Linguistic awareness of cultures

Bernd-Dietrich Müller (Bayreuth University; Intercultural German Studies)
Paper given at the Jyväskylä UNESCO international conference on Intercultural Learning (2003); published in: Linguistic Awareness of Cultures. Principles of a training module. In: Kistler, Peter, Konivuori, Sini (eds). From International exchanges to intercultural communication: combining theory and practice. Jyväskylä: Univ. of Jyväskylä 2003, 50-90 2 Intercultural Communication - A Communication Problem? . 5 3 Intercultural Training and the Teaching of Intercultural Competences . 7 3.1 Training Module: Linguistic Awareness of Cultures (LAC) . 7 3.2 Methodological Integration of the LAC Training Concept . 8 4 LAC - A Framework of Criteria for the Analysis of Communicative Events . 11 4.2 Speech Acts / Speech Act Sequences . 13 4.3 Organization of Conversation: Conventions of Discourse . 15 4.9 Culture-specific Values / Attitudes . 24 4.10 Culture-specific Behavior (including Rituals) and Behavior Sequences . 26 5 Conducting and Evaluating the Training Procedures . 29 5.1 Step 1: Introducing the Desired Attribution Procedures . 29 5.2 Step 2: Determining the Individual Categories using Critical Incidents . 30 6 LAC between Foreign Language Teaching and Intercultural Training . 34 LINGUISTIC AWARENESS OF CULTURES.
1 Introduction
In the course of a research projectI attempted to compile an overview of the most frequently used training programs for specialists who have to work in an international arena. It soon became apparent that what little is available on the open market are unpublished materials of North-American origin, and that trainers do not provide access to their training documents or practice. This starting point for training research has not changed significantly in the last few years. Training programs have increased world-wide - especially in Asia and, with regional differences, in Europe. This, however, is not reflected in a corresponding increase in relevant publications. If we disregard an increase in publications on international rules of etiquette and embarrassing episodes, we can generally state that training contents and procedures are not accessible to the general public or to researchers. Therefore, the few publications dealing with training methods and approaches can only lean on a distanced view or their own models: on the one hand, a number of culture assimilators have been published (e.g. Müller/Thomas 1991, Schenk/Thomas 1996), which make programmed self-study of critical incidents between individuals from two different cultures possible. On the other hand, practice formats have appeared (some of them with instructions and model solutions) that can be integrated into intercultural training programs as modules, without claiming to be tried and tested training concepts. Even first attempts at adopting such training modules showed that they contained culture-specific methods and learning approaches (i.e. they were designed for North-American learning contexts). This is especially true of self awareness approaches, which were hardly compatible with those used in Germany. * Translated from the German by Debby Rebsch and Elsa Lattey. 1 The project Intercultural Behavior Training was funded by the Deutsche Aerospace AG Munich and the Bavarian Ministry for the Economy and for Transportation (1991 - 1993). 2 See Müller 1993 for a first overview including excerpts from various training programs. 3 Axtell is one author successful in this field (see e.g. 1985). 4 See Müller 1995 for a criticism of episode-oriented training programs. 5 See e.g. Weeks et al. 1982, Bennett 1986, Fowler 1995, Landis/Bhagat 1996, or Dathe 1997. 6 Institutions co-operating in development, among others, attempted in the late 70s to adapt North-American training programs to the corresponding German system of continuing education (see Bullinger 1977), with very moderate success. This changed only partially through methodological diversification of learning approaches in I would argue that major problems with the reception of foreign training approaches lie in their normative approach to problem solving and their biased focus on pedagogic- psychological factors. Intercultural communication problems are primarily explained psychologically (i.e. the interactors having different value systems), without explicit documentation and analysis of the concrete underlying verbal and non-verbal behavior. However, such a focus on psychologically explained conditions of interaction bears a danger for both real and training situations: on the basis of one’s own cultural conventions of communication one rashly jumps to conclusions about other participants’ (cultural) values. This happens because the analysis of foreign behavioral orientations (cultural standards) does not normally provide concrete information as to how these are expressed in the context of real situations. Referring to Gumperz, Auer describes such contextual