ICIS Newsletter

ICIS News, Volume 2:1 (January 2005)

by User Not Found | 10/25/2011
In This Issue...
  • Leadership Updates
    • Message From the Chair
    • Message From the Editor
    • Meet Your Officers (Part 2)
  • Articles and Information
    • Working With and Around Culture Shock
    • Communicating With Japanese students: Understanding Cultural Influences on Language and Behaviour
    • Convention 2004: A Memory
  • Community News and Information
    • Intercultural Communication Interest Section Leaders
    • About This Member Community

Leadership Updates Message From the Chair

By Natalie Hess, e-mail: Natalie.Hess@nau.edu

As I write this on a sunny Arizona December day, cultural battles seem to roar all about us. In the Middle East, cultural complexities are grimly and callously grinding their toll of death and destruction. In Europe, the old and the new, the familiar and the foreign are doing cultural battle for prominence. In Africa and Asia old wounds are reopened to display both new and old cultural dissensions. The United States appears to have divided itself into blue states and red states--both of which seem to have forgotten the symmetry of red, white, and blue. Much seems eternally and hopelessly the same, yet somehow there is always hope around the edges. This morning's newspaper, for example, featured a Japanese crown princess who dared to wait for marriage until her 35th birthday--certainly a cultural breakthrough of sorts--and here, in little Yuma, Arizona, just on the border of Mexico, we bathe right now in good weather and booming bicultural prosperity.

Needless to say, the world is surely, as ever, in need of intercultural communication. That statement, of course, speaks to all of us who understand this issue to be of primary consequence and concern. Let's keep our eyes open and our voices heard. We are often a potent voice for those who, for one reason or another, remain voiceless. May it be our mission and our privilege to enable all peoples to speak to one another with compassion and understanding.

I very much hope to see many of you in San Antonio, certainly a city that speaks with many voices. I hope that you make it to our academic session and especially to our annual Wednesday afternoon business meeting, when we elect our officers for the coming year.

There will also be the now-almost-traditional professional-exchange reception immediately after the business meeting. This year, I would like to add something special to this reception--a cultural-object exchange. If you have an object that you feel represents your culture or any other culture, please bring it for an around-the-table show-and-tell session. I plan to bring my Korean wedding ducks. In my classes, students have brought objects as varied as family heirlooms, tortillas, and aspirin bottles. The ensuing conversations are invariably interesting.

I would like to take this opportunity to show our interest section's great appreciation to those who have served us so well during this past year: Piper McNulty and Nancy Tumposky, our cochairs-elect and incoming cochairs; Armeda Reitzel, our past cochair, and current co-list manager and web-master; Andrew Bowdler, our newsletter editor; and Bill Ivey, our co-list manager. Many thanks to all of you for work done well and cheerfully under some stressful circumstances.

I wish everyone a happy spring and hope to see you in San Antonio.

With intercultural collegiality,
Natalie


Message From the Editor

Please accept my apologies for the late arrival of this newsletter. Most of it was available by mid-November and was originally submitted early in December. By the time we had finalized amendments and corrections, submission coincided with the Christmas rush, as well as a change of staffing at TESOL's main office. I am also beginning to learn the slightly different referencing and editorial practices that apply in the States against the British system I am used to.

As we build up to the Annual Convention, you may want to make regular reference to the online program planner on the TESOL Web site, which is regularly updated.
http://www.tesol.org/planner

Please also make sure that you arrange to fit the following event into your convention diary:

ICIS Networking Discussion Forum
Harry Gonzalez Convention Center
River Level, Room 007D
7-9pm

-- Andy Bowdler, Editor


Meet Your Officers (Part 2)

Natalie Hess (Chair): TESOL member since 1988, Natalie is a professor of bilingual/multicultural education at Northern Arizona University in Yuma, Arizona. She has served as a teacher and teacher educator in six countries. Natalie is a frequent conference presenter, as well as the author and coauthor of several ESL/EFL textbooks, teacher resource books, and many articles on pedagogical issues. She has been married to John for 46 years and is the proud mom of three grown-up daughters and grandma of five marvellous grandchildren.

