EIRP Proceedings, Vol 9 (2014)

Intercultural Communication

Georgeta Modiga1

Abstract: The concept of culture has become one of strategic importance for all disciplines studying human and social universe, being invested today with multiple explanatory connotations. Meanwhile, conjunction and theoretical approaches we witness interference, under the imperative of interdisciplinary vision lead us, often up to a damaging confusion between communication and culture. Distinction between symbolic and instrumental, of culture and civilization are necessary to not confuse the contents of symbolic culture media of communication technology. An inventory of issues and social transformations that have acquired an indisputable relevance in contemporary development equation surgery is necessary but difficult. It should be mentioned two of them, given their global significance: the rediscovery of culture as a defining factor of the social and importance that have acquired communication processes in living societies. In fact, between the two aspects there is a relationship of inherent and consubstantiality, validated by actual historical experience. Culture and Communication is now a binomial with terms interchangeably, the two processes intertwined in a single block. Welding of the two dimensions was otherwise devoted to the vocabulary of social sciences and humanities through the concepts of culture media and intercultural communication. If we examine the paradigm shift in the theoretical space of the last century, the most surprising phenomena that we observe is that theories concerning communication space literally invaded the area that was traditionally reserved for theories about culture. For theorists today, communication is a structural constituent and all definitions, descriptions and characterizations that build on contemporary culture.

Keywords: interdisciplinary; communication; culture; civilization

Both the phrase and as a discipline, intercultural communication is relatively recent. Naturally, in all ages have been meetings between people belonging to different cultures, but they had a limited character. Today, intercultural communication is a generalized phenomenon, an experience that, to some extent, any man living. Encounter with a foreign culture, or at least with some of its manifestations occur even less likely to roam the world. It is enough to turn on the radio, operate the TV remote or surf the internet for the world with its cultural diversity, to overwhelm besides “intercultural communication” is used in the literature and the concept of “international communication”. They should not be confused. “In case we encounter individuals from different cultures, other, people from various nations. If the nation and culture would overlap, then there would be no conceptual difficulty. But this agreement is not in any case always and everywhere.”

As a special case of interpersonal communication, intercultural brings elements of what, in a broad sense and anthropological perspective, is termed as a culture. There are numerous definitions of the concept of culture, more succinct and more detailed and often complement each other. We mention some of them, made by anthropologists of culture and intercultural communication researchers.

As a phrase, “intercultural communication” is used today with multiple meanings. There are, for example, disputes among experts whether organized learning a foreign language, the simple perception through the media or tourism falls within intercultural communication.

As different as the definitions of the concept of “intercultural communication”, two elements are highlighted by most researchers: first, it is a process of communication that takes place between people aware of their cultural differences and, secondly, interpersonal communication is a direct, unmediated.” If there is a situation of interpersonal communication between members of different cultural groups, then this interaction may be designated as intercultural communication.”

To define intercultural communication as a report only face-to -face, as it says in the literature, is to give this concept a meaning too narrow. In its scope, said those who opt for a wider significance, shall not only communicative dimension of interpersonal relationships, but also “mediated intercultural communication in its various forms, which is given importance in all fields of this form of representation means intercultural communication media in film, television, radio, internet and other means of mass communication.”

As a discipline, intercultural communication science falls among culture, with cultural anthropology, ethnology. There, according to experts in the field, three models of multicultural society:

1. Model aiming to bring cultural assimilation of minorities and immigrants in the majority culture. Another version of it is the integrative model, in which assimilation is seen as a long process, during which representatives of minority cultures are guaranteed certain rights related to education, religion and political participation. French society of the Third Republic (1871-1940), states Hans -Jürgen Lüsebrink is an example of a multicultural society which sought rapid assimilation of minority cultures, while British society today, as the German or American illustrates the integrative version of the model assimilation.

2. The Apartheid covers a strict separation of minority cultures. Typically, South Africa before 1995 is referred to as the embodiment of the multicultural society model, but the examples are numerous: Germany in WWII, - The Third Reich colonial societies. In such societies “origin is overrated and framed in a hierarchy.” Dictionaries inform us that the term apartheid comes from one of the local languages “apart” means “unique”, “distinct”,” special”, so most pronounced aspect of Herder in the definition of culture. With the collapse of apartheid in South Africa, says Paul Drechsel, thought it would go away this cultural segregation, but the reality turned out to be completely different.. Research shows that after the abolition of the political system, cultural differences in Africa South have deepened rather than fade.