behavior in a broad sense as all activities by participants which make relevant, maintain, revise, cancel . any aspect of context which, in turn, is responsible for the interpretation of an utterance in its particular locus of occurrence. Such an aspect of context may be the larger activity participants are engaged in (the ‘speech genre’), the small-scale activity (or ‘speech-act’), the mood (or ‘key’) in which this activity is performed, the topic, but also the participants’ roles (the participant constellation, comprising ‘speaker’, ‘recipient’, ‘bystander’, etc.), the social relationship between participants, the relationship between a speaker and the information he conveys via language (‘modality’), even the status of ‘focused interaction’ itself. (Auer 1992, 4: italics in orig.) Let us assume that the majority of experts who have been prepared for international interaction are aware of certain foreign value systems, but have not learned to correctly assess a) how such foreign response-determining standards are expressed in a given situation (and therefore become relevant to the interaction), and b) which (foreign) verbal and non-verbal responses reflect which intentions and Therefore, even though research on these training methods has progressed, it must be stressed that the integration of real communication processes into the analysis of partner-related attributions continues to be insufficient. Rather, false priority is given to making trainees the US and through a growing acceptance of esoterica in Germany, which made self-evaluation and strictly group-oriented learning results acceptable to continuing education programs. 7 In contrast to the quoted approaches and also to Eckenberger (1996: 169) I do not consider the ‘norm’ to be specific to applied psychological research into ‘orientation towards reality’, even though training programs de facto seem to prefer research findings to be presented in a normative manner. sensitive to foreign values before making them aware of the manifold communicative forms of expression such behavior-guiding patterns can have. However, if there is no systematic analysis of the differing (speech) acts that communication partners perform - for example if the verbal and non-verbal indicators constituting behavior are not recognized - we are left with a barely quantifiable number of problems of interaction attributed to culture (i.e. caused by culture-specific values). These might have been gathered in an empirically correct survey of experts, but cannot be verified. Therefore, they are also not suitable episodes for the teaching of foreign culture comprehension The present paper is based on the assumption that many current approaches psychologize intercultural communication. I assume that the use of foreign communication conventions is regularly interpreted as an expression of foreign value orientation. My working hypothesis for this paper is that to avoid such misattributions of the reasons for culturally generated problems of interaction, a linguistic analysis of the interaction must precede psychological attributions of behavior patterns. The linguistic analysis should be as precise as possible in elaborating the relationship between certain forms of expression and individual intentions. I am suggesting that we determine the participants’ actual intended actions before drawing conclusions about foreign goals and underlying value systems from the ‘perceived response’. The development of the training program Linguistic Awareness of Cultures (LAC)is to be seen as the result of an ethno-methodological and communication-theoretic approach to reconstructing the original intended actions using concrete linguistic utterances. The program provides the linguistic categories necessary for the description of typical problems occurring in intercultural interaction. Before introducing a training module to this end, I will outline a commonly held view which impedes the proposed linguistic analysis. The observations in the following section are presented without a view to their possible application to training programs, though they certainly play a role there, also. 8 Cf. Müller 1995 for the linguistic reconstruction of dialogs to be used as examples of first-hand experience of interaction, and Knapp 1995 for an illustration of how explanations that identify intercultural communication problems as subject-specific and culture-specific misinterpretations of foreign communication conventions are instinctively and categorically dismissed. 9 The mechanisms underlying these conventions need to be further determined, for instance by detailed analysis of so-called fundamental attribution errors or the process of using experiences with foreigners as examples (Müller 1995). 10 See the brief description of the training program Linguistic Awareness of Cultures developed in the research project mentioned above (Helmolt/Müller 1993). 2 Intercultural Communication - A Communication Problem?