Mary Willis Huebsch (Asst. Newsletter Editor): Mary received an MA in TESOL at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), in 1975 and then taught at Ain Shams University in Cairo, Egypt, for two years. After returning to the United States, she completed an MA in communicative disorders and began teaching at Santa Ana College, an ethnically diverse community of native and nonnative English speakers with greatly varying educational backgrounds. She "retired" in 1988 to raise her four children. In 2001 she returned full-time to teaching pronunciation and conversation classes at Santa Ana College.

 



Articles and Information Working With and Around Culture Shock

By Natalie Hess, e-mail: Natalie.Hess@nau.edu

We use the term culture shock rather glibly in everyday conversation. Where I work in Arizona, right on the border of Mexico, people are constantly coming and going, and not infrequently do I hear exclamations such as, “Boy, I was really in culture shock!” when the speaker is referring to what seem to be unusual uses of language, dress, or custom.

Phases of Culture Shock

The phenomenon of culture shock is, however, a complex continuum of emotions that can affect both our physical and our psychological well-being. The experience of culture shock consists of four fairly distinct stages. If brought to successful resolution, the stages are

  • Euphoria
  • Shock
  • Gradual recovery
  • Full recovery

In the euphoria stage, one experiences an emotional high. I have heard this phase referred to as the wow period. This is the tourist stage of entry into a new culture. Everything seems beautiful, exciting, and interesting. Everything seems to be happening to music. The natives are friendly and accommodating.

Tourists or short-term sojourners never leave this stage. They take their pictures and go home, often dreaming about that faraway place as a spot bathed in good humour and sunshine—a mystic paradise they hope to revisit.

Those of us who remain, however, soon enter a most painful stage—the actual culture shock. Suddenly, people are not so friendly anymore. At best, they seem to relate to us if we were some kind of exotic pet. Sometimes, in fact, they seem downright hostile. The landscape not only seems banal and ordinary but looks unkempt and somehow wrong. The natives are impolite and demanding. They often appear immoral. The language, which was such fun in the initial stages, is now cumbersome and difficult. We yearn to express ourselves properly, but our tongues are heavy and unmanageable in our mouths. We sound like foolish children, even to ourselves. Ordinary things become complicated, and no one is friendly or helpful. People continue to mispronounce our names. We yearn for fellow compatriots. We want to eat “normal” food and speak “real” language. And when we do get together with our fellow nationals, we spend a lot of time grousing together. Some of us get stomachaches. Others can’t stand to eat the “awful food of the place.” We get headaches; we can’t sleep; we keep saying the wrong things and feeling idiotic. Suddenly we are just not as good-looking as we once thought we were; we seem to appear at functions wrongly dressed; we don’t laugh at the “right” jokes and we do seem to laugh in the wrong places. Sometimes we attempt to imitate the natives, but when we do, we look like caricatures of the real thing. When we do get it right, we feel enormously proud, but no one praises us because we finally just look fairly normal to those around us.

So we trudge along. One day things seem to be not so bad; we have entered the next phase. Slowly but surely, things begin to look, smell, sound, and taste fairly normal. We stop making so many comparisons. Our former fellow compatriots begin to look a bit silly. The world seems tolerable, if quite mundane. Now is the time to make a crucial decision—where is home? Do we go back or do we stay?

In our final stage, we have acculturated. If we are truly successful, we bloom biculturally. That is, we can display be proud of and feel at home both with those former compatriots and with our new ones. Should we, however, return to our original base, we might well face a weaker but nevertheless quite similar culture shock in reverse.

Using Nell as an Example

I have found it most useful to discuss and expand on these stages in both my ESL and my teacher-preparatory classes. Students invariably recognize themselves. There is a great deal of significant head shaking and laughter as stories of cultural mishaps emerge. I have discovered a film that illustrates the situation beautifully—Nell, staring Jodie Foster.

