Module 5 Notes
Module 5 Notes ANP200
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This 15 page Class Notes was uploaded by NotetakerS on Wednesday December 16, 2015. The Class Notes belongs to ANP200 at Michigan State University taught by A. Quan in Summer 2015. Since its upload, it has received 47 views. For similar materials see Navigating Another Culture in General Science at Michigan State University.
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Date Created: 12/16/15
Module 5 Cross Cultural Communication Verbal Communications Cultural Barriers Effective communication with people of different cultures is especially challenging. Cultures provide people with ways of thinking-‐-‐ways of seeing, hearing, and interpreting the world. Thus the same words can mean different things to people from different cultures, even when they talk the "same" language. When the languages are different, and translation has to be used to communicate, the potential for misunderstandings increases. Stella Ting-‐Toomey describes three ways in which culture interferes with effective cross-‐cultural understanding. First is what she calls "cognitive constraints." These are the frames of reference or world views that provide a backdrop that all new information is compared to or inserted into. Second are "behavior constraints." Each culture has its own rules about proper behavior which affect verbal and nonverbal communication. Whether one looks the other person in the eye-‐or not; whether one says what one means overtly or talks around the issue; how close the people stand to each other when they -gall alkin of these and many more are rules of politeness which differ from culture to culture. Ting-‐Toomey's third factor is "emotional constraints." Different cultures regulate the display of emotion differently. Some cultures get very emotional when they are debating an issue. They yell, they cry, they exhibit their anger, fear, frustration, and other feelings openly. Other cultures try to keep their emotions hidden, exhibiting or sharing only the "rational" or factual aspects of the situation. All of these differences tend to lead to communication problems. If the people involved are not aware of the potential for such problems, they are even more likely to fall victim to them, although it takes more than awareness to overcome these problems and communicate effectively across cultures. Overview of Verbal Communications I would like to highlight four key cautions about culture that you need to remember when you are trying to understand and adapt to different verbal communications styles: • Within any given cultural group, there might be many subgroup (subcultural) Overview of Verbal Communications I would like to highlight four key cautions about culture that you need to remember when you are trying to understand and adapt to different verbal communications styles: • Within any given cultural group, there might be many subgroup (subcultural) or individual differences in how people communicate with each other. • Any single person might modify their communication styles depending on the situation or context. • When you speak of a cultural group having this trait or that, think of the trait as a continuum, with different groups practicing the trait along a scale: it’s rarely a black and white situation where a culture is either this or that • Cultures can never be reduced to one or even a set of traits Key Labels used to characterize verbal communication preferences • The key variables are: ○ Direct versus indirect § This has to do with the degree to how clearly the speaker’s message and intent are conveyed through his/her words and tone. For example, do we ask for a favor using a direct statement (“Could you please help me move my sofa to another room?”) or more indirectly (“I wonder if my sofa that’s in the bedroom would look better in the living room?”). ○ Low context versus high context § Developed byEdward Hall(1976) this idea refers to how much of the message is explicitly stated in words versus how much is communicated via context (silence, knowledge of people’s social roles and expectations, etc.). high context communication, there are many indirect statements and the listener is expected to “read between the lines”. As one scholar notes, “The emphasis is on how intention or meaning can best be conveyed through the context (e.g. social roles or positions) and the nonverbal channels (e.g. pauses, silence, tone of voice) of the verbal message.” In high context situations, the listener is expected to read the unspoken messages. Conversely, “In low-‐contextcommunication, the emphasis is on how intention or meaning is best expressed through explicit verbal messages.” Usually, the speaker takes the responsibility for communicating clearly. The United States and Germany are often characterized as a “low context” culture; that is, communications tend to be direct and explicit. This is sort of a variation of “direct -‐indirect” except it refers to how many situations there are where you are expected to understand something that hasn’t even been said, either directly or indirectly. ○ The importance of face Germany are often characterized as a “low context” culture; that is, communications tend to be direct and explicit. This is sort of a variation of “direct -‐indirect” except it refers to how many situations there are where you are expected to understand something that hasn’t even been said, either directly or indirectly. The importance of face ○ § his concept has to do with how much one must worry about offending somebody else or embarrassing them. In the United States, while few people try to embarrass or disrespect others, the importance of “saving face” (not being embarrassed or causing embarrassment) is not as high as in other societies, like Japan. This is often associated with avoiding direct criticism and instead, using more indirect types of criticism. ○ The task or the person § This has to do with how much we separate personal matters from task related matters in a conversation. To people from “task” oriented cultures, people from cultures that focus “on the person” may seem like they appeal to personal interests too much, or they may seem “unprofessional”. The United States is often characterized as oriented towards the task, rather than the person. Remember, it’s all a matter of degree: people make small talk in the United States too. • There are other communication style variables described by other authors that are worth knowing: ○ Rational or emotional § This refers both to how much emotion is normally conveyed in communication events, and how much one appeals to “emotions” or “logic” when arguing a point. For people from cultures where there are more situations where one might lean towards “emotional” communication styles, passion and feelings are part of the argument. ○ Circular or linear § This relates to the indirect/direct scale and refers to both a communication and a reasoning style. Do we “logically” get straight to the point when we are talking or writing, or do we circle around the topic, interjecting seemingly irrelevant topics and statements? ○ Self-‐enhancement vs. self -‐effacement § This relates to how much modesty or understatement a person will use in speech. Direct and indirect • Most of us are familiar with these variables, as we know some people in our own cultural group who communicate more or less directly than others. However, in any cultural setting, there are patterns and norms relating to this Direct and indirect • Most of us are familiar with these variables, as we know some people in our own cultural group who communicate more or less directly than others. However, in any cultural setting, there are patterns and norms relating to this variable. In other words, people from a given cultural group will tend to communicate on average using a certain level of directness or indirectness (again, as usual with these variables, there are exceptions to the average due to personality differences and situational demands). • Many writers on intercultural communications characterize people in Asia as favoring a more indirect communication style, related to the notion of saving face and social harmony. Though characterizing a whole society this way is a bit simplistic, there WILL be more situations in Asian societies where it will be appropriate to communicate indirectly in comparison to the United States or Germany, to name two countries characterized as favoring direct styles of communication overall. • candor•\ˈkan-‐dər, -‐ˌdȯr\•noun 1. Ability to make judgments free from discrimination or dishonesty 2. The quality of being honest and straightforward in attitude and speech Paralanguage • Vocal paralanguage refers to “vocalizations other than words that are used in ordinary utterances”. Paralanguage can include such as utterances like “umm” or“aha” as well as intonation, vocal volume, volume, and tempo “…the sounds and tones we use in conversation and the speech behavior that accompanies the message. Simply put, it is ”how something is said, not what is said.“ ○ ”Our vocal paralanguage consists of all cues other than the text of the words we use. Everything else is vocal paralanguage and this includes a very LARGE number of potentially important clues: pronunciation, national accent, regional accent, fluency or dysfluency, standard or non -‐ standard speech, whether the language we speak was our native tongue, emotion, charisma, indications of our relationship with the listener, sarcasm, deference, contempt, truth or deception, etc." ○ These are often learned by observation and imitation, rather than in the classroom, whether one is learning their native language or learning a foreign language. • Regulators ○ A specific type of vocal paralanguage is sometimes called “regulators”: A variety of sounds or simple words serve to regulate the flow and turn taking of conversations. These will vary cross-‐culturally. ○ For example, sometimes people make sounds to acknowledge they are listening but that the other speaker should continue. For example, many people in the United States use “uh -‐huh” or “yeah” to say, “Yes, I’m listening, please continue”. Similarly, Japanese individuals may use such variety of