However, “there may be both an enhanced interaction and communication, and an intensification of consciousness of being South African. The new constitution of South Africa is a proper image of these contradictory realities. He was raised a single South Africa, but with the 11 languages recognized their far and more autonomous culture.” Polycentric 3 Model is characterized by a coexistence of different cultures in a society where they are considered fundamentally equal. At least in part,” companies such as Switzerland, Belgium, Canada, and tendentious California correspond to this model.

3. Peter S. Adler has advanced the concept of “multicultural man “to designate an individual who does not recognize ethnic and cultural differences than as boundaries that can and must overcome, can gradually become a citizen of the world.” A multicultural person belongs and does not belong entirely to its culture. She lives rather in a border area.

Intercultural includes all phenomena that arise from the encounter between two cultures. This follows from the analysis of the term itself, but disputes arise when the question arises: what is culture? “If it were designed today's culture as insular and spherical, the problem of coexistence and cooperation between them could not be avoided nor resolved any. But our culture does not have de facto much as homogeneity, but largely characterized by mixtures and interpenetration.” Cultures, ethnicities, nations and everything might be called collective subject “are always instruments of power and interests political.”

Ethnocentrism is itself the result of the game such interests. Let's see some definitions of this concept: Ethnocentrism “means the position of those who believe that their way of being, to act or think should be preferred to all others.” Accompanied by the individual's sense of belonging to a group of organic and consciousness of the superiority of its values with the other, ethnocentrism is usually associated with “intolerance and xenophobia, racism and stigmatization”.

In all definitions of ethnocentrism is the idea that their culture is the measure of all things. This is also accompanied by an exaggerated appreciation of their value and tends to underestimate the underlying values of foreign cultures, considered ab initio bottom.

An overstatement of their culture and an underestimation of foreign cultures led ultimately to the fact that foreign nations or tribes could not be designated as “human community”, the alien was not considered human in the full sense of the word. The Chinese, for instance, about the Huns: “These barbarians are like animals” or Greeks claimed that the Romans barbarians outside face had nothing human in them. The same thing they say about Germans and Romanians examples could continue. Such a conception of alien justifies its liquidation without that produce moral or religious dilemmas. This is common to all ethnocentrism taken to the extreme, from antiquity to today's ethnic cleansing. Colonialism was also a result of ethnocentrism. In terms of cultural and racial populations in the colonies were considered inferior. Such a view was contrary to the Christian ideal of brotherhood, but was prevented guilt-ridden representation that would be truly indigenous people. Columbus, for example, “talks about the people she meets them only because, after all, and they are part of the landscape. References to islanders always appear among notations about nature, somewhere between birds and trees... and conclude that although naked Indians seem closer to the people than the animals.”

The idea that “primitive” would not have a soul, so that should be killed would still be no crime was part of colonial ideology. Sense of national belonging is not in itself a negative, but its exacerbations accompanied by hatred of other nations or peoples, designated by the phrase “extreme nationalism”.

As a form of ethnocentrism, extreme nationalism does not recognize tolerance as core value of living together in a multiethnic and multicultural space. Although nationalism was primarily a European phenomenon, has become one that can be seen all over the planet, both powerful nation states, and especially to those made recently and thus trying to shape their own identity as strongly national. Ethnocentrism is a concept deeply rooted in the human soul.

Analyzing the concept of culture in relation to the intercultural communication, Edward Hall distinguishes three levels of culture. The first level, which he called “conscious and technically” is at the verbal language and symbols with a precise meaning, have an important role in communication. The second level is “hidden”, reserved for a small number of individuals, including foreign ones that cultures are excluded. The third level, unconsciously and implicitly, is the culture of “primary”, the deepest layer and its perennial “the primary culture consists of fundamental data structures our way of thinking...”