Nell is the story of a wild child, a twin girl born to a woman who, after being raped, chose to live as a hermit in the woods. Nell is accidentally discovered when both her mother and sister have died, and she is gradually introduced to civilization by two doctors who have become interested in her life.

The stages of Nell’s entry into the modern world are classic examples of the stages described above. Nell is gradually coaxed out of the woods. Her first entry into a supermarket, where she joyously grabs everything in sight, is a classic case of euphoria. Later, when she encounters and is enticed and entrapped by teenage culture, we note her descent into culture shock. Her eventual horror in and of the hospital puts the viewer into the depths of the phenomenon, and her subsequent and full recovery in the courthouse blooms for us, as Nell uses the culture of the surroundings to more fully display her own cultural development. The film spotlights several cultural frames: the culture of the academe, the culture of isolation, and the culture of teenagers—each with its distinct rituals, language, and defining social strata.

I find that using Nell as an example of cultural conduct works better than using any of the plethora of ethnically centred films that feature cultural interplay, simply because Nell displays culture so vividly and without racial or ethnic overtones, which frequently, whether intended or not, may step on someone’s cultural toes. I highly recommend it.


Communicating With Japanese students: Understanding Cultural Influences on Language and Behaviour

By Fumiko Kondo, e-mail: MLC52103@nifty.com, and David Blake Willis, e-mail: DWillis108@yahoo.com

Two scholars, one Japanese and one American, write about the difficulties one is liable to encounter in trying to maintain that delicate balance between the achievement of satisfactory cross-cultural communication on the one hand, and the maintenance of one’s cultural identity on the other. In international schools, which draw students from many cultural backgrounds, much lip service is paid to international understanding;though there is probably a continual movement between the two poles of communication and cultural identity, one must assume that some students eventually achieve the balance while others doubtless lose one in the pursuit of the other. No easy answers here, but this interesting problem is well sketched out below.

Transnational Settings and Japanese Students

Multicultural, multilingual communities are increasingly the norm in today’s complex urban world. As meaning systems multiply in such contexts, there is an increasing need to understand the value systems and communicative approaches of the particular cultures that they comprise.

Japanese students are a significant presence in these transnational, transcultural contexts. Because they come from a cultural milieu different from that of Europeans, North and South Americans, Australians, and others, they represent a culture from which new communicative strategies can be learned in the pursuit of mutual understanding. This is true wherever expatriate, transnational Japanese communities are found. At the same time, the common language is of course English, a language--and a related cultural system--that are rather challenging for the Japanese.

In most major global cities the Japanese are now the second largest expatriate community after Americans. Though much has been written about the business contexts of intercultural communication between Japanese and others, a more fruitful approach to understand why people behave in certain ways might be to find a context where communication takes place earlier, before adult patterns of culture are firmly in place. One of the best locations for discovering these intercultural patterns and their origins is international overseas schools, those special settings of rich and complex cultural diversity.

Though there is a large network of overseas Japanese schools, these of course isolate the Japanese in their own encapsulated cultural world. Yet for a number of reasons, the appeal to Japanese families of an English-language international education continues to grow. As teachers and administrators of these schools increasingly have contact with Japanese students and parents, new and unusual social and communication patterns are encountered, especially in terms of educational expectations and performance.

Those Japanese students who have not had any previous intercultural experience face bewildering communication difficulties when they encounter the difference between their communicative patterns and those patterns (usually Western) often displayed in international school classrooms. The behaviour of Japanese students (and that of their parents as well) may be seen by teachers in international schools as mysterious, passive, and difficult to relate to, when what is actually happening is the meeting of two strong yet very different communication systems.

Because oral patterns are fixed according to the culture of a speaker, people respond and react using the communication tools shared by the members of their culture in order to express what they think and feel. For successful communication, linguistic competence is not the only key; also important is learners’ awareness of the differences between the cultural norms of the target language and those of the learners’ own society. What do these patterns mean for those Japanese students and their parents who are part of the international school community?

