and successful integration into the multicultural knowledge society.