Intercultural Communication

Course Website for Tunghai FLLD Seminar

Lotsa responses

Posted by thuicc on October 6, 2005

Here are the responses I made–and some I didn’t get to–in today’s class discussion.

  • Most people got the idea (which I think is true) that Althen has a somewhat “white” view of what Americans are like. He argues in another part of his book that “The predominant ideas, values, and behaviors of “mainstream” Americans are those of the white middle class. People in that category have long held the large majority of the country’s most influential positions. They have been the political and business leaders, the university presidents, scientists, journalists, and novelists who have successfully exerted influence on the society. American culture as talked about in this book, then, has been strongly influenced by white middle-class males.” (xxiv) So he’d argue that what he’s describing is the mainstream of the U.S.
  • As people said, the “Communication Patterns” article gives us a view that while (if Althen is correct) white middle-class males might represent the mainstream, there are a lot of other kinds of groups with different values and practices. Jen used the term “multiple generalizations” to describe the article. As Erica mentioned, there’s a shift between the contrast of Americans with the “outside” world in Althen to looking at contrasts within the U.S. in the “CP” article.
  • As I mentioned, to be fair to Althen, his book contains more than just the chapter on communication styles. But one thing he doesn’t do in his chapter on race and ethnic relations is try to account for racial/ethnic factors that might affect communication styles. (I’ll put this book in the dept library later)
  • Regarding a comment by Evonne about Asian Americans (I think) use of eye contact: what might account for the differences you mention between the article’s description of Asian Americans avoiding eye contact for too long and what you describe as your view that it’s important to look at speakers of elders while they’re talking? (How/where did you learn that it’s polite to do this? I’m thinking of how we might try to figure out what might account for the difference you see.) Ceilia suggested, for instance, that the “experts” who wrote the article might have been coming from the “outside” of the culture, so would see things differently. She also mentioned that the experts might learn things from other experts. (There are a lot of things we could say about that…)
  • Stephanie suggests that Althen is writing with “a pretty high ego” when he describes Americans. What might give you that sense? Any particular passage you could point to?

OK–I could comment a lot more, but this post is already too long! I’ll have more to say later in the semester. (Jennifer’s comment has me thinking about something related to face, for instance…)

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9 Responses to “Lotsa responses”

  1. Jennifer said

    The world has been led by the mainstream culture for a long time – American culture, especially in the recent years. The customs of other cultures are still preserved though they are often neglected. Because people don’t pay much attention to them as they do on American’s, those non-mainstream cultures aren’t understood enough. The happening of intercultural misunderstanding is actually not so seriou as we think cause’ u’ll be forgiven when u do something against the culture of the person whom u’re talking to since u’re not a person from his or her culture. Everyone should be tolerant toward other cultures, other races and other differences from himself/herself. When u make mistakes, u learn a lesson, then improving better next time. Humble, tolerance and learning attitude contributes the interaction and relationship among different cultures.

  2. Anonymous said

    I think, as I stated before, that these articles are generalizations. These generelizations aren’t always a bad thing. As the second article broke down the presumptions of the first, another article could break down the second article even fruther. Not only as Benda Lao Shi (heh) suggested suggested with multi-cultural groups, but also with generations or even regions of the country in mind. I would say that New Yorkers have a different way of communicating than Californians or Louisianians (?). Even farther that that, twenty-something african-american new yorkers may have a different way of communicating than 40-something 2nd generation Italian-Indian Montanaians. I think what it all comes down to is people communucating with people. Although one must draw the barrier of what to analyse somewhere, it is important to remember that generalizations are not always correct, and they way to communicate with people one-on-one is to communicate. This means instead of approaching someone of a different ethnicity with pre-conceived notions about how he or she will communicate, one must approach a fellow human with an open mind.

    Jen Nafziger
    ps-I would sign in as my name, but all of the options are in Chinese and I just can’t deal with that right now. Give me a few more weeks and i’ll be able to identify “password” and “e-mail address”

  3. Hmmm… get to respond to both Jennifer and Jen in one post! OK…

    Jennifer said: “Because people don’t pay much attention to them as they do on American’s, those non-mainstream cultures aren’t understood enough.”

    I think it’s important to point out which “people” we’re talking about here. A lot of the studies we’re reading are admittedly written for (and often by) Americans in order to understand other cultures. That’s another way in which the “mainstream” (white) American culture “leads” the world (or at least leads the way the world is conceived). If we’re reading studies in English, they often have been written from an American context.