sounds or simple words serve to regulate the flow and turn taking of conversations. These will vary cross-‐culturally. ○ For example, sometimes people make sounds to acknowledge they are listening but that the other speaker should continue. For example, many people in the United States use “uh -‐huh” or “yeah” to say, “Yes, I’m listening, please continue”. Similarly, Japanese individuals may use such expressions as “hai, hai” which literally means yes but often means just “I’m hearing you”. An outsider might misinterpret this “hai” as literally meaning “yes, I agree”. ○ Whether speaking a foreign language yourself, or your own language to a non-‐native speaker, be aware that many of these sounds can cause confusion in these situations. A person who does not not hear the listener use their version of “yes, I hear you” may think that the other person is not listening or interested. Conversely, hearing an unfamiliar expression meant to say “I hear you, continue speaking” may instead be taken as “interrupting”, an annoying mannerism, or as an unintended message. • Voice tone and volume are 2 other key aspects of paralanguage. ○ For example, in some situations, people from some Arabic countries sometimes speak with a louder tone of voice to denote sincerity, but Westerners may mistake this as anger or pushiness (and conversely Arabs may see U.S. Americans or Germans as cold or distant because they don’t use this louder tone of voice). On the other hand, some people from East and southeast Asian cultures will in some situations use a more moderate, softer tone of voice than would many individuals from the United States, so individuals from the Philippines may perceive Americans as pushy (or conversely Americans may perceive Filipinos as meek or passive). Ways of Conducting Conversations • Different cultures show different preferences for the way people conduct conversations. Speed, interruption, silence and pauses, agreement or disagreement cues are some variables that will lead to different conversational styles. Brooks Peterson, for example, describes two such variables: ○ Comfort with silence (from “silence is respected” to “silence causes people to be edgy”). § Several anthropologists have shown that silence is not seen as awkward in other cultural settings. For example, Keith Basso (1970) argued that silence has an important communicative role in the Apache culture in the United States. For example, silence among strangers is the norm until more is known about each party; this reflects a view that forming social relationships takes caution and time. Silence is also seen as an appropriate reaction if you are insulted or are with somebody who is sad. Underlying this preference for silence, according to Basso, is the Apache belief that Apache culture in the United States. For example, silence among strangers is the norm until more is known about each party; this reflects a view that forming social relationships takes caution and time. Silence is also seen as an appropriate reaction if you are insulted or are with somebody who is sad. Underlying this preference for silence, according to Basso, is the Apache belief that social relationships tend to be unpredictable and that silence is the best way to deal with this uncertainty. Raymonde Carroll, in her bookCultural Misunderstandings: The French -‐American Experiencediscusses how the French do not understand or like the tendency of U.S. Americans to speak to strangers in public (1987). The French prefer to use silence to preserve some social distance from strangers in public she argues. ○ Flow of conversation (from “interrupting” to “taking turns” to “halting”). § It is important to adapt to these conversational styles. For example, in the US value is often attached on “taking turns” and subtle cues are given by the speaker as to when he or she is ready for somebody else to speak. § Peterson and Carroll (1987) describe how in France, people expect you to “interrupt” and break into conversations as a way of showing interest. As Carroll writes, this pattern to the French reflects “spontaneity, enthusiasm, and warmth, a source of unpredictability, interest and stimulation, a call for participation and pleasure. They are the ties that bind and that bring the conversants closer together”. § Conversations that are not punctuated by such “interruptions” might be perceived (depending as usual on the individual and the situation) as flat and formal. By contrast, in the United States acomplementary styleis generally more the norm, this refer to using a matter-‐of-‐fact tone to deliver your verbal message, and each person is simply responsible for stating their message. Therefore, you do not interrupt another person while they are trying to achieve this. Nonverbal Communications Nonverbal Communications Overview Definition • ○ Nonverbal communications refers to the use of a variety of nonverbal codes to communicate with other people. ○ Anthropologist Ray Birdwhistell developed the term kinesicsto refer to the study of the various ways that the body is used in communication. Birdwhistell argued that most human communication takes