Intercultural Communication Supplement

Intercultural Communication Supplement - Intercultural...

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Intercultural Communication: A Supplement Mark Strother Introduction to Interpersonal Communication April 26, 2007
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Intercultural Communication Supplement 2 Defining Culture Before reading any further please take a moment to visit the following web site: http://www.defineculture.com/ On this site you can read some of the different definitions of culture people have posted. You can even post your own. How do you define culture? Write your definition down and compare it to the definition found in the next few paragraphs. There is a great temptation to define culture in terms of national, racial, or religious boundaries. Some people want to define culture in terms of traditions such as wedding and holiday traditions. These answers are partially correct, but there is much more to culture, and as you will see, its complexity influences your every communication. Culture can be defined as a learned system of values, beliefs, attitudes, behavior, knowledge, and norms (Beebe, Beebe & Redmond, 2005). We learn our culture. We learn what is important, how we should feel about it, what it should look like, and how we should behave while we’re doing it. We learn our culture from our parents, family members, teachers, and friends. Like sponges we absorb culture from everything we read, every movie we see, every song or advertisement on the radio. Since there are so many different sources from which we acquire our culture, no two people in your family (no two people anywhere) will have an identical set of cultural standards. You might say we each have a culture of one. Why Study Culture Whenever we communicate with another person, we speak and we listen through the filter of our culture: While sitting in class you hear your instructor refer to the paintings of Chagall as if everyone knew who Chagall is and what his paintings look like. You think you detect a slightly “snobbish” tone your teacher’s voice and you think to yourself, “Oh, no! I’m not going have to know who this fancy French painter is, am I?” (For the record, Chagall was Russian, and you’re not going to have to learn who he is.) Your teachers’ parents may have given her art lessons as a child. She may have grown up thinking everyone knew who Chagall was. Meanwhile, you might have grown up in a house where people were suspicious of “egghead” professors and “too much useless book learning.” It is also possible you and your teacher came from the same town, but since you acquired different cultural values and norms, you speak and listen with very different values and attitudes. So, it is important to study intercultural communication because our culture helps to define who we are, what we think, value, and know. It’s also important because this
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Intercultural Communication Supplement 3 definition of self creates the filter through which we speak and listen. A third reason we need to become more culturally aware is the rapidly changing trend toward globalization in this country and others. American businesses depend on expanding into other countries, and the number of foreign-born students and workers in the U.S. is growing
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