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Barriers to Intercultural Communication


Intercultural communication refers to interpersonal communication

Descriptive of communication between people living in the same country as well as in different countries

4 terms that apply to intercultural communication (Samovar and Porter)

Interethnic International intracultural


Total system of language, values, beliefs, customs, religions, art, and manners Also includes and is affected by the economic system of the country

Barriers to intercultural communication

Prejudice Proxemics Kinesics

Translation limitations Lack of language training

Ways to overcome the barriers

Learn about the persons culture

Have patience Get help when you need it

Some cultural differences

Indians look down when acknowledging authority; seen as untrustworthiness by North Americans and Europeans
Public reprimands are acceptable and even effective in the US but not in other cultures

Argentineans and other South Americans need time for trust building before doing deals; for N. Americans, time is money
Germans value experience/seniority/age and sending young managers to deal with seniors is a mistake; jokes are inappropriate in business settings

Taking pictures of local people in Africa is offensiveKoranic prohibition on representations of a person, being photographed may be equivalent to becoming a victim of witchcraft The Japanese smile is a law of etiquette

Shaking of the head for no and nodding for yes are unknown in some countries In Middle East, Latin America, and southern European countries, male friends exchange greetings with hugs and kisses

Arabs in some regions disapprove of using the left hand to take food from a serving dish; to do so is considered unclean.
People in some cultures maintain eye contact when talking while other avoid eye contact to show respect.

Writing for an international audience

Write naturally but avoid abbreviations, slang, acronyms, technical jargon, sports and military analogies, and other devices.
Avoid words that trigger emotional responses such as anger, fear, or suspicion.

Use simple terms but attempt to be specific as well

Follow the same techniques for increasing readability you would use to someone fluent in English Consider the subtle differences in the ways specific cultures organize messages

Use graphics, visual aids, and forms, when possible to simplify the message. Use figures for expressing numbers to avoid confusion. Be aware of differences in the way numbers and dates are written

Write out the name of the month to avoid misunderstandings. Adapt the letter format to the traditional format of the recipients country

Reference List

Guirdham, Maureen. (1999). Communicating across cultures. London: MacMillan Press Ltd. Lehman, Carol and Dufrene, Debbie. (1999). Business communication (12th ed.). Ohio: South-Western College Publishing.