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Referencia:García-Carbonell, A. & Rising, B. Culture and communication. Georgia: College of Management GeorgiaInstitute of Technology Atlanta, Georgia, USAISSN: 13 987 099773617. Páginas: 23-40. Año:2006.CULTURE AND COMMUNICATIONBeverly RisingUniversidad Pontificia Comillas de MadridMadrid, [email protected] García-CarbonellUniversidad Politécnica de ValenciaValencia, IntroductionCulture and communication have been defined and re-defined repeatedly, as theyare concepts that are intimately linked with what is intrinsically human. Indeed, from ananthropological point of view, culture became consolidated with all of its variableswhen man first appeared and established interpersonal relationships with the sallowingforinterculturalcommunication.Language has always been considered, from the time of the Tower of Babel, asone of the obstacles to intercultural communication, but in our world of globalizationand telecommunications, this idea may be challenged by the spread of “supra-English”.Recently1 representatives of the European Union admitted that 70% of the original textsused in the European Union are in English and that with the additions of EasternEuropean countries leading to 20 working languages in the European Union, Englishwas going to become a pivot language for interpretation, used as a relay between otherlanguages and the main language in most committee meetings. The first conclusionseems to be that everyone – or most people – speaking the same language, in this case1II International Congress of the Iberian Association of Studies on Translating and Interpreting held inMadrid , Spain. February 9-11, 2005.1

English, will help communication. But is this true? Is there not more to communicationthan just surface language? In any case, as Baumgratz-Gangl (1998) states, the teachingand learning of foreign languages should take into consideration the specifics oforganizational and subject cultures.Linguists have studied what is called “deep” meaning and other aspects ofpragmatics to understand what is really needed for people to communicate. EvenEuropean diplomats have realized the problems, as evidenced in an informal guide,mentioned in an article in The Economist (September 4th, 2004) designed to help theDutch understand what the English really mean when they say things like “with thegreatest respect” (an icy put-down) or “I’ll bear it in mind” (meaning I plan to donothing about it). As Cerroni-Long (1998) is convinced, two decades of research in theUnited States shows that multicultural education gets crucially shaped by culturespecific factors, catalyzed by the historical circumstances defining citizenship anddiversity in each national context.All these underlying meanings referred to above are definitely understood throughwhat we call culture. As the world becomes more integrated, bridging the gap incultural conflicts through real communication is increasingly important to people in allrealms of society. Culture, however, is not easy to understand. It has been noted that itis more often a source of conflict than of synergy and, as Hofstede (2005;1) comments,cultural differences are a nuisance at best and often a disaster. For all these reasons,Baumgratz (1998) remarks that what is needed is a mapping out of relevant culturaldimensions of a social communication situation involving individuals or groups ofdifferent national and/or cultural origin and different forms of socialization who meet ata certain point in their lives in order to realize or contribute towards the achievement ofcertain general social, institutional, organizational, group and personal aims.Some kind of training must be made available for these social communicationsituations to be productive. Simulation and gaming is the strategy proposed for anylearning process or understanding of reality which requires knowing more about othercultures and improving communication.Classifications of cultureKroeber and Kluckholm (1952) in their Culture: a critical review of concepts anddefinitions listed 154 different definitions, most, if not all, of which could be considered2

valid, depending on the field of science where it was being used. For our purposes in thestudy of multilingual communication, we will start with the definition given morerecently (2000) by Spencer-Oatey:Culture is a fuzzy set of attitudes, beliefs, behavioural conventions andbasic assumptions and values that are shared by a group of people, and thatinfluence each member’s behaviour and each member’s interpretations ofthe “meaning” of other people’s behaviour. (p. 4)Spencer-Oatey (2000) represents the different layers of depth, ranging from innercore assumptions and values, through outer core attitudes, beliefs and socialconventions, to surface-level behavioural manifestations, in the following graph:artifacts and productssystems and institutionsbeliefs, attitudes and conventionsbasic assumptions and valuesrituals and behaviourFigure 1. Manifestations of culture at differing layers of depth. Adapted from Spencer-Oatey (2000:5)based on Hofstede (1991) and Trompenaars and Hampton-Turner (1997).The question at this point is how this awareness of what culture entails canimprove communication between different groups. As Bond et al. (2000) explain:Conceptualizing our physical and social environment in terms ofcategories. is useful, because it enables us to make more informedplans about future behaviour [communication] (p. 61).Negative overgeneralizations and value judgements which lead to stereotypes andprejudices, unopen to change and modification are not what we are talking about. Weare talking about assumptions concerning what to expect in cross-cultural3