place via the nonverbal rather than the verbal channel. He was referring to the use of facial expressions, hand gestures, arm movements, and body postures to codes to communicate with other people. ○ Anthropologist Ray Birdwhistell developed the term kinesicsto refer to the study of the various ways that the body is used in communication. Birdwhistell argued that most human communication takes place via the nonverbal rather than the verbal channel. He was referring to the use of facial expressions, hand gestures, arm movements, and body postures to communicate messages. • Importance and role ○ Nonverbal communications play a big role in everyday communications. Not only do body gestures and the use of space affect the communications, but they also express much about each person’s identity, status, mood, and relationship to each other. ○ Nonverbal communications can: § Substitutefor verbal communications, such as when a policeman communicates the message “stop” with a specific hand or arm gesture. § Complement or accent verbal communications, such as waving your hands and arms in the air while you are speaking. § Repeatwhat is being communicated verbally, such as using your fingers to represent a number you just said. § Contradict verbal behaviors, such as saying “No, there is no problem, I’m OK” but showing a different response with our face. § Convey relational messages including our mood and how we feel about the person we are communicating with, and the status of people involved in a social situation. • In some other parts of the world (but certainly not all), people tend to be more reserved with their smiles compared to the United Stat.s • The oftensubconscious aspect of nonverbal communication complicates communications in a cros-scultural context. While cultural misunderstandings can occur at the verbal level, we are usually conscious of how we communicate verbally and can try to rephrase our message verbally or look up a word in a dictionary. The problem with nonverbal communications is that because they tend to be subconscious, it is often harder to analyze how they might contribute to a cultural misunderstanding. Sure, some types of nonverbal communication are explicit and conscious (for example, signs often referred to as gestures, such as the OK sign common in the United States). However, because we learn much of our nonverbal communications patterns more implicitly, some of these patterns operate at a subconscious level. This includes such unconscious patterns as tertiary sexual attributes– the ways in which gender identity is communicated through such things a“ si ntrafemoral angl” (for example, in the United States males sit with knees apart and females cross their legs) and arm position when walking (for example, men with elbows more away from their body than women. To take another example of less conscious types of nonverbal communication, within a cultural setting, culturally specific and patterns as tertiary sexual attributes– the ways in which gender identity is communicated through such things a“ si ntrafemoral angl” (for example, in the United States males sit with knees apart and females cross their legs) and arm position when walking (for example, men with elbows more away from their body than women. To take another example of less conscious types of nonverbal communication, within a cultural setting, culturally specific and unconscious body language may foreshadow such things as hostility, tension, friendliness in ways which might not be obvious to somebody from another culture. Anthropologist Edward T. Hall uses the ledl umbrationto describe this aspect of communication, the “indications associated with communication that exchange covert messages which foreshadow behavior”, such as tone, body language, appearance, and stance. Smiling • In the United States, a smile usually indicates happiness or friendly intent. However, a smile in Japan or Indonesia could in some contexts connote embarrassment, not joy or humor. Expressing Emotion and Sadfish • SADFISH refers to key facial emotions (Sadness, anger, disgust, fear, interest, surprise, and happiness). ○ Overall, people seem to recognize these almost universally, but culturally specific variations exist. ○ Two researchers, for example, argue that Japanese people, for example, may not be as adept at recognizing anger because expressing anger is more suppressed. This example shows that cultural display rules also vary a lot; how and when it is appropriate to express certain emotions varies. Ting Toomey argues that these rules about nonverbal communication are not a random assortment of rules but can be related to larger cultural patterns. For example, she argues, in collectivist societies, where people care more about the perceptions of others, people will express emotions in a more subdued manner. Eye Contact • The relationship between the lack of eye contact and mistrust in the American culture is stated directly in the expression "Never trust a person who doesn't look you in the eyes." In contrast, in many other parts of the world (especially in Asian countries), a person's lack of eye