The Role of Cross-cultural Communication

Cross-cultural pragmatics and communication leads to a deeper understanding on how people behave in daily interaction. Social setting which provides communities space to interact with each others, accounts for stereotypes and labelling of individuals and/or certain group of people.

Stereotype is defined as a fixed idea or image that many people have of a particular type of person or thing, but which is often not true in reality (Wehmeier 2000, p. 1272). Usually, the stereotype comes up with the presupposition that individual characteristics represent the entire group of theirs (Bowe & Martin 2009, p. 89). Further more, the assumptions are developing to identification that one`s cultures are valued higher than valued lower. Both positive and negative stereotype will take a long process which will become an essentialist character of a person or a group of people.

‘Australian are laid back’, ‘American white women use a bad language’, ‘Japanese are polite’. Those apparent examples are coming from students` experiences contacting to those original countries of the participants. Generally speaking, it has been assumed as a truth. However, as Spencer & Franklin (2004, p. 141) suggest that stereotypes are subject to change. Therefore, they are not fixed and immutable (Smith, Bond & Kagiticibasi 2006, p. 227). The evidence indicated how French looked at Australian. The finding shows that in most of French`s perspective immigrating to Australia, Australian seems not to enjoy life. They work hard even on weekend. Most of them are living to earn money rather than improving quality of life. Such stereotype of ‘Australian are laid back’ in this case, is contrarery with the reality.

In line with this argument, Allport`s theory of the nature of prejudice may be still reliable. He suggested that one of the essential ingredients of the ethnic prejudice is about erroneuous generalization (1979, p. 17). Meaning what common people believe in Australian way of life then untrue.

Many researchers have focused their research on stereotype and labelling. Empirical findings indicate that overgeneralization is harmful. It is associated with the ignoring of the individuality of individual members of other cultures and create expectations and self-fulfilling prophecies to the detriment of the individual concerned (Spencer & Franklin, 2004, p. 142).

Limiting view of human activity to just one or two salient dimensions may bear the polar opposites. It is essential to consider the differences and similarities which exist in human culture. A particular person has a particular way of life which does not always represent the members of their communities. In regards with the human nature, piece of the world and sort of things, understanding to the variety and diversity of human behaviours can be through having immediate contact to other group of people. Tannen (1986, p. 30 in Wierzbicka 2003, p. 1) argues that the fate of the earth depends on cross-cultural communication.


About Halili

Indonesian student of Master of Language Studies at Flinders University, South Australia.
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