The last two levels are “a set of rules of behaviour and thinking non verbal, implicit, controlling everything we do. This hidden cultural grammar determines the manner in which individuals perceive their environment, define their values, and set their cadence and rhythm of fundamental life”. Using terms from computer science, Hall compares the first level of culture, “culture conscious, explicit, manifest, we are talking about and describe “the software a computer and the other two levels, which form the “deep culture and the fundamental culture” the computer's hard drive. Failure or difficulty interactions of individuals from different cultures are determined largely his opinion that “most of intercultural relations are lived as if there were only small differences in the software and none in the herds”. Hall concludes, “there is no aspect of human life that is not touched and influenced by culture.”

The ability to create a culture of learning helps cultural symbols from individual to individual, from group to group. As we know, anything can become a symbol - a picture, a gesture, a word, a piece of clothing etc. Since when, by tacit agreement, social and cultural practice is given a meaning. Symbolic communication as a part of social and cultural communication helps people organize their experiences in the form of abstract categories and to express them through verbalization and non verbal communication and through other means/media, such as books, films, and other media. Communicating symbols, culture is maintained while being transmitted from one generation to another.

Cultures are dynamic systems subject to change by the constant confrontation with information from external sources, intercultural contact, which causes changes in every culture. Cultures are easily adaptable and history shows how some of them have been forced to alter, due to occupation wars, natural disasters and other calamities. Although every culture is subject to change its structure primary talking about ET Hall, resist major changes. For example, changes in clothing fashions in food habits, travel, housing values belong to a system changes from one era to another, in a culture. Instead, the values of the associated ethics, morals, work, leisure, liberty, those regarding the importance of past religious practices, attitudes toward the sexes are so deeply rooted that persist from one generation to another or to over several generations. Ethnocentrism is a perceptual grid that cultures interpret and judge all other cultures. It is the feeling that “we’re normal, we're right” and others “are abnormal, not right” thing for any aspect of culture.

Ethnocentrism is not usually intentional, as the culture in general, but is largely taught in the unconscious. Are known, says Gerhard Maletzke situations in which people of the same culture are separated by national borders, as curzii. On the other hand, live in the same state populations belonging to different cultures. Today there are more subjects that studies the “alien”, “other”, “otherness” ethnology, cultural anthropology with its various branches, etnopsihanaliza, etc. Intercultural communication does not replace any of these subjects, but is a natural complement them. She first came to the attention of linguists, somewhat as provocative interrogations: how well have to appropriate a language that you do not be foreign? Following research undertaken in Europe in this direction, since the 80s of last century arose a number of new branches of the discipline or disciplines such as that German Intercultural Romance intercultural psychology, intercultural history of science, pedagogy of intercultural, intercultural philosophy.

In intercultural communication, awareness of differences between cultures in their patterns of behaviour and beliefs, often due to stereotypes based on what is learned during the different life experiences.

They are tending to schematize and summarize the characteristics of a category or group. Lack of information or fragmentary information makes it possible for anyone to create stereotypes. While we are forced to rely on stereotypes of situations, individuals or groups, intercultural interactions is appropriate to take into account the individual characteristics of those with whom we communicate.

Biases influence the communication process, by engaging a negative attitude towards a group or to members of a group, based on a generalization wrong attitude and rigid. There are ways to assess mechanical taken and provide an explanation shared in a social group, ethnic, national, religious. Biases occur in different cultural groups, maintain an actual situation and act as psychological barriers.

Attitudes of ethnocentrism and otherness are opposite and interdependent. Ethnocentrism is determined that the opinions, our judgments about each other/others (Latin alter - other) are nature of the project and can not have as a foundation and reference point than our own culture. Montaigne said: “Everyone calls barbarity what he is not customary.” Ethnocentrism implicitly assumes that everything belongs to their own culture is normal, “natural”. It's normal reaction to otherness, to what is or seems, from multiple perspectives, different from what we are: values, norms, behaviour, way of thinking, to communicate, to live.

When people from different cultures come into contact, in different circumstances and different motives, they bring with them, unconsciously, in this communication, elements, features, presentation and communication methods specific to their culture. The differences between these particulars and lack or none their most often causes difficulties, failures, even conflicts that lead to ineffective communication. The main cultural elements that may affect the intercultural communication are perceptual elements, the socio -cultural as well as verbal and non- verbal processes.

