（江介維老師 撰文） ( Jie-Wei Jiang, Editor of AWEC Newsletter, NTU)
Intercultural Communication: Origin, Development, and Cases
Around 50 years ago, the term "global village" was coined and envisioned by Marshall McLuhan (1967) in a world where people began to grow aware of how their lives and daily events were connected together through technology. With the continuing progress of technology, the way people interact with one another, especially those across genders, races and nationalities, is sure to constantly evolve in various manners.
Intercultural communication, as proposed and theorized by Edward Hall (1959), is an essential skill in this global village. Instead of going deep into the anthropological and linguistic aspect of Hall's discussion, this article would elaborate on the framework and significance of intercultural communication for the contemporary reader. Martin and Nakayama (2018) have dedicated two decades in their joint work that has reached its seventh edition to articulating the raison d'être of intercultural communication, boiling down to the following six "imperatives": self-awareness, demographic change, economic mapping, technological access, international peace, and ethical concern.
Of these six aspects, the self-awareness imperative is most relevant, and probably elusive, to the student readers of AWEC Newsletter, hence its pivotal role in this article. Over the past two years of teaching and helping students refine their application documents for studying abroad in the course "English Writing for Academic Pursuit", I have kept in contact with some of my previous students and tried to track how they adapt themselves to the new environment and culture in the USA and Europe. A vast majority of them have reported varied degrees of difficulty. In terms of adapting oneself to American universities, Maryanne Datesman et al. (2014) have clearly pointed out how international students have been struggling to keep their overseas stay on the right track:
These students are frequently confused or even mystified about American values, attitudes, and cultural patterns. Even those students who have mastered enough English to take courses in an American university often find that they do not understand the cultural rules well enough to be successful as students.
The message is clear and alarming—these students pursuing their degrees overseas are barely ready for, or even unaware of, the potential challenges posed by an unfamiliar milieu. Simply put, their understanding of the past self fails to keep abreast of the accelerating rate at which a new self in a foreign context is expected to arrive. That is to say, as reflected in my students’ correspondence, many of these international students tend to underestimate the importance of learning intercultural communication as a survival skill, leading to their frustration and bewilderment in the early or even middle stage of living and studying overseas.
Another instance to underline the importance of learning intercultural communication happened during my trip to attend an academic conference in Europe in 2019 (EATAW2019). The theme that year was "Academic writing at intersections: Interdisciplinarity, genre hybridization, multilingualism, digitalization, and interculturality." As encouraged by some of the thematic keywords, "intersections," "interdisciplinarity" and "interculturality," scholars there were particularly active in exchanging ideas and extending interpersonal network. I followed suit and fared well until I bumped into a scholar from Finland. After a brief exchange of greetings, I could perceive the distance he intentionally kept between us; at that time, I could only go so far as to interpret it as a sign of lack of interest in our conversations. However, one day it dawns on me that the Finnish abide by "a cultural norm [that] discourages striking up a conversation with strangers in public places" (Rogers & Steinfatt, 1999, p. 151). This experience stimulates me to try harder to study and understand certain cultural norms in Europe to better instill proper intercultural communication knowledge into my students with a prospect of studying in European universities.
Intercultural communication is here to stay. For those who would like to refine their understanding and practice of intercultural communication, Dignen and Chamberlain’s book Fifty Ways to Improve Your Intercultural Skills (2009) offers a step-by-step introduction to the knowledge, know-how, and exercise that will help readers build up their intercultural literacy.
Datesman et al. (2014). American Ways: An Introduction to American Culture (4th ed.). USA: Pearson Education.
Dignen, B. & Chamberlain, J. (2009). Fifty Ways to Improve Your Intercultural Skills. Malaysia: Summertown Publishing.
Hall, E. (1959). The Silent Language. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.
Martin, J. & Nakayama, T. (2018). Intercultural Communication in Contexts (7th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill Education.
McLuhan, M. (1967). The Medium is the Message. New York: Bantam Books.
Rogers, E. & Steinfatt, T. (1999). Intercultural Communication. USA: Waveland Press.