Knapp (1989, 1995) poses the provoking question as to whether participants in intercultural communication view occurring misunderstandings as problems of communication (rather than considering them to be problems of differing cultural or individual values). He uses a case study to illustrate that generally such misunderstandings are not viewed as problems of In critical communicative situations with or among foreigners, it is generally the participants’ culture-specific (foreign) value systems or their individual preferences and characteristics - rather than different conventions of communication - that are made responsible for the majority of occurring misunderstandings. This experience is also confirmed by other studies (Winter 1994, Thomas 1996). The conditions and strategies of intercultural interaction are influenced by factors such as language training with a bias for vocabulary and grammar, which need to be determined further. I will propose that because of this most individuals require great effort or individual training before they learn to systematically search for different linguistic conventions for realizing equivalent intentions (of expression) prior to psychologizing and looking for possible misunderstandings in differing mentalities. One of Knapp’s findings illustrates this as follows: British individuals who described their German colleagues as ‘very unfriendly and direct’ and ‘aggressive’ were presented with the hypothesis that their impressions might possibly result from the fact that their German counterparts did not make use of linguistic politeness markers such as ‘please’ after requests and commands as frequently as they do themselves. That is to say that German speakers will habitually mark such (speech) acts with other politeness markers (the subjunctive, intonation) and so - in keeping with German conventions - will use the specific illocutionary marker The British individuals reacted to this hypothetical linguistic explanation of psychological attributions they had already made as follows: „. rather than accepting the suggestion that their impression of impoliteness stems from different communicative conventions in Germany, the informants assumed that Germans make use of more direct speech act realizations than the British because they are more impolite. (Knapp 1989, 9; italics in original) Even though this impression might be true for some individuals, the example illustrates how rarely those affected by such intercultural misunderstandings are willing to accept linguistically oriented explanations of critical (communicative) situations. The cited psychological conclusions, which they had reached from the perceived communicative behavior based upon their own behavioral conventions, seemed far more plausible to the co- participants. Thereby, they avoid having to analyze whether different frequencies or distributions of ‘please’ - or its assumed correspondent ‘bitte’ - exist and whether they are themselves systematically (and wrongly so) interpreting different linguistic rules as an expression of psychological characteristics of their partner(s). A communication-theoretic analysis of the concrete situational interaction should as a rule precede a psychological analysis based upon value attributions. Where this is ignored, psychological analyses of intercultural situations, even though they contain correct empirical analyses, are based on an incorrect attribution of intentions. This runs the risk of systematically imposing ‘false consciousness’ (Picht 1987) on experienced intercultural In the following explication of the fundamentals of a linguistic analysis of situations I will make it clear that trainees must first look for different communicative rules. In addition, I will focus on the development of a meta-communicative ability for describing intercultural 11 For example, that German prefers other lexical and paraverbal expressions of politeness as equivalents to the British ‘please’ over its literal translation ‘bitte’. This leads to a lower frequency and different distribution of ‘bitte’. 12 Cf. the analysis based on reconstructing a critical incident from one of the first North-American culture assimilators (Müller 1993, 37 ff) and the criticism of collecting episodic intercultural experiences (Müller 1995). 13 Following Gumperz’ argument that „conversational interpretation is cued by empirically detectable signs, contextualization cues, and that the recognition of what these signs are, how they relate to grammatical signs, how they draw on socio-cultural knowledge and how they affect understanding, is essential for creating and sustaining conversational involvement and therefore to communication as such.“ (1992, 42). 14 This can enable experts, when interviewed about critical incidents, to provide a more detailed description of experienced communicative situations rather than subjective attributions and statements about foreign behavior intentions which are difficult to reconstruct. 3 Intercultural Training and the Teaching of Intercultural
Müller (1983) provided a first comprehensive documentation and preliminary evaluation of intercultural training procedures in German-speaking areas. Brislin/Landis/Brandt (1983), Bennett (1986), Dadder (1987), Thomas/Hagemann (1992), Bittner (1996) and Landis/Bhagat (1996) have attempted to systematize existing training programs. The criteria they used have been adapted from psychological approaches to understanding foreignness (Fremdverstehen), which are quite far removed from the communicative objectives of teaching and achieving intercultural competence. The training approach presented below, which is oriented towards communication, should be seen as a necessary complement to these approaches. 3.1 Training Module: Linguistic Awareness of Cultures (LAC)