Communication as Cultural Convention

Joan K. Hall (1993) describes oral practices as culturally meditated moments of face-to-face interaction whereby a group of people come together to create and recreate their everyday social lives. She explains that this interactive process is influenced by the group members’ social history, their interpersonal relationships, and their individuality.

The process of any social interaction is culturally conventionalised; that is, the linguistic and paralinguistic patterns of communication in various contexts are determined by the culture of a social group. The meanings of the patterns are presented and comprehended properly only by the group members who share the knowledge of the practices. There may exist, to a greater or lesser extent, a gap between intended messages and preconceived messages. Therefore, unless the students are aware of the differences in communicative and social patterns in the language spoken, there is no way for them to tell for certain how their messages and behaviours are interpreted by the people of the target language.

Numerous misunderstandings occur as a result of a lack of the knowledge of discourses, those culturally conventionalized practices of communication/socialisation that involve an integration of speaking, behaving, interacting, thinking, feeling, valuing, and believing (Gee, 1992). In order to encode and decode messages correctly, or understand people of another culture, it would be helpful to know these cultural norms especially on the polar ends of the scale between their own society and the unfamiliar target society.

Discrepancies between Japanese student behaviours and those of non-Japanese can be categorized as follows: hierarchy vs. equality, silent thinking vs. verbalization of the thinking process, reserve vs. talkativeness, being passive vs. being active, modesty vs. assertiveness, and directness/frankness vs. compliments. Some of the ways in which the Japanese are perceived are detailed below:

Japanese Quietness and Lack of Initiative

The most significant Japanese students’ behaviour that strikes non-Japanese is their quietness or, put another way, their lack of talking initiative either inside or outside the classroom. Japanese do not voluntarily speak, especially on formal occasions. They speak when they are asked to speak. Until then, they remain silent. When they are asked to participate in discussion and even in conversations, the typical pattern in responding to questions often starts with some silence.

Another pattern observed is that of Japanese giving very short yes/no replies. These replies are accompanied neither by related comments nor by questions or explanations. In Japanese conversation this would enable the participant(s) to remain engaged in discussion, keeping the conversation going by showing an interest in the speaker. The level of eye contact is very low throughout the exchange. Such passive participation responses and the low level of eye contact are often interpreted by non-Japanese simply as rudeness. At best it is seen as frustrating by those more generous in their interpretation, but for both these people and for those without such generosity the impression remains that the Japanese speaker is interested neither in the subject matter at hand nor in the person/persons involved in the talk.

Westerners and other non-Japanese, on the other hand, are often active and animated in conversation. They are trained to form their opinions while listening so that they can jump into the discussion at any time and express their point of view. The pattern is to voluntarily exchange ideas, with everyone expected to speak, and it being perfectly acceptable to interrupt and get sidetracked. Responses that Westerners give to questions do not necessarily have to be seen as answers (which they are likely to be seen as by Japanese).

The cultural background of implicit/explicit behaviour: hierarchy vs. equality. In a Japanese context, hierarchy is reflected by the deference shown to the person who it is thought should take the lead in discussions and conversations. Except when conversations are taking place, the person in the higher position is expected to conduct himself or herself as an authority in order to facilitate the talk. The others are expected to remain silent, listen, and follow the instructions of the senior person. In a classroom, therefore, the initiative is always taken by the teacher. It is impolite to interrupt and join in the talk unless asked to by the person in the higher position. It is in particularly bad taste to bombard the superior with questions and try to engage him or her in conversation against his or her wishes. Hence, unless the authority initiated the speech, silence is appropriate.

The idea of hierarchy always exists consciously and subconsciously in the Japanese people because it is interwoven in the structure of their language. To be able to speak proper Japanese, one has to know who is to be addressed with honorific forms and who with humble forms, which naturally indicates the social status of the speaker and the person being addressed.

