IntroductionAccording to manystudies, cross-cultural problems have been some of the most very important andconstant issues that have influenced communications between different cultures. Due to the differences in culture ofpeople, communication is usually proving to be difficult and so not effective.Communication barriers therefore, are shown to make communication between peoplefrom two cultures very difficult.
Culture is the way we view the world and theset of beliefs by certain people (Varner & Beamer, 1995). Different barriers impedecommunication between the two cultures-Ghana and Chinese. This paper tries tocarefully study three examples of the barriers from the point of view ofcross-cultural communication theory.
If ineffective communication happensbetween different cultures, it is based on the fact that the communicators failto recognize the values of the different cultures.2.0 Literature Review2.1 Cross-Cultural Communication theoryThis theory basically suggests an understanding of howdifferent people from different cultural backgrounds speak, bring acrossinformation and perceive everything in their surrounding area (Balsmeier &Heck, 1994).
Cross-Cultural Communication in this setting refers to the communicationbetween Chinese and Ghana (Varner & Beamer, 1995). This theory is based onthe value differences among cultures. The examples of communication barriers between Ghana andChinese culture are including but not limited to Language differences, non-verbalmisinterpretation, prejudices and misunderstandings, high anxiety, assumptionsof the similarities, discrimination, ethnocentrism, tone differences (Balsmeier& Heck, 1994).2.2 Language BarrierFirst and foremost, language is one of theobvious interferences to intercultural communications yet maybe not the mostvery important. People who don’t share a language or who feel that they have apoor command of someone else’s language might have some difficulty incommunicating there is also the chance of false impressions happening betweenpeople when they don’t share a typical language. However, sharing a commonlanguage does not secure/make sure of understanding.
In fact, even speakers ofthe same language don’t have the very same understanding of the effects andmeanings of words (Patel, Li & Sooknanan, 2011). Moreover, a Chinese and a Ghanaian wouldhave difficulties in communicating. The two people speak completely differentlanguages. Different ways in which language can be a barrier to intercultural communicationsis also the problems of vocabulary, common, experimental and idea-baseduniformities. The absence of vocabulary uniformity happens at the point whenthere are not words in one language that relate exactly to the meaning andimportance of words in another language. It happens mainly with particular orvery descriptive words. Take for instance when a letter written in by aGhanaian in English to be translated into Chinese with a sentence that reads ‘Iwonder if you will set an agenda and a meeting date for our meeting’. In thiscase the word ‘wonder’ is used as a polite method of requesting for informationfrom the Chinese on the list of things to cover in a meeting of the meeting andmeeting date, when translated into Chinese it means a different thing.
It means’doubt’. When translated, it waters down the politeness (Patel, Li &Sooknanan, 2011). The sentence would this way read ‘ I doubt if you will set aschedule and meeting date for our meeting’. For this situation, a sentence thatmeans well can result in a great conflict due to the offensive meaning (Phipps,2013). In numerous cases, when a Ghanaian speakercommunicates in English to a Chinese and uses common expressions it causesconfusion. Even though English is not a native language for both, oneindividual may be well informed with the common expressions like a nativespeaker.
Take, for instance, when one says kick the bucket, it means to die.Sometimes, it may cause confusion when one of the people who understand itsmeaning uses it to express death to the other person who doesn’t understand itsmeaning (Phipps, 2013). Another issue is that of experientialequivalence as talked about earlier. There are experiences that exist inChinese culture that do not exist in one Ghanaian culture. This makes them hardto understand or explain into the language of Ghana.
For example, the Chineseidea of guanxi has no exact English equal in spite of the fact that it hasmeanings that can be communicated in English words, for example, relationship,association, commitment and reliance (Large, 1983). Conceptual equivalence, on the other hand,becomes a setback for communication if notions or concepts are not wellcomprehended in similar ways in various cultures. Ghanaians have differentconcepts of some fundamental and contemporary issues in a way that may appearto be quite divergent as compared to how the Chinese understand the same(Large, 1983).2.2 Nonverbal CommunicationThis involves communication without the use of the word by mouth, and itsometimes goes hand in hand with verbal communications to reinforce the meaningof the spoken word. Nonverbal communication can be an impediment tointercultural communication between a Chinese and a Ghanaian (Olshin, 2006). Itmostly involves communicating without words.
Messages are sent throughmovements, gestures, eye contact, and ideas (you think are true) relating totime among others. These types of communications can be misinterpreted in mostcases. Similarly, there is a closesimilarity of their uses in the two cultures in an interrogative way. In theGhana context of use, most of the non-verbal styles are used to send messagesthat may be uncomfortable to speak. On the otherside, it may be disrespectful to do the same in the Chinese culture. It,therefore, presents the state of confusion for the two to speak in non-verbalskills (Kelley, 1975).
Gestures actions and eye contact have powerful meanings in both cultures.Also, there are differences in the understanding or explanation of deepkindness in eye contact by the two cultures. In Ghana, it is a sign of respectwhile in Chinese context it may make one restless as it may not be a sign ofpoliteness. This is a major setback for the two cultures as far ascommunication is concerned.
Silence also has a difference in meaning in the two cultures, and this isa setback for cross-cultural communications (Kelley, 1975). For the Chinese,silence in a conversation means a lot of respect especially if it is from ayounger person to an old while in Ghana it means shyness and maybe not enoughinterest in the conversation. It is another element of cross-culturalcommunication barrier as the theory specifically specifies. Another aspect of non-verbal in cross-cultural communication barrier isthe touch element. In Chinese culture, it is believed that strangers are not tobe greeted and touched, while it is pointless in Ghana.2.