I have deliberately chosen the title of the training module in analogy to so-called culture- awareness training programs. These largely neglect linguistic explanations of responses made in intercultural situations. A basic definition can be expressed as follows: Linguistic awareness of cultures means the following: all cultural differences are ‘hidden’ in linguistic manifestations. These expressions of cultural difference are found in all languages and they can be classified in different grammatical and lexical categories or even be expressed non-verbally. They are presented in culture-specific explicit or implicit forms by both speakers and listeners. This further means that there is a source of mutual misunderstanding, when these linguistic indicators or manifestations are not perceived by the interactors. (Müller, in prep.) The training module described in the following sections will systematically explore such linguistic indicators (Gumperz: contextualizers). In the process the terminology needed to describe communicative acts of co-participants in intercultural situations will be developed in order to enable us to characterize and identify types of misunderstanding occurring in intercultural communicationhis corresponds to the view taken above, namely that we must first classify the behavior of participants in intercultural situations via a linguistic tool for the analysis of dialog, before we can interpret it psychologically and possibly attribute it to Exemplary situations describing cross-cultural misunderstanding will be used to define the determining factors of the LAC-scheme. This bases the procedure - much like Culture Assimilator Training - on real episodes and is oriented towards cognitive learning and analysis 3.2 Methodological Integration of the LAC Training Concept
Fundamental differences to other contrastive cognitive training procedures can be seen at two First, the protagonists appearing in the cited critical incidents always represent contrasting cultures. In LAC Training their role is to make cross-linguistic categories of communicative interaction apparent by deviating from expected behavior. I am not postulating that the cited responses of co-participants are based on rules of culture X or Y that have been empirically identified and determined to be significant. Nor even that successful analysis of the critical incidents will enable trainees to satisfactorily cope with real-life situations when representatives of the cultures in question are involved. This is similar to Stewart’s Contrast Culture Training in which a Co-trainer (Mr. Kahn) expresses general other-culture views in opposition to those held by the North-American trainees, without relating them to a specific Rather, the situations cited in the LAC module illustrate certain types of culturally generated communication problems. It is the identification of these communication problems - and not their reflection of specific other-culture conventions - which is the learning objective of the analysis. The only analogies to other forms of critical incident training can be seen in the beginning phase, where the LAC training module is also not based on first-hand experiences, but relies on second-hand ones. While in classic critical incident training the selected critical incidents function as objects of learning to be used in the acquisition of isomorphic attribution (see e.g. Thomas/Müller 1991), in LAC Training they identify cross-cultural mechanisms of linguistic/cultural problems of interaction which are to be discovered in reconstructed Second, an interactional type of analysis is essential to the Linguistic Awareness of Cultures (LAC) approach. Only in a first step are the patterns of behavior differentiated in the critical incidents methodologically determined as contrasting, and they are only temporarily compared as culture-specific forms of expression. As a rule they are viewed as an expression of an ‘inter-culture’ (Bolten 1992, 1995) or a ‘discursive XXinter-culture’ (Thije 1997), i.e. as a product of reciprocal processes of effect and adaptation. Knapp and Knapp-Potthoff (1990) emphasize the necessity of adopting such an interactive view to go beyond a mere listing of culturally generated differences of behavior. They point out that in intercultural situations the effects the differences have are just as relevant as the differences themselves. Bolton similarly stresses the following: „Questions about interaction build on culture comparisons and are aimed towards making the effects of cultural differences (and expectations thereof) the central theme. In all instances we are talking about determining the limits of mutual assimilation, about locating boundaries of acceptability and about possible potentials for synergy.