Silent thinking vs. verbalization of the thinking process. For Japanese, the silence following a question is a sign of pondering, of seriously searching for an appropriate answer to the question. Whereas Westerners listen to a speaker and prepare themselves for joining in the talk, then immediately verbalize their thinking process and opinions, Japanese listen carefully, concentrating on understanding the speaker, then think in silence and form their opinions before speaking. This poses a serious difficulty for Japanese when trying to participate in discussions with Westerners; there is a time gap between Western and Japanese responses. By the time a Japanese figures out his or her position on an issue--whether or not he or she agrees or disagrees, what is or is not clear, and what points of view he or she wants to make--Americans have already proceeded with the discussion and the topic has already shifted.

Hofstede’s (1983) research shows that a significant cultural trait of the Japanese is that of strong uncertainty avoidance. One aspect of this is their desire for a known world. This means that the Japanese feel extremely uncomfortable giving inaccurate answers, another reason for the Japanese tendency to be silent.

Reserve vs. talkativeness. An important contrast here is that the connotation of talkative (oshaberi in Japanese) is rather negative in Japanese society. It implies that the person talks more than he or she needs to, gives out unnecessary information, and is not really trustworthy. On the other hand, a talkative person in a non-Japanese context, especially in an American context, is someone who is fun to be around.

Another reason for this Japanese quietness derives from the manners cultivated in traditional and religious rituals such as tea ceremony and flower arrangement, considered to be a way to serve the gods. In these rituals, muga or selflessness is stressed and the arts are practised in silence.

Being passive vs. being active. Nishida and Gudykunst (1982) found one reason for Japanese quietness to be in maternal care-taking behaviour. The Japanese mother stays with her baby while he or she is asleep. Lebra (1986) explains that this is an opportunity for the caretaker and infant to enjoy each other’s presence. On the other hand, American mothers, as one example, do active caretaking. Upon finishing this active caretaking the mother will probably go out of the room. Early in life, Japanese learn to enjoy presence and togetherness, whereas Westerners learn to engage themselves in action, including talking. Thus, for Japanese students, attendance in a classroom, listening carefully to the teacher and other students, is participation enough. Being actively involved in these activities is not necessarily needed. In such a case the non-Japanese teacher may have to explain his or her expectations of students’ participation while giving them psychological support.

Forming Opinions and Decision Making

Another major trait of the Japanese, when asked what they think during a discussion or conversation, is to whisper or consult with the Japanese person or persons next to them, often immediately. Such consultation provokes irritation and dismay from those of other cultures, particularly forthright American teachers (perhaps less so for the British). Thus it happens that during someone’s speech (perhaps a teacher’s lecture) a Japanese can be seen whispering in the ear of the person next to him or her. It is difficult for Japanese to form opinions as individuals, expressing what they have to say openly; instead, they want to be sure about others’ opinions and feelings before expressing their own. They do not mind remaining silent and undecided. Often they are most comfortable waiting for the senior person to make decisions. In other words, in a classroom they will usually wait for the teacher to give the answers. (We might note, too, that this trait seems to also be reflected in Japanese foreign diplomacy, which so often seems to wait and see what the Americans do and then follow them.)

Modesty vs. Assertiveness

Japanese find it difficult to praise themselves, to speak confidently of their own background and accomplishments in a positive way. They are used to making modest comments about themselves, comments that most Westerners do not understand. In a self-evaluation of their classroom performance, Japanese students would often say that they did poorly even if it were not true.

When Japanese traits are compared with Western (especially American) traits, the Japanese norm is quite the opposite of the Western practice of making extensive use of positive comments. If the academic performance of a Japanese student and an American student were on the same satisfactory level, the Japanese would say, “I did not do well in class” or “I should have studied harder” whereas the American would say, “I am satisfied with the results and I am proud of myself for achieving a high level.”

Japanese do not praise anything related to themselves, including their possessions, knowledge, ability, performance, and family. Modesty is applied to these topics. For Westerners this is incomprehensible. In Japan it is not respectful or in good taste to directly claim or admit knowledge or competence. A person who does so would be considered suspicious. It is also true with other topics. Nothing is perfect. Japanese modesty encourages people to look for goals that have not yet been achieved and to deliberately focus on those unachieved goals in conversation. (One of the special hidden strengths of the Japanese is thus their ability to continually utilize a kind of reflexive self-evaluation as a way of improving performance, something that has been discussed as the philosophy of kaizen or perfection by some authors.)