    In response to Jen: This is quite true. It’s also something Ron and Suzanne Scollon get into in their book Intercultural Communication–they also view intergenerational, intergender (is that a word?), interregional (transregional?) communication as types of intercultural communication. So the idea of what a culture is can get pretty complicated sometimes! Complicated to the extent that if we want to approach our fellow humans with an open mind, we have to figure out what precisely to keep an open mind about.

  4. josiekuo said

    In the article, we can notice that the author tries to describe the different styles of communications between different groups. I think that superego is not obvious in the article. In the author’s portrayal, it does not really show much feeling about the “superego.” The author states the various communication groups with a very objective point of view. The only weakness I can see is that the author only shows his idea without regarding the higher class and the lower class. There might be some interesting things between those groups. Talking about the view of the experts, I think that it is the easiest way for experts to have the conclusion by observing the middle class people. Usually, middle class people are samples of different kinds of observations. It will bring fewer mistakes for the result of an observation by showing the result from middle class people. And as mentioned above, he uses only one point of view to make the middle class males representing the majority of people. It clearly shows that this article speaks out the communication styles from small group of people in the world, which is not persuasive.

  5. Anonymous said

    I think every country has its own culture, and it is not right to judge other country’s culture is “good” or “bad”. I think Jennifer has made a comment that people will not criticize you by making “culture mistakes”, but has to base on the good understanding and sympathy for the cultural differences. By the way, I have come up with a question “Does the white American always see themselves as a very superior ethnics group?” I often heard of some Chinese people go abroad to make living, but the consequence is that they usually come back to Asia, and the reason is that they can’t really get involved into the white Americans life. They usually see Chinese people as outsiders. Nevertheless, the situation is same as in Taiwan, Chinese see English speakers as outsiders thouch the person who might have lived in Taiwan for several years and not itend to going back to their states. This really made the situation complicated to some of the Taiwanese, and I think there should be no answers to that!

    Evonne Wang

  6. Grace said

    I think one of the reasons why people describe American culture in a “white” way is that most of the presidents of America are “the white”, especially after America became one of the influential countries in the world. In international news, we often see “the white” America representations. Therefore, it is easy for non-Americans to connect American culture to a “white” culture. After all, “the white” is the majority in America.
    Though we tend to focus on “the white” culture in America, I stil think those minorities have a good chance to be seen as a part of American culture. “The white” culture may be the first impression we have when talking about American culture, but we will continue mentioning other groups’ cultures later on. We do not forget them totally. In fact, I think those minorities have their cultures outstanding in recent years and they do catch people’s eyes. So, we still can have a positive attitude to the position of those minorities in American culture.

  7. Ceilia said

    Respnding to the question, how we might try to figure out what account for the differences we see between the article’s discription. As Jen mentioned, these articles are generalizations. They are referential materials which are not “correct”(This may not be an appropriate word, but I cannot think about a precise one now) all the time. Indeed, they can provide an access and basic information to know ways of communication; yet, if one wants to know more about communication of certain groups, I think the effective way is to experience it personally.
    I mentioned previously, that the differences might result from the experts who might come from the outside of the culture. However, I think even the experts are inside(?) the culture, the differences will still exist. Take the example of eye contact which was mentioned by Evonne, the manner of eye contact while speaking depends on whom do you speak to or the family’s pattern of communication.

    Ceilia

  8. Joce said

    In my opinion, it is impossible to discuss all the patterns of every American regions, so Althen can only give readers the patterns of mainsteam Americans. Furthermore, everybody is a special identity, so everyone has different way of living which is influenced by family, surrounding, friends, and so on. Therefore, we shouldn’t think that everyone of the American mainsteam will act in the same way. Althen just gives us a suggested direction to follow, not an exact one. We should remember not to touch the taboos. As for eye contact, distance these sorts of things, we should always concern about them when talking to foreigner wherever s/he comes from.

  9. Anonymous said

    After reading the article, I come up with two ideas about the culture issue.
    First, American culture has become the “central” culture in the world for several years. By rapid communication(business, politics, travelling, etc.)
    with America, people in many countries are influenced by American culture. But it doesn’t mean that American culture becomes the ONLY culture of the world.
    Why not? Because American culture itself is a mixed culture. To be more specific, it contains several cultures from different places, maybe there are some conflicts between onr and another, cannot be changed, but they still exsist at the same time. So researchers can only provide a general idea about American culture instead of all the details about it.
    Another idea is that, the world keeps changing, including culture. A certain culture changes somewhat by time. So observing the change of cultures will never
    be boring.
    Rita

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