“ (1995, 32; italics mine) Therefore, studies on intercultural communication must always be seen as studies of effect. Seen this way, participants’ behavior in intercultural situations is explained not only on the basis of their own cultural socialization (i.e. contrastively), but also as the product of a mutual process of interpretation and adaptation. In extreme cases, this can deviate drastically from the behavior conventions in the respective individual cultures and can reveal new situation- based creations - similar to interlanguages (Selinker 1972, Müller 1981) or pidginizations (Schumann 1978) (cf. also Lattey/Müller 1976). Intercultural situations are assumed to be created situationally. Yet, they are neither assumed to be randomly structured, nor are the functions of source-culture and target-culture behavior patterns assumed to be superfluous. I postulate that certain constellations of source cultures produce very similar „patterns of interaction“ (Gumperz) in intercultural situations, and evoke certain types of problems in the evolved „intercultures“. In addition, I will assume that these can be adequately catalogued with the help of a culturally neutral framework that enables us to systematically evaluate possible reasons for culturally generated communication problems. The criteria listed below - as types of intercultural communication problems - stem from an evaluation of specialist linguistic publications. The examples used to illustrate the LAC have been taken from my own empirical research as well as from the following articles on 16 Liang (1996, 248) points out that in „dealing with foreigners. communicative and cultural knowledge are closely related“. He restricts certain attributions of so-called Chinese politeness to intercultural situations between Chinese and foreigners, where these forms (of politeness) typically appear. − Knapp/Knapp-Potthoff (1990): re differing speech act realizations and discourse − Hog (1981): re linguistic registers, − von Helmolt (1997): re culturally different patterns of modality, − Kartari (1997): re paraverbal communication, − Apeltauer (1997): re non-verbal communication. These publications contain more examples than those quoted below, referring to many types of problems. The criteria framework has been designed in such a way that it can be reproduced for actual training purposes. Possible training procedures will be illustrated in 4 LAC - A Framework of Criteria for the Analysis of Communicative
In intercultural communication most people tend to subconsciously apply their own culture’s communicative conventions and also to interpret the other-cultural response on this basis. There is a discrepancy ‘between the psychological performance demanded from individuals in the course of internationalization and what the majority of people affected by these demands is actually able to perform’ (Thomas 1996, 16). Based on this, I will in the following introduce and exemplify those areas of intercultural communication that cause the most frequent misunderstandings and problems. At the same time, I will compare and contrast those responses from people with different cultural backgrounds that are relevant for communication, using the provided criteria for comparison. Such comparisons have long been used in contrastive linguistics. However, in that field, the focus lies on the components of a language system, which are analogized and contrasted, whereas we are primarily concerned with contrasting the forms of communicative behavior. As indicated above, and specific to the training module, a further difference to contrastive approaches can be noted: differences are not only observed, but the effects these differences have are central to the depiction. The differences will be treated as ‘perceived differences’ and will be integrated into the description of the individual components of the framework. In working through the individual areas, trainees will learn to look for different underlying communication conventions to explain unexpected (foreign) behavior. To be more precise, they will learn to look for the causes of communicative behavior that is perceived as being foreign in such foreign communication conventions and to carry out this discriminatory step before attributing communicative behavior to the participants’ (foreign) cultural value The examples given below are representative and serve to illustrate certain types (here: domains) of culturally generated communication problems. Even though they are treated 17 Some training measures state their goal as making trainees ‘sensitive to cultural differences’. I cannot understand such training goals in light of the fact that co-participants in intercultural situations find and state differences by themselves. The main problem does not lie in detecting these differences of communicative behavior, but rather in determining what functions different communicative behavior has from a foreign perspective and what effects it has on one’s own behavior. 18 Some of these examples were taken from Helmolt/Müller 1993. separately below to show the categories in the structural framework, they cannot be learned in a cumulative process nor are they separable in the course of actual communication. Thus, certain preferred speech acts go hand-in-hand with the choice of particular topics, which in turn are subject to conventions of directness and indirectness, and therefore call for certain paraverbal strategies, etc. To illustrate these interrelations, references to their interdependency are appended to the discussion of individual domains. 4.1 Social Meaning / Lexicon