Directness/Frankness vs. Compliments

There are some areas where Westerners may be surprised (and even hurt) by Japanese direct and candid expressions, however. Edward Hall classifies Japanese culture as a high-context culture where, without saying explicitly what one means, intended meanings can be inferred correctly by all parties. Yet there are also occasions when Japanese are quite open and explicit. For example, when the Japanese talk about their tastes, referring to objects such as food or clothes, or state their opinions on the work of people in the same or lower positions within their group, they casually express what they really think.

The speaker is expected to be sensitive to the listeners’ feelings, but the degree of sensitivity will differ depending on the speaker’s and listener’s personalities and social relationship. Candidness in these areas can be significant, especially among family members and close friends. There is hardly any hesitation in proffering negative opinions. For example, it is common to hear comments like the following among friends and family members: “This dish is too salty,” “You’ve become rather fat (or thin) recently, haven’t you?” “Your blouse is a little too bright,” or “Your boyfriend is rather ordinary looking, isn’t he?” In the same contexts, Westerners would expect to hear only compliments. For a Japanese, candid expressions, even when negative (or perhaps especially so), are a sign of a close relationship.

The above examples will sound familiar to teachers of Japanese students. Such Japanese behaviour patterns may appear strange but they are simply derived from the different values and approaches considered acceptable in Japanese society. The analysis and explanation of these behavioural patterns will help teachers understand the various levels of meanings of what is manifested by Japanese students and parents. Such understanding will lead to the creation of a teaching/advising base that can help Japanese students improve their communication skills in English.

Two important questions remain, however. What does it mean for students to shift from their own culture to the culture of the target language? Can they retain their cultural identity while doing so?

Teaching Cultural Understanding: A Tool for Better Communication

Barnlund (1989) states that communication is the process through which people acquire a culture. In other words, people display their cultural uniqueness in their manner of communicating. He further explains that “to make thoughts and feelings intelligible to other people we must use and respect the same rules for articulating and interpreting them” (p. xiii). So, in order to understand and be understood correctly, do learners of a foreign language have to acquire the cultural norms of the target language as well? What does it involve for learners to use cultural norms other than their own?

Because communication is a culture-bound activity it is essential to learn the culture of the target language for understanding. Barnlund expresses his concern about the outcome of encounters between people of different languages who cannot share meanings despite their linguistic competence. The outcome is more often misunderstanding as opposed to not understanding. Misunderstanding results in the alienation of the other whereas not understanding still leaves room for eventual agreement. Shared meanings cannot be possible until one learns the other’s cultural norms. The ideal form for mutual understanding would be for both sides to know each other’s norms and for each to let the other use his or her own code. To be able to share meanings is to learn the cultural norms of another’s culture as well as one’s own. So the question remains: How can teachers teach students these norms so that the students can gain discourse competence and make smooth and effective communication with the other possible?

Rather than presenting concrete ideas of how or what to teach, we examine what is involved in adapting to another culture. This should help increase one’s understanding of the difficulties students have when shifting between two cultures. The appropriate base that teachers might create for teaching Japanese students communicative skills is context-dependent, assuming, of course, an understanding of the various points mentioned above.

Adaptation to Cultural Differences

How much is an individual required to adapt to another culture to be able to communicate, to understand, and to be understood correctly? Mastery of discourse competence requires application of cultural norms in those areas where one’s own identity might create communication barriers. This is the most fundamental level at which cultural differences exist. What is the balance between adaptation to another culture and maintaining one’s own ethnic identity? What is involved in speaking and behaving when following the norms of another culture? Is it possible for an individual to shift his or her forms and speeches and behaviours from one set of cultural norms to another depending on the ethnicity of the person with whom he or she is communicating?

