The world today is characterized by an ever growing number of contacts resulting in communication between people with different linguistic and cultural backgrounds. This communication takes place because of contacts in the areas of business, military cooperation, science, education, mass media, entertainment, tourism and also because of immigration brought about by labor shortage or political conflicts (Allwood, 2003).
In all these contacts, there is communication which needs to be as constructive as possible to avoid misunderstandings and breakdowns. It is our belief that problems in communication can be resolved through research on the nature of linguistic and cultural similarities and differences.
There is therefore a need to explain the manner by which intercultural communication skills enable greater effectiveness in personal and professional life, in a globalized and technologized social context.
Communications and Language
Throughout the world, human beings use thousands of language y communicate with one another. Some of these are spoken in many countries and enjoy international status, while others are used in the country or region or even in a single village. Some languages have expanded over the centuries, but there are also many that have become extinct. With globalization, a trend in the number of languages a the world has recently been observed. We are still far, however, from a situation where everyone would speak the same language.
Communication is far more than speech and writing. Most of us are unaware that we are communicating in many different ways even when we are not speaking.
Interpersonal communication takes place through a series of steps.
For effective communication to take place, six components must be present: a communication source or sender, a message, a channel, a receive, feedback, and the environment. Certain barriers to communication should be overcome and this are the following:
- Filtering of negative information
- Lack of credibility of
- Mixed signals
- Different frames of reference
- Value judgments
- Information overload
- Poor communication skills
- Clarify ideas before sending
- Motivate the receiver
- Discuss differences in frames of reference
- Foster informal communication
- Communicate feelings behind the facts
- Be aware of nonverbal communication
- Obtain feedback
- Adapt to the other person’s communication style
- Engage in meta-communication
A substantial amount of interpersonal communication also occurs through nonverbal communication, the transmission of messages by means other than words. Body language refers to those aspects of nonverbal communication directly related to movements of the body, such as gestures and posture. However nonverbal communication usually supplements rather than substitutes for writing and speaking as well as sign language. (DuBrin, 2009)
Advances in information technology have influenced significantly in particular the teaching – learning process and in general, the whole communication process. Quite after the influence has been positive but at the other times may contribute to ineffectiveness if not appropriately utilized.
Four developments that illustrate the impact of information technology on communication are E-mail, blogging, slide presentations by computers, and telecommuting.
E-mail facilitates communication in many ways, including people in various. parts of the world exchanging and sharing new information and knowledge. A reminder on the use of E-mails is to keep messages short unless attachments are to be sent.
The web log or journal is a rapidly growing form of electronic communication. Blogs were first used by business to communicate with customers in a personal, direct manner and form a bond with them (Colin and Park, 2004 in DuBrin, 2009).
Computergenerated slide software such, as PowerPont, is currently in vogue. In schools, teachers and students supplement lectures and reports with computer slides. It has therefore become a necessity to develop one’s ability to prepare a slide presentation as well as find a way to integrate speaking skills with technology. (DuBrin, 2009)
Telecommuting is an arrangement in which employees use computers to pertorm their regular work responsibilities at home or elsewhere. In education, E-learning is now used as an alternative delivery system. However, when this mode is in place still teachers arrange for a face-to-face interaction with students.
The same goes for other social animal species. We rarely learn about non-verbal human communication in school even though it is very important for effective interaction with others. Growing up in a society, we learn how to use gestures, glances, slight changes in tone of voice, and other auxiliary communication devices to alter or emphasize what we say and do. We learn these highly culture-bound techniques over years largely by observing others and imitating them.
Linguists refer to all of these auxiliary communication devices as paralanguage. It is part of the redundancy in communication that helps prevent ineffective communication. It can prevent the wrong message from inadvertently being passed on, as often as the case in a telephone call and even more so in a letter. The paralanguage messages that can be observed through face-to-face contact also makes it more difficult to lie or hide emotions. Paralanguage is often more important in communication than what is actually being said orally. It has been suggested that as much as 70% of what we communicate when talking directly with others is through paralanguage.
The most obvious form of paralanguage is body language or kinesics. This is the language of gestures, expressions, and postures. North America, for instance, we commonly use our arms and hands to say good bye, point, count, express excitement, warn away, threaten etc. In fact, we learn many subtle variations of each of these gestures and use them situationally. We use our head to say yes or no: to smile, frown, and wink.
Our communication is not limited to spoken language. We communicate directly through facial expression, body system, gesture, and tone of voice. Indirectly, we communicate through systems of signs and symbols, such as writing algebraic expressions, musical scores, painting and road signs. As we all know from experience, the spoken word does not communicate all that we know about a social situation. We can tell if a person is okey when he says “I’m fine” in response to a question, “How are you?”. Tone of voice, facial expressions, or other body language is also communication.
A language is a system of verbal and, in many cases, written symbols with rules about how those symbols can be strung together to convey more complex meanings. It is impossible to overstate the importance of language in the development, elaboration, and transmission of culture. Language enables people to store meanings and experiences to pass this heritage on to new generations. Through language, we are able to learn about and from the experiences of others. In addition, language enables us to transcend the here and now, preserving the past and imagining the future. It also makes possible the formulation of complex plans and ideas (Calhoun, et al., 1994).
While language is cultural and universal, striking differences in the use of language are evident around the world. This is the case even when two countries use the same spoken language. For example, an English-speaking person from the United States who is visiting London may be puzzled the first time an English friend says “I’ll ring you up.” The friend means “I’ll call you on the telephone. Similarly, the meaning of nonverbal gestures vary from one culture to one another (Schaefer, 2003).
A man’s language is a reflection of the kind of person he is, the family where he comes from, the level of education he has attained, and an index to the behavior that may be expected from him. Without language, knowledge, could not have been maintained and accumulated. Without the ability to communicate, man cannot pass on his accumulated wisdom to the succeeding generations.
What gives human being preeminence is the fact that they are the only living creatures known to be capable of communicating intricate systems of symbols, storing knowledge, and transmitting this knowledge to a new generation. Language is the key factor in the human race’s success in creating and preserving culture, for without language, the ability to convey ideas and traditions is impossible. With language, persons can perpetuate and pass on knowledge from one generation to.the next
How long humans had spoken language is not known. Some think that the earliest homo sapiens, perhaps 1,000,000 years ago, may have the beginnings of language, others believed that language developed more recently.