From a cognitive-psychological point of view ‘social meaning’ and ‘lexicon’ are taken to indicate that co-participants use words to express social representations and to evoke these in others. Such patterns of mental imagery, here also termed concepts, are distinctly culture- specific. This is why interlocuters in intercultural situations - especially when using a lingua franca - have to pay very close attention to potentially different cognitive-emotional representations of word meanings, and they should try to deduce these from the (contextualized) utterances of their conversation partner. Take the case of an envisaged co-operation between German and French partners, where both sides agree to have developed a KONZEPT (plan) for possible areas of co-operation by the first meeting. Frequently, the German side will arrive at such a meeting with a very carefully worked out written presentation of their ideas with specific mention of the relevant facts. The French, on the other hand, will present their CONCEPT as a starting point for joint brainstorming. What, to Germans, usually means a thoroughly structured presentation, the French interpret as a summary of very preliminary ideas. Rather than accepting that each side has different rules for constructing the meaning, both sides frequently attribute the differing behavior to culture-specific work attitudes, such as ‘thorough’, ‘orderly’ vs. ‘superficial’, ‘easy-going’. Along the same lines, SUNDAY - SONNTAG - DIMANCHE - DOMINGO are examples for the very different attitudes and behaviors (and their culture-specific implications) associated with the seventh day of the week. Similarly, FRIEND - FREUND - AMI - AMIGO - etc. do not merely evoke different connotations, but represent quite different behavioral preferences. In everyday thinking it is especially abstract terms that are assumed to be culture-specific expressions. Terms such as LIBERTY - FREIHEIT - 19 The psychological discipline most extensively researching and describing this fact is culture-comparative prototype semantics. (For its foundation see e.g. Kleiber 1990, Dubois 1993; for culture comparative reflections see Aitchison 1987). Using BUS as an example, Müller (1980, 103 ff) discusses culture-specific terms including interdependent webs of meaning that are embedded in the denotation ‘public transportation with several rows of seats’. See Müller 1994 for the mediation of culture-specific meaning in foreign language teaching. GENTILLESSE.etc. are ‘in principle’ considered to be typical references to concrete cultural spaces. This cannot be verified by looking at the abstract term itself, however, but only by recognizing that the concrete behavior ‘realizing’ these terms is different, or is perceived differently (LIBERTY is when . or: If somebody does X, then that isn’t FRIENDLINESS anymore). This also applies to terms supposed to be typically German and untranslatable, e.g. GEMÜTLICHKEIT (‘comfortableness’ ‘coziness’) or (preußische) ORDNUNG (Prussian order/orderliness). Also the meanings of institutions such as CHURCH - KIRCHE - ÉGLISE - IGLESIA - etc. or UNION - GEWERKSCHAFT - SYNDICAT - etc. or SCHOOL - SCHULE - ÉCOLE - ESCUELA - etc. are culture-bound, because they point to very different social uses that different cultures make of them and thereby also to different social functions. These are also expressed in conventionalized behavior preferences and evaluations of this behavior. The same is true of non-verbal acts such as TO GO FOR A WALK - SPAZIERENGEHEN - PROMENER - etc. or of participating in (a certain) SPORT, or even of not fully volitional activities such as TO CRY - WEINEN - PLEURER - etc. The domain social meaning / lexicon is connected to several other domains: for example, meaning differences in the understanding of concrete terms, abstract terms, institutions and actions influence what are preferred topics (cf. 4.4) or the directness/indirectness of utterances 4.2 Speech Acts / Speech Act Sequences
Speaking is an activity by which we can perform activities and manifest certain behavior intentions. Frequently, we cannot unambiguously distinguish between a behavior intention and its realization through verbal and non-verbal expressions even in our mother tongue. In intercultural situations this becomes a very complex problem (Knapp/Knapp-Potthoff 1990). In a monocultural American situation, for example, the addressee can only identify the Why didn’t you come back after Seinfeld last night? as a question or a reproach when all paraverbal and non-verbal signals (cf 4.7, 4.8) have been carefully considered. Only after the correct assignment has been made can the addressee react appropriately by answering the question, defending himself or apologizing. It is even more difficult to understand the behavior of L2 speakers and to make oneself understood by them. The reason for this lies in the different use of the contextualisers marking specific illocutionary acts and indicating behavior intentions. Foreigners notice how direct and ‘impolite’ Germans are when they place their orders in certain situations. In a Restaurant, for example, utterances such as G: Ich krieg erst mal ein Bier, aber’n großes. ‘I’ll start with a beer, but make sure it’s a large one.’ are easily interpreted as demanding statements from a foreigner’s point of view. Promises made in intercultural situations are particularly difficult because the conditions for realizing them differ from culture to culture. If you react to a summarizing question such as G: Also, Sie könnten morgen vorbeikommen und bei der Vorbereitung helfen? ‘So, you could come round tomorrow and give me a hand with the preparations? ‘Yes’ or ‘Yes, I’ll be glad to.’ that kind