The use of different standards means that from time to time, depending on the context, one has to convey one’s messages in a way that is different from the way one would normally convey them. Though awareness of differences and knowledge of forms of the target culture will help the students to produce culturally appropriate performances, it is understandable if they feel some resistance in doing so. Sensitivity to this difficulty is needed.

Even in the case where Japanese students know the other cultural norms to follow, it is not always natural for them to perform like people from that culture. They might feel that it goes against their values, beliefs, and concepts. The application of different norms may make one feel unnatural and uncomfortable. It is an act of transforming oneself into someone else--someone one may prefer not to be.

Saying something or behaving in a different way from how one would act with members of one’s own society is not so easy. When I taught nonverbal communication and tried to have students imitate some gestures of British people, some enjoyed it and some refused to do it. On the one hand, doing something they do not do in their own society opens up a new world to them, but on the other hand, for some students it denies who they really are. They feel that it goes against their values, beliefs, and concepts.

Conclusions

Whether we like it or not, globalization is progressing. Barnlund (1989) posed a “critical question whether communication is designed to make all cultures one or whether it is designed to preserve his or her variety” (p. 193). If successful communication is based on sharing common norms and is also a vehicle for self-expression, it may seem desirable for convenience’ sake to have one set of norms. But would this be worth the sacrifice of cultural diversity? Barnlund quotes Kenneth Boulding’s (1976) fear that “the coming of a single world culture has grave dangers. It means that if anything goes wrong, everything goes wrong” (p. 193). Being exposed to a variety of world views helps people free themselves from their ways of looking at the world and prevents them from falling into a predetermined way of dealing with problems.

ESL and EFL classrooms are excellent places for both teachers and students to engage in finding ways to communicate successfully across cultural borders while also preserving personal cultural identities. And they are especially important locations for thinking over how to use what we have learned. Whether cultural diversity results in continuing conflicts or becomes a tool for problem solving, enriching our lives is up to us. It seems that the key to the solution of cross-cultural communications and preservation of cultures is the development of a profound cultural awareness.

As we have learned from studies of bilingualism, knowing different sets of norms will bring about greater understanding of others. At the same time, a bilingual/bicultural person’s sense of not fully belonging to either culture or their experience of not being fully understood by monolingual people implies that we still have a long way to go. When we learn to understand, when we learn the norms of others so that we can widen our own world views and allow others to maintain their own identities, we will all certainly profit from the exchange.

Transnational settings such as international schools, where numerous cultures mix with each other and create their own new cultures, provide students from diverse cultures with easier conditions for adaptation through mutual understanding. Such environments for intercultural communication allow students to retain their original cultural identities yet develop in ways that allow them to incorporate other world views.

References

Barnlund, D. C. (1989). Communicative Styles of Japanese and Americans. Belmont, California: Wadsworth Publishing Co.

Boulding, K. (1976). Foreword. In John Condon and Mitsuko Saito (Eds.), Communicating Across Cultures for What? Tokyo: Simul Press.

Gee, J. (1992). Socio-cultural approaches to literacy (literacies). In Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 12, 31-48.

Hall, J. K. (1993). The role of oral practices in the accomplishment of our everyday lives: The sociocultural dimension of interaction with implications for the learning of another language. In Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 14, 145-166.

Hofstede, G. (1983). Japanese work-related values in a global perspective. In H. Mannari and H. Befu (Eds.), The Challenge of Japan’s Internationalization(pp. 148-169). Nishinomiya, Japan: Kwansei Gakuin University.

Lebra, T. S. (1986). Japanese Patterns of Behaviour. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

Nishida, H., & Gudykunst, W. (1982). American Communication Patterns. Tokyo: Kinseido.

* Revision of a chapter in Edna Murphy (Ed.), Culture and the International School: Living, Learning, and Communicating Across Cultures (London: Peridot Press, 2004).

Fumiko Kondo is an associate professor of English and communication at Hiroshima Kokusai Gakuin University in Hiroshima, Japan, and David Blake Willis is a professor of cultural studies at Soai University in Osaka, Japan.