3 EthnocentrismIt is very common for one brought up in Ghana to have the values of thecommunity he or she is brought up in. Same can be said for an individualbrought up in China. It is because of the way the two people were brought up inthese cultures interact and learn from them. Ethnocentrism is the belief thatone’s race or culture is best It is the sense of focusing on one’s own culturein everything one pursues. It is clearly a setback in cross-culturalcommunications since it offers the basis of one judging other cultures,creating and displaying them to be inferior (Bi et al., 2012). Chinesewould have difficulty and challenges in communicating with a Ghanaian if bothparties do not have a sense of cross-cultural tolerance towards each other. Forexample, a Chinese working in Ghana would feel inferior if a Ghanaian looksdown upon him (Olshin, 2006).
Ethnocentrism, in this case, shows quality ofbeing better than everything else in the Ghanaian who believes that his cultureis superior to the Chinese culture. This kind of point of view or way ofbehaving of the Ghanaian affects cross-cultural communication between theGhanaian and the Chinese (Bi et al., 2012).3.0 Communication Differences between the two Cultures Communicationin the Chinese culture does not differ much based on my interaction with my friends.Apart from the issue of language, the difference between our cultures in termsof communication is not that marked. In communication, the Chinese can be veryanimated and they are also passionate.
These are qualities that Ga people inGhana demonstrate a lot in communication to the extent that other tribes havedescribed Gas as violent based on their impassioned communications and gesturesas well as vocal levels when communicating. A marked difference between ourcultures is the premium they place on formality in terms of greetings andexchanging cards which is done in a near ritualistic fashion. The Chinesehas holidays such as May Day, National Day (October 1), Spring Festival whichfalls between January and February. Other holidays celebrated in China includeTomb Sweeping Day, Dragon Boat Festival and Mid-Autumn Festival. Christmas isgaining momentum there and is becoming a period of increasing celebrations. 4.0 My Experience as an International StudentIn engaging with Chinesestudents, I was cognizant of the six barriers to intercultural communicationidentified by Barna (1997) referred to by Jandt (2004). These are anxiety,assuming similarity instead of difference, ethnocentrism, stereotypes andprejudice, non-verbal misinterpretations and language.
In this regard, I try toremain calm despite my reservations on whether I could have a meaningfulinteraction with Chinese student who had a strong accent. I was also clear inmy mind not to assume similarities but rather expect marked differences. I alsotried to overlook the stereotypical impression one has that Chinese are racistand do not like black men because their women prefer us and finally I was carefulnot to misinterpret any non-verbal signals I picked up during the interaction.
5.0 Strategies on How to Overcome Barriers toIntercultural Communication5.1 Overcoming Language BarrierSpeaking slowly and clearly is a way toovercome the language barrier. It involves pronouncing words clearly andprofoundly to a party whose first language is not necessarily English. It isadvisable to limit point loudness in speaking as this merely implies rudenessin most of the acculturations like the above mentioned. Speaking in plainlanguage without the use of idiomatic expressions would also help a great dealin devising communications clear and precise.
Using simpleton words andavoiding unnecessary information: In this situation, one should use short,simple sentences to give information. Using lengthy explanation usually makeintercultural communication difficult. It even makes it more complicated to usehard, and unnecessary difficult words to explain things. It is also a good wayto check the meaning of words before using them. It is not prudent to assumethe meaning of certain words without considering the context of the otherculture5.2 Practicing Active listeningThis is a proven effective way for improvingcross-cultural communication. It is a way of doing things that involvesrepeating the other speakers feelings to make sure that one grabs andunderstand their meaning and also, asking regular questions. This method helpscross-cultural communication by making sure that necessary information isunderstood too.
5.3 Paying attention to Cultural assumptionsIf a person travels to a foreign nation, it is quitechallenging to successfully deal with the differences that exist in thenon-verbal and verbal communications. It is, therefore, advisable when talkingwith someone from another culture; one should avoid informal and casuallanguage, jokes and or references that could be confusing and being dishonestto a non-local speaker.5.4 Exercising PatienceMore than often, Cross-cultural communication takes moretime.
It is the fact that communicating with a person from the same culturetakes less time as compared to communicating with someone from a differentculture. It is, therefore, of great help to each other when patience isemployed while trying to have communication with a person from a differentculture.5.5 Choosing Polite Formality when in doubtThis is the way of putting into use a polite languagewhen not sure or confident of what to tell a foreigner.
Take, for instance, TheNorth American English speakers usually employ an unusual strategy to talks,especially when they are in talks with a total stranger or dealing with newcasual friend/knowledge. The technique may be unpleasant to a person who isfrom some other cultural setting. To assure the other person that you’repassing on a proper level of respect, use a more formal method of talking andslowly downsize the degree of a convention as the relationship develops.5.
5 Avoiding StereotypingIn order to have successful cross-cultural communication,one needs to look beyond ones backgroundmistake in thinking and prejudiced mentality or stereotyping. Stereotypes areusually common among different cultures; they have no grounds and no categoricalbasis in truth. Making ideas you think are true and general stereotypes onlyserve to create suspicion and create disbelief and barrier between the peoplefrom different cultural backgrounds, thus affecting communication. It is nobleto treat each and every person with self-respect or built-in worth and in equalmeasure rather than just mere statements based on very little information.Understanding of other people’s values, normal behaviors, beliefs free from a pre-decidedideas or point of view is basic in this essence.ConclusionGhana and China havedifferent cultural backgrounds.
It is these differences in cultural backgroundsthat make the two cultures quite different ad unique. Communication between twopeople from these two cultures as showed in this paper points the fact thatthere exist different barriers that interfere with effective communication.These barriers, as seen, are due to the differences as perceived by each from aparticular culture. However, several waysexist that can be put in place to reduce these barriers to manageable levels asdiscussed in this paper above. Cross-cultural communication barriers are thisway tackled successfully to achieve a back and forth and equal benefit betweenpeople from different cultural backgrounds.