contact toward an authority figure signifies respect and deference. • Eye contact occurs when people communicate in every culture, but the cultural rules shaping eye contact will vary. In some contexts, in certain cultures it is inappropriate for a woman to make eye contact with a man she does not know. There is actually a term for:culesicsfocuses on the use of eye contact in communication.Inappropriate levels of eye contact are often judged morally • Eye contact occurs when people communicate in every culture, but the cultural rules shaping eye contact will vary. In some contexts, in certain cultures it is inappropriate for a woman to make eye contact with a man she does not know. There is actually a term for:culesicsfocuses on the use of eye contact in communication.Inappropriate levels of eye contact are often judged morally (not enough eye contact may be seen as being evasive, disrespectful, inattentive; on the other hand, too much eye contact may be seen as flirtatious or aggressive). Gestures, emblems and illustrators • Gestures “…are culturally specific and significant forms of nonverbal communication”. • Emblemsare a type of gesture that substitute for words and phrases, in other words, emblems are “hand gestures that hold specific meanings for members within a culture”. Examples of emblems include “thumbs up” or “OK” hand signs in the United States. • Illustrators are gestures that simply add emphasis to our words, like pounding our fist or waving a finger when speaking, “nonverbal hand gestures that we use along with the spoken message–they literally illustrate the verbal message.” Proxemics • Anthropologist Edward Hall, one of the pioneers in the study of -‐cultural communication, popularized the study op froxemics, the ways people use space when communicating with each other: the distance they maintain and how they arrange themselves in relation to each other (face to face, above or below, and so on). • One manifestation of proxemics is the personal space we maintain when speaking to other people. Because it is often unconscious Hall labeled this use of space as the silent language and because it differs c-‐culturally, this use of personal space is a key variable to consider when communicating across cultures. • For example, according to Hall, people from the United States have 4 categories of personal space: ○ Intimate distance: 0–18 inches, a space for people very close to us, like our spouses, or special situations, such as telling a secret. ○ Personal space: 18 inches to 4 feet, a space bubble within which most of our personal interactions with other people occur. ○ Social distance: 4–12 feet, used for business transactions or very formal social interactions, and ○ Public distance: 12–25 feet, used for lectures. • In summary, people in different cultures tend to have different personal space preferences, and when this is not understood, irritation or miscommunication can occur. In particular, what constitutes the appropriate “personal space” will social interactions, and ○ Public distance: 12–25 feet, used for lectures. • In summary, people in different cultures tend to have different personal space preferences, and when this is not understood, irritation or miscommunication can occur. In particular, what constitutes the appropriate “personal space” will vary. Latin Americans, people from southern Europe, and the Middle East are examples of what Edward Hall labelecdontact cultures , where people will typically stand closer to the person they are talking to. When people from contact culturesare talking with people fromnon-‐contact cultures (where people stand further apart when talking and use less touching, such as the United States or many parts of northern Europe) this may lead to uncomfortable situations, with one person edging away as his or her personal space feels “violated” and the other person continually approaching in order to establish what he or she (often unconsciously) feels is the proper “close” speaking distance. Touch Behavior • Hapticsrefers to the practices, perceptions, and uses of touch behavior during communication events in different cultures. • The acceptable type and degree of touching varies by culture. In parts of Asia, for example, one should not touch somebody else’s head as a general rule. In regions such as the Middle East, southern Europe, and Latin America, there may be more touching of the person we are talking to, depending on the situation. Another example is how same sex touching and hand -‐holding is acceptable in many different places, such as Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia (sometimes specific to males or females), while touching members of the opposite sex may be much more restricted. • You should adopt two cautions when analyzing touching behavior cro -‐ss culturally: ○ Caution 1 Note that even in cultures where individuals may use more physical touch during conversations, who may touch who, when, and where is highly regulated. In other words, if you hear that people touch each other more when talking in a certain culture, don’t mistakenly assume you need to touch everybody all the