Convention 2004: A Memory

By Natalie Hess, e-mail: Natalie.Hess@nau.edu

Early on Friday morning of the convention, I attended a thought-provoking and stimulating discussion group led by Kevin Keating from the University of Arizona. The session, “Discussing Religion in the ESL Classroom,” allowed all participants to express themselves and interact in a nonthreatening yet exciting environment. Kevin pointed out that although discussion of religion is usually kept away from the ESL/EFL classroom, on the premise that such discussion is sure to cause contention, he personally has found that students are eager to speak about their spirituality. In fact, rather than causing friction, such discussion brings about interest and a sense of harmony. Kevin had prepared a list of topics that included the following:

  • What are some possible benefits of discussing religion in an ESL classroom?
  • What are some potential dangers of discussing religion in class?
  • What is the role of the teacher in such discussions? Should the teacher inject his/her own beliefs into a discussion on religion?
  • Is religion a mirror of culture and therefore appropriate as a topic of certain cultural differences, such as male/female social roles, polygamy, alcohol use, civil laws, and sexual mores?

The discussion was, to say the least, lively and involving. When our time was up, several of us continued the conversation as we walked out. I actually missed my next session because I was so engaged in the exchange I continued with a gentleman from Indonesia. Such engagement is surely the highest praise one can offer a conference session. I take my professional hat off to Kevin and am very happy that I managed to get out of bed early that Friday morning.

Are you planning to attend San Antonio 2005?

Let me hear what you learnt/enjoyed/did, and I'll include it in the next issue of the newsletter. Please submit your newsletter items by 14th May 2005, so that I can prepare for an end of May publication date.

---Andy Bowdler, ed.



Community News and Information Intercultural Communication Interest Section Leaders

Chair: Dr. Natalie Hess, e-mail: Natalie.Hess@nau.edu
Professor, Bilingual/Multicultural Education and English as a Second Language
Northern Arizona University in Yuma

Cochair-Elect: Ms. Piper McNulty, e-mail: PiperMcN@aol.com
Instructor, Intercultural Communication, Intercultural International Studies Division
De Anza College, Cupertino, California

Cochair-Elect: Dr. Nancy Tumposky, e-mail: tumposkyn@montclair.edu

Past Cochair and Current Co-List Manager: Dr. Armeda Reitzel, e-mail: acr1@humboldt.edu
Professor, Communication Department
Humboldt State University

Past Cochair: Dr. Don Snow, e-mail: donsnow48@hotmail.com
English Department
Nanjing University

Webmaster: Dr. James Robinson, e-mail: nobinson@stcloudstate.edu
Professor and TESL Director
St. Cloud State University

Secretary/Historian: Ms. Sallee Prieto, e-mail: Saprieto@aol.com

Newsletter Editor: Mr. Andy Bowdler, e-mail: bowdlerfamily@xalt.co.uk

Assistant Newsletter Editor: Ms. Mary Huebsch, e-mail: huebsch_mary@sac.edu
Fine & Performing Arts Division
Santa Ana College

Co-List Manager: Mr. Bill Ivey, e-mail: bivey@sbschool.org
Stoneleigh-Burnham School


About This Member Community Intercultural Communication Interest Section (ICIS)

Intercultural Communications promotes intercultural awareness, respect for all cultures and co-cultures, and increased intercultural competency among TESOL educators and scholars.

ICIS Community Leaders, 2004-2005

Chair: Natalie B. Hess, e-mail natalie.hess@nau.edu
Cochair: Piper McNulty, e-mail pipermcn@aol.com
Cochair: Nancy Rennau Tumposky, e-mail tumposkyn@mail.montclair.edu
Coeditor: Andrew H. Bowdler, e-mail bowdlerfamily@xalt.co.uk
Coeditor: Mary W. Huebsch, e-mail huebsch_mary@sac.edu

Discussion E-List: Visit http://www.tesol.org/getconnected to subscribe to ICIS-L, the discussion list for ICIS members, or visit http://lists.tesol.org/read/?forum=ICis-l if already subscribed.