Cultural values are defined Kabagarama Daisy as “sets of rules organized in order to make choices, to reduce uncertainty and conflict in a given society.” Having a normative content, the values are, naturally, directly related behaviours, behavioural rules that members of a culture must follow. The author highlights the importance of the relationship between values, norms and behaviours: values “means what is desirable”, being an important part of any culture. Often the values of a cultural group may come into conflict with the values of another group. For example, individualism, competition and gain are core values of American culture, while Asian cultures, such as Chinese, Korean, Japanese, group solidarity, the so-called “collectivism” opposite “individualism” is a core value cantered on interpersonal relationships or the intragroup.

The rules are “rules that guide behaviour” and are of two types: proscriptive, dictating what should be done and not prescriptive, indicating what should be done. The author gives the example of Aymara culture of the Bolivian Andes, which prohibits suicide, but accepts when the individual is possessed by “evil spirits” that can not be exorcised, in which case suicide is reasonable and desirable alternative.

Social organization, a factor influencing element and intercultural communication is defined as “the manner in which culture is organized and is directly linked to that culture institution, which may be formal or informal.” The most important institutions of social organization are: family, institutionalized education system (school) community.

As with any type of human communication in intercultural communication using two types of language: verbal and non - verbal, which in concrete situations of interaction are used simultaneously or alternately, there is always the interdependence between the two. A series of studies by linguists, anthropologists, communication scholars highlight cultural differences both in terms of the use of one or other kind of language, meaning that given these messages and regarding the predominance of verbal or non - verbal, in a culture or another.

In view of the fact that all communication involves having a feed- back (response from the receiver side) and a feed -forward (the construction and communication of the message by the transmitter in such a way as to obtain the desired reaction therein), Thomas Scheidel distinguish the purposes of verbal communication: the exchange of information and ideas, intellectual and emotional contact between interlocutors influence.

Diversity in the categories of language leads to cultural differences in thinking and perceptions about the world of Whorf actually called “linguistic relativity”. This highlights the relationship of mutual influence of language and culture: “Not all observers are led by the same physical evidence to the same picture of the universe, only if their language fundamentals are similar or, in some way, be balanced... dissect nature along the line traced by our native language.”

Distinguish categories and types of world phenomena that we observe not the spot, but through linguistic systems in our minds. Vital part of communication and also differentiating factor crop, non-verbal language is a multidisciplinary field of study, investigated from different perspectives: communicational, anthropological, sociological, psychological, historical, etc. Verbal communication is almost entirely digital, while non-verbal communication is largely analogous.

Digital Communication combines some conventional signs according to certain rules, such as the grammar. In analogue communication but do not use conventional signs, but real. Non-verbal communication, although used by all people, is shaped by the culture they belong to individuals. For this reason, the same signs or symbols may have different meanings in different cultures. Culture tends to determine the specific nonverbal behaviours related to thoughts, feelings, states of communicators also determines the appropriate culture to communicate these things.

Communication through gestures, facial expressions, body movements, called kinesis by Ray Birdwhistell, the initiator of this discipline, has a number of features: strictly codified; is dependent on socio -cultural community, each culture possessed its own rules in this regard; is integrated into a system plural level involving the use of time and space in the intensity, duration, amplitude gestures or movements; is contextualized, meaning they arise from the context in which interaction occurs.

Any communication is defined as contextual parameters that are culturally conditioned. Physical context designates concrete physical circumstances in which the communication: space, decor, ambience, objects, furniture, light/dark, noise/silence etc. It is known that the non - verbal meanings, often symbolic, physical context affect communication, causing comfort or discomfort, not only physically but also mentally, for the transmitter and receiver.

Also, any human communication takes place in a social context, because no interaction takes place in a socio- cultural vacuum, it's a process “pure”. Any social situation establishes a communication model and a context that governs the content and effects of the behaviour of communicators. The social context refers to the forces that affect the flow patterns of communication and communication from the other of social groups.


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1 Associate Professor, PhD, Faculty of Law, “Danubius” University of Galati, Romania, Address: 3 Galati Boulevard, 800654 Galati, Romania, Tel.: +40.372.361.102, fax: +40.372.361.290, Corresponding author: georgeta.modiga@yahoo.com.


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