communication which can help to create a more receptive atmosphere forunderstanding. As Gudykunst states:Understanding communication in any culture . . . requires culturegeneral information (i.e. where the culture falls on the variousdimensions of cultural variability) and culture-specific information(i.e. the specific cultural constructs associated with the dimension ofcultural variability). (pp. 285-6)Consequently, we will now look at the way different authors have tried to classifycultures.The two authors most-cited in this field are Hall (1976) and Hofstede (1980). Hallproposed the difference between what he called high context and low context cultures.In communication in the low-context society, there must be explicit reference to thetopic being conveyed. Nationalities used as examples include the Swiss-Germans, theGermans and the Scandinavians. At this point we should mention the fact that nationsdo not always coincide with culture. We need only think of the Belgians, China, manyAfrican countries or even Germany to see this.In Hall’s high context communication, much of the information is found in thephysical context or is internalized in the person himself. Examples given include Japan,many Arab countries and even Latin American countries. Implicature is important here,as meaning is conveyed through hints, understood signals and background knowledge.In the Hofstede Project in 1980, a stratified sample was used of 100,000 IBMemployees in 40 (later expanded to include 70) nations on a questionnaire with 32 itemsconcerning personal goals. Hofstede, a Dutch sociologist, then found a “culture score”on each item with an average of each “nation” and through factor analysis found fourmajor dimensions. These dimensions were:1. Power Distance. This refers to the acceptance by the less powerful members ofthe society of the idea that power differences are a natural part of their society.Cultures with a low score would not accept this inequality as easily. An example of theway a reprimand from a superior is given and received would illustrate this difference.2. Individualism/Collectivism. This is the dimension most often used to explaincultural variability, sometimes to the exclusion of all others. Individualistic cultures areperson-based, with examples coming from the Northern European countries, the UnitedStates and Australia. The group-based culture found in collectivism is exemplified bycountries such as Japan and other Asian societies, African countries and LatinAmerican countries. This individualist-collectivist dichotomy, however, can be4

manifested in many ways (the African community spirit, the Latin American familygroup, the Japanese desire for “harmony”) and is mediated by individual constraints asillustrated by Gudykunst (2000:297) in the following flow ializationIndividual valuespersonality orientationsFigure 2. Cultural and individual level influences of individualism/collectivism on communication.Adapted from Gudykunst (1998).3. Uncertainty Avoidance. Obviously this, as all the other variables, refers to apredominant tendency within a culture and not to all the individuals within that culture.A high score, however, indicates that the tendency is for members of this culture tohave higher levels of anxiety when faced with uncertainty. They feel a greater need forabsolute truth and are less tolerant of people or groups who deviate from the norm. Thismay affect their communication with strangers.4. Masculinity. This male-female dichotomy especially affects communicationwithin gender roles. In a “masculine” culture the roles are clearly distanced, the menbeing assertive, tough, and materialistic while the “feminine” involves modesty,nurturing and sensitivity. A “feminine” culture would be more concerned with thequality of life and show less differentiation between the sexes. The bipolar scales usedby other authors to describe role relations, such as cooperative/competitive,equal/unequal, socio-emotional/task-oriented might also be included in this category.Hofstede added a fifth dimension after conducting additional international studies.This dimension was called Confucian Dynamism referring to Long-Term Orientationand studies the degree to which the society accepts long-term traditional values. A high5

Long-Term Orientation ranking indicates the country values long-term commitmentsand respect for tradition. This is thought to support a strong work ethic. In a culture witha low Long-Term Orientation ranking, change can occur more rapidly.Another dimension (Hall, 1983) whose understanding may help cross-culturalcommunication is time. Monochronic cultures with a preference for one thing at a timevalue punctuality highly. They adhere religiously to plans, meet deadlines, show respectfor private property and are concerned about not disturbing others. Polychronic culturesdo many things at once, are highly distractible, accept interruptions, are morecommitted to human relationships, change plans often, and accept the idea ofcommunity property. They value patience above promptness. So, if your businessassociate arrives twenty minutes late, it is not necessarily inconsideration on his/herpart, but perhaps a matter of coming from a polychronic culture.There are many other classifications or dimensions/dichotomies of culture, twoimportant ones being Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner’s (1997) and Schwartz’s(1992, 1994), and each of these classifications adds a further nuance, another focus, tointercultural studies of values or behaviour. Most of them, however, can actually beincorporated for the sake of simplicity into the dimensions explained above. As wementioned in the section on Masculinity, the competitive/cooperative axis could beplaced there. Future vs. past-oriented is similar to Hofstede’s Long Term Orientationand Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner’s communiarianism vs. individualism soundsvery similar to Individualism/Collectivism. Neutral vs. emotional as a behaviouralexpression might also be categorized here. Schwartz’s hierarchy vs. egalitarianism as avalue fits to some degree in Hofstede’s Power Distance. The division mentioned byVaknin (2005) of neurotic vs. normal cultures carries a value judgment which does notreally aid communication. One possible division he describes, however, that ofexogenic (cultures which find meaning in frameworks outside themselves, e.g. God, theNation, an Enemy) vs. endogenic (cultures which center on themselves when searchingfor meaning), may be useful in some cases.All in all, this brief review of some of the different classifications of culture canhelp us see the problems foreseeable in interpersonal communication across cultures.As we have seen in Spencer-Oatey’s flow chart, other individual factors intervene inany communication, but having an idea of the possible cultural explanations forcommunication breakdowns can help to overcome them. These theories have beenapplied to a variety of different communication theories and setting; especially6

interesting to us are linguistics and rapport management (Spencer-Oatey, 2000),marketing (Dahl, 2005) and general business (Hofstede, 1980; Trompenaars andHampden-Turner, 1997).We will now move on to communication across cultures and how simulation andgaming can create either the “cultural awareness” or the “communicative scenario”needed in intercultural communication.Intercultural communicationCross-cultural communication looks at how people, from differing culturalbackgrounds, strive to communicate, although it is more frequently referred to asintercultural communication2. The main theories for intercultural communication arebased on the observations ofvalue differences or dissimilar dimensions amongcultures, which have been reviewed above.Intercultural communication is directly related to socio-cultural anthropology, theholistic study of humanity. Anthropologists argue that culture and established areas ofcommunication refer to the process of exchanging information, usually via a commonsystem of symbols. Human beings have evolved a universal c