This unit examines the concept of cultural and international communication. This is done under the following subtitles:
- The concept of cross cultural communication;
- The concept of international communication
At the end of this unit, you should be able to:
- discuss the concept of cultural communication
- explain the concept of international communication.
3.0 MAIN CONTENT
3.1 Cross Cultural Communication
When we encounter people from other cultures, we may fail to understand them because of differences in language, values, gestures, emotional expression, norms, rituals, rules, expectations, family background, and life experiences.
Cultures also differ in the meaning of slang, even if people think they’re speaking the same language. In Ireland, when people say “I was pissed”, it means “I was drunk” — not “I was mad”. Irish people say “Where’s the crack in this town?” to refer to parties and fun — not drugs. Sometimes understanding vocabulary is not enough.
Michelle LeBaron (2003) noted:
All communication is cultural — it draws on ways we have learned to speak and give nonverbal messages. We do not always communicate the same way from day to day, since factors like context, individual personality, and mood interact with the variety of cultural influences we have internalized that influence our choices. Communication is interactive, so an important influence on its effectiveness is our relationship with others. Do they hear and understand what we are trying to say? Are they listening well? Are we listening well in response? Do their responses show that they understand the words and the meanings behind the words we have chosen? Is the mood positive and receptive? Is there trust between them and us? Are there differences that relate to ineffective communication, divergent goals or interests, or fundamentally different ways of seeing the world? The answers to these questions will give us some clues about the effectiveness of our communication and the ease with which we may be able to move through conflict.
LeBaron observed further that the challenge is that even with all the goodwill in the world, miscommunication is likely to happen, especially when there are significant cultural differences between communicators. Miscommunication may lead to conflict, or aggravate conflict that already exists. We make — whether it is clear to us or not — quite different meaning of the world, our places in it, and our relationships with others. In this module, cross-cultural communication will be outlined and demonstrated by examples of ideas, attitudes, and behaviours involving four variables:
- Time and Space
- Fate and Personal Responsibility
- Face and Face-Saving Nonverbal Communication
As our familiarity with these different starting points increases, we are cultivating cultural fluency — awareness of the ways cultures operate in communication and conflict, and the ability to respond effectively to these differences.
SELF ASSESSMENT EXERCISE 1
What do you understand by Cross-cultural communication? Cite relevant examples.
3.2 International Communication
International communication could be defined as the communication between two or more nations or communication across international boundaries. International communication arose because of the need to maintain international friendship and relations as well as to understand and keep abreast of happenings around the world. This is one of the core objectives of international communication.
International communication also enhances the job of diplomats who may use it as a tool of diplomacy. Most wars amongst nations or between one country and another had their remote and immediate causes connected to the inability of the combatants to talk meaningfully at a round table or the inability to understand and appreciate the other side’s point of view and opinion due to poor international relations and information management abilities of the diplomats involved.
The international communication scene in the last 35 years has been characterized by divisions especially, as it concerns the flow of world news and information. Some countries are now regarded as information-rich nations’ while others are termed ‘information-poor nations’. The information-rich nations are those nations with enough human, natural and technological resources to exploit the production and distribution of global information and communication. The information-poor nations, on the other hand, lack the required resources even for local production and distribution of news and information, let alone of producing and distributing for global consumption. They are usually mere consumers of world news and information no matter in whose tastes they are produced.
The information-rich nations are usually regarded as the developed Western capitalist nations. They are also called the North or the First World. The countries under this information group have reached an advanced stage in their sociopolitical cum economic development. They are more concerned with the production and distribution of media hardware and software. Examples of some of these countries include the United State (US), Great Britain, France and some developed capitalist nations in Europe.
The information-poor nations are the ‘underdeveloped’ or ‘developing’ nations of the world. Their major problem is underdevelopment, which cuts across both the human and natural resources. The information-poor nations are usually found in Africa, Latin America and Asia. Hence, they are often referred to as the Third Word or simply, the South. The economy and socio-political structures of these nations are still ‘developing’, thus, they are more of consumers than producers of global
mass communication. Some of the countries under this group include almost all the countries in Africa, Latin America and some parts of Asia.
