Communication Between Cultures

(Sean Pound) #1
have formed various interdependent groups as a means of survival. Within these
groups, people have developed patterned interactions and“rules”that all members
have learned and display. These social systems establish communication networks
and regulate norms of personal, familial, and social conduct.“They also establish
group cohesion and enable people to consistently satisfy their basic needs.”^85 The
ways in which these organizations function and the norms they advance are unique
to each culture. Nolan underscores the nature of these organizations in the following:
“Social structures reflect our culture, for example, whether we have kings and queens,
or presidents and prime ministers. Within our social structure, furthermore, culture
assigns roles to the various players—expectations about how individuals will behave,
what they will stand for, and even how they will dress.”^86


Language is yet another feature common to all people and cultures. We may arrive
in this world with all of the biological and anatomical tools necessary to survive, but
we must learn language in order to share ourideas, feelings, and thoughts with other
people. Language is an element found in all cultures, as the words a young child
learns and what those words mean are directly related to culture. By the age of
three, children can name and understand a countless number of objects and con-
cepts that they find in their environment, an environment unique to a particular
culture. Language and culture are connected in a number of ways. Whether they
are English, Swahili, Chinese, or French,most words, how they are used, the mean-
ings assigned, the grammar employed, and the syntax bear the identification marks
of a specific culture. Bailey and Peoples further develop the important role language
playsintheexistenceofaculturewhentheywrite,“Language underlies every other
aspect of a people’s way of life—their relationship with the natural environment,
family life, political organizations, worldview, and so forth. Most socialization of
children depends on language, which means language is the main vehicle of cultural
transmission from one generation to the next.”^87 As is the case with nearly all of
the cultural elements we have examined in this section, we will devote an entire
chapter to language later in the book.
Before we conclude this portion of the chapter, we need to underscore two more
important ideas about culture. First, throughout this chapter, we have isolated various
aspects of culture and talked about them as if they were discrete units. The nature of
language makes it impossible to do otherwise, yet, in reality, it is more accurate to
perceive culture from a holistic perspective. Hall says it this way:“You touch a culture
in one place and everything else is affected.”^88 Ferraro and Andreatta expand on
Hall’s premise when they point out that“cultures should be thought of as integrated
wholes, the parts of which, to some degree, are interconnected with one another.
When we view cultures as integrated systems, we can begin to see how particular cul-
tural traits fit into the whole system and consequently, how they tend to make sense
within that context.”^89 The crucial point regarding culture being integrated is that you
should not“focus on one cultural feature in isolation. Instead, view each in terms of
its larger context and carefully examine its connection to related features.”^90
The values regarding materialism in North America exemplify the integrated
nature of culture. That is, the thrust behind these values stems from a variety
of sources. History, family, and religion can influence family size, work ethic, use of
time, and spiritual pursuits. Another complex example of the interconnectedness of

The Elements of Culture 59

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