time when talking to them! Shaking hands between people of opposite genders is often not acceptable in parts of the Middle East and Malaysia, but is acceptable in China. ○ Caution 2 Remember that many cultural norms and behaviors are contextual and relational in the sense that they are appropriate in some situations but not in others. Language Issues Overview contextual and relational in the sense that they are appropriate in some situations but not in others. Language Issues Overview Knowing another language does help you better understand basic • information; thus it is definitely an important tool for successfully navigating other cultures. • Although useful, knowing the vocabulary and grammar of a local language, or finding somebody who speaks English, is no guarantee of trouble free communications. In this section we cover some tips on using another language, and also how to use English with people who speak it as a second language. You need to know how a language is used. This is referred topragmatic rulesof a language. • Another simple obstacle that non -‐native speakers of a language face (for example, international students speaking English in the United States, or U.S. students speaking Spanish in Latin America) is that a language is always changing and is full of idioms ( ) that are often not sh.e challenge aT is thatwe are often not even aware of the rules of how we use our own language, much less how others use their language. • The degree of control we have over language is limited. We can choose to be polite or obtuse, to use forms of address which will flatter or insult, to use gender-‐neutral language or language that is inflammatory; we can consciously use vocabulary which is easily understood, or we can purposefully mislead with language. Butthere are many dimensions of language which are not subject to conscious or direct contro.l • Thepragmatic rules(pragmatics) of a language refer to the contextual rules that govern language usage in a particular culture. Pragmatics concerns the rules of ‘how to say what to whom and under what situational conditions’ in a speech community… Pragmatic rules basically concern the cultural expectations of how, when, where, with whom, and under what situational conditions certain verbal expressions are preferred, prohibited, or prescribed in a speech community. A speech community is defined as a group of individuals who share a common set of norms and rules regarding appropriate communication practice. Be Careful with Translations • Sometimes a direct translation of a phrase from one language to another language yields two very different meanings. In this case, a little knowledge of the local language can sometimes be worse than no knowledge at all. There are countless examples of this. Tips for using translators and interpreters • If using an interpreter, a good tip is to talk to the person, not to the interpreter. language yields two very different meanings. In this case, a little knowledge of the local language can sometimes be worse than no knowledge at all. There are countless examples of this. Tips for using translators and interpreters • If using an interpreter, a good tip is to talk to the person, not to the interpreter. That way you can at least see the person’s nonverbal communication cues and reactions. Allow yourself plenty of time, as everything has to be said two times. Also be aware of the interpreter’s grasp of colloquial English; you may wish to simplify your English and avoid slang. Tips for speaking English with -native speakers • The use of English is increasing across the world, but native English speakers need to be careful in how they speak to non -‐native English speakers. English speakers need to be aware of the limitations of non -‐native speakers’ knowledge and that there are many types of English. A list of useful tips for communicating in English with people who have learnt English as a second language is adapted here from Peterson. Key tips include: ○ Avoid idiomatic expressions. § An idiom or idiomatic expression is, “a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words (e.g., rain cats and dogs, see the light).” Many languages use idioms. This is a problem fonnative speakers, because they may not have learned these in language classes. ○ Try to keep your languagesimple and direct. Use simple words rather than complex ones; use direct sentences (“They took advantage of us” versus “We got taken advantage of”). Use short sentences. ○ Give and seek feedback § To help you do this, rather than using “yes or no” questions, use open-‐ended questions such as “What do you think we should do with the upcoming project?”; the answer to these will let you know if they have understood. ○ Speak slowly and clearly, but not loudly or insultingly slowly. Use precise language . ○ § Say, “I plan to get on the bus” rather than “I plan to catch the bus”. ○ Clarify and offer examples. § For example, if they do not understand your question, “What places did you visit?” say “What places did you visit, Disney World, Las Vegas?” ○ Avoid slang, colloquialisms and regionalisms . § Non-‐native speakers