In between these two broad divisions or groups, is the Second World Nations. They are neither very rich in information and communication resources nor are they too poor to be mere consumers or receivers of global news and information. The nations under this group were mostly associated with socialism/communism during the Soviet Union era. They are thus referred to as the East during the ‘Cold War’. Some of these countries under this group include Russia, Communist China and the former members of the WARSAW PACT whose economies and political structures are well developed or reaching an advanced stage in their development.
In recent years, however, most nations of the world, especially the Third World and the Second World nations have become very skeptical about the nature, principles and objectives underlying the need for international communication. Their fears were as a result of the bombardment of their airwaves and other mass media channels with foreign media materials and messages, which are antithetical to their sociopolitical and economic development. Even in the area of hardware supplies, the First World nations still dominate and make the Second and Third World nations their dumping grounds for their unused or overproduced media hardware.
WHY STUDY INTERNATIONAL COMMUNICATION
Lester Markel (1976) notes that:
Foreign news is a misnomer. In this interdependent world, we are affected by almost any event almost anywhere… international news is not foreign, it is
local, and it is immediate and highly relevant to the nation.
International communication also helps to promote world peace and unity. This is not an overstatement. As we noted earlier, international communication involves the gathering and dissemination of news, information, views, ideologies, philosophies etc. across the globe. It also involves the interpretation and analysis of these news, information, views, ideologies, philosophies etc.; therefore, the proper study of international communication as an arm of mass communication will enhance this particular function. And when news, information, ideologies, philosophies etc are put in their proper perspective and given in-depth analysis and interpretation, there will be greater understanding among the citizens of the world. This will further promote global understanding, peace and unity.
International communication also aids the promotion of understanding between the different cultures involved in the global communication arena. The major news agencies in the world today (AP, UPI, AFP, REUTERS etc), for instance, recruit and maintain international correspondents in major cities all over the world. These correspondents live among the people where they cover and therefore, must try to understand their languages, mores, values and philosophies of life and existence if they must cover and report them successfully. This understanding will eventually enhance the better appreciation of the cultures of these different societies. International communication has also brought to the fore the concept of global village, as discussed in Marshal McLuhan’s “The Medium is the Message”. This concept of global village is better referred to as the ‘Villagisation of the Globe” in this volume. This concept, undoubtedly, discusses the effects of the improvement on communication technologies and facilities which have made the gathering and dissemination of global news and information very easy and more exciting. With these improvements, events and news in far away countries could be received and disseminated in other distant countries as they occur, making the globe look like an ordinary village.
Media systems of many nations have undergone positive changes as a result of the impact of international communication. This is particularly true in the Third World where the various media systems are desirous of countering the negative effects of cultural/media imperialism. In the process, they undergo a lot of positive changes necessary for growth so as to be able to compete favourably with media systems of the developed countries.
SELF ASSESSMENT EXERCISE 2
Considering the notion that all communication is cultural, justify the need for international communication.
International communication is needed to prevent culture shock as well as enhancing the understanding of cultural imperialism and its attendant effects. Culture shock is the confusion and disorientation caused by contact or mingling with civilization other than one’s own. Cultural imperialism, on the other hand, refers to the subjugation of a local culture and the imposition of an alien culture on the local culture.
The unit has been able to look at international communication as an arm of mass communication with precise definitions that capture the rationale for this unit. The unit also gives an insight into the nature of international communication, especially the need for the study of international communication in international relations and world politics. Finally, the unit brings to the fore the fact that all forms of communication is cultural.
6.0 TUTOR–MARKED ASSIGNMENT
Cross cultural/International communication is powered by the new communication technologies in agreement with the postulation of the Canadian Literary scholar, Marshal McLuhan who popularised the concept of the global village otherwise known as the ‘Villagisation of the Globe”. Discuss this assertion.