may not be familiar with certain colloquial or informal expressions, such as “let me run this idea by you”. Regional places did you visit?” say “What places did you visit, Disney World, Las Vegas?” ○ Avoid slang, colloquialisms and regionalisms . § Non-‐native speakers may not be familiar with certain colloquial or informal expressions, such as “let me run this idea by you”. Regional variations of words and expressions can also confuse non -‐native English speakers. For example, in the United States, different words are used for carbonated drinks (like Coca Cola); “pop” is more common in Michigan while “soda” is more common in parts of the East Coast, and “coke” is used in some parts of the south. Also problematic are newer words and phrases like “My BFF just told me “TTYL” is in the dictionary. LMAO.” Different Types of English • English is increasingly spoken worldwide, but differences in dialects, communications styles, and the pragmatics of language mean one English speaker may still have misunderstandings when communicating with an English speaker from a different cultural setting. English is becoming the “lingua franca” of our globalized world for many reasons, some of which are: the legacy of British colonialism, U.S. economic power, popularity of U.S. media abroad, and the large number of international students who enroll in Australian, British, and U.S. universities. Honorifics and other ways of acknowledging status differences and relationships with language • Different societies have different ways of dealing with status differentials between the people who are communicating. Many languages make status distinctions with pronouns; for example, French and Spanish have a formal and informal version of the pronoun “you”. • In cultures emphasizing status differentials (a variable termed “high power distance” by Gert Hofstede), the use of titles and honorifics may be more common. • Additionally, what you talk about and how you talk with people of a different status may be well defined in societies that emphasize status differentials. In the United States, it is not uncommon for waiters and customers to make small talk with customers. In other countries, such an approach may be inappropriate. Swearing and Insults • Swearing or cursing is another area of language use that is found in most parts of the world but varies a lot cross culturally. Humor • Humor is especially difficult to translate. Humor is found in most if not all cultures but what is considered humorous and appropriate, and the role of • Swearing or cursing is another area of language use that is found in most parts of the world but varies a lot cross culturally. Humor • Humor is especially difficult to translate. Humor is found in most if not all cultures but what is considered humorous and appropriate, and the role of humor in social relationships, will vary. Translating humor can be difficult, both because of what topics are considered appropriate, and language use. • One key theme of this course is that universal human traits or patterns such as humor can take many forms, and that your idea of humor (what is humorous; when is it appropriate, etc.) may be different from that of somebody from a different cultural background. • Anthropologist William Beeman has attempted to define this widely found human trait, humor: ○ [humor is] a performative pragmatic accomplishment involving a wide range of communication skills including, but not exclusively involving, language, gesture, the presentation of visual imagery, and situation management. Humor aims at creating a concrete feeling of enjoyment for an audience, most commonly manifested in a physical display consisting of displays of pleasure including smiles and laughter." • And then Beeman explains why humor is culturally specific: ○ The communicative actor has a great deal to consider in creating humor. He or she must assess the audience carefully, particularly regarding their pre-‐existing knowledge. A large portion of the comic effect of humor involves the audience taking a set interpretive frame for granted and then being surprised when the actor shows their assumptions to be unwarranted at the point of dénouement. Thus the actor creating humor must be aware of, and use the audience’s taken-‐for-‐granted knowledge effectively." • In other words, for humor to work, the performer and the audience must share an interpretive frame about what is normal and how the world . Humor can fail to translate cros-‐sculturally because this interpretive frame varies depending on your cultural background. In other words, for your jokes about politics, religion or sex to work, your audience must share a certain set of knowledge and assumptions with you about those topics. • An important variable is the role humor plays in shaping relationships. Just be aware that joking can both shape and reflect the type of relationship you are in. Dialects • Even if you know the local language, you may encounter variations in how any one language is spoken. Be aware that many languages are spoken in different ways acros
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