of response (in German) is considered to be a promise or a commitment, rather than a vague expression of intentions (such as At this moment in time I can imagine that I might come round). In intercultural situations we must further observe that besides their forms of realization, also the frequency and distribution of speech acts and their embedding into preferred sequences are When their Japanese conversation partners accept a compliment, many Germans interpret some of these realizations as apologies (Knapp/Knapp-Potthoff 1990). In such an instance both the perceived apology as well as its appearance in a compliment sequence are perceived as deviations. One variant of a German invitation also causes interpretation problems for some foreigners: Should speech acts such as G: Wir gehen heute abend noch ins Kino, gehst Du mit? ‘We are going to the cinema tonight, are you coming?’ with its surface structure of statement plus appended question be interpreted as a sincere invitation? If so, will the person extending the invitation be pleased by acceptance (and possibly thanks)? Or is this merely a proposal to join a group that has specific plans and real group integration is not part of the offer? 20 On the culture-specific condition that success can be achieved, e.g. I - as a person - am willing and physically etc. able to do X at the specified time (where my conversation partner considers X to be a positive event). This includes culture-bound implications such as If I can’t make it, I will let my ‘partner’ know and provide an acceptable explanation as to why I can’t come, etc. Speech acts such as extending or accepting a personal invitation are also sequences often full of misunderstandings. Frequently, they arise spontaneously and the form in which they are uttered does not provide sufficient information about whether or not they are seriously meant, how serious they are and which reactions/responses are conventionally expected: G: Ich würde mich freuen, wenn Sie mich/uns bald besuchen kommen. ‘I’d be really pleased, if you visited me/us soon.’ It is also not clearly discernible for foreigners how such an invitation is interpreted by Germans and whether acceptance means that they will really plan to visit: G: Ja, danke, gute Idee, wir werden es sicher einrichten können. ‘Thanks. That’s a good idea, I’m sure we’ll be able to arrange it.’ The preferred sequence of certain speech acts points to specific conventions in the discourse (choice of degree of directness/indirectness in conversational style and of register, cf. 4.5, 4.8) and not necessarily to situational, culture-specific or individual behavior orientations such as politeness, aggressiveness or lack of cooperation. 4.3 Organization of Conversation: Conventions of Discourse
The communicative structure of everyday situations and work interactions is language and culture-specific. Discourse parameters - e.g. the structural organization of a meeting or the establishment of individual phases of discussions (such as the introduction of a situation- specific conversation pattern, the length of concluding remarks, and the use of argument/counter-argument) - are all subject to culture-bound conventions. At a micro level, this is clearly reflected in the routines of turn-taking. Turn-taking routines are variously organized. Helmolt (1997), for instance, shows that Germans speak with fewer overlaps than the French, and that long phases of simultaneous speaking/listening are common in monocultural French situations. Therefore, when French people apply their rules of turn-taking and start speaking as soon as they believe they have understood what their (German) conversation partners are trying to say, many Germans will be frustrated and stop in the middle of their turn rather than completing their contribution (‘fading out’). This reaction can be explained by the fact that in German, interruptions are mostly caused by dissent („confrontational interruptions“ Helmolt 1997, 81 ff), whereas French interruptions are more often of an affirmative nature. Even the act of defending (keeping) a turn follows culture-specific rules (see also paraverbal factors, 4.7). 21 According to Gumperz (1992, 44) such situation-specific behavior has underlying activities, i.e. „‘members’. constructs with respect to which the interaction is managed and interpreted.“ A macro sequence such as working one’s way through an agenda also seems to follow culture-specific rules. In dealing with Germans, Spanish managers stress that they are not used to putting points in the agenda to rest once they have been discussed, without being able to go back to them or to (heaven forbid!) question their content anew (Herbrich, personal communication). Business discourse settings do not only involve certain subject matters or business topics; they alternate in a regular pattern with other phases, such as those expressing personal relationships. French participants in an intercultural meeting will tend to start out at an informal, personal level and will joke or make casual comments on the situation, the context or even the topic or problem common to all participants. Many Germans (especially in first encounters) are not able to interpret this behavior appropriately and so consider it to be out of place. G: Das ist jetzt nicht an der Zeit, Witze zu machen! ‘This is not the time to joke around!’ Germans do not reject humor per se with such reactions, but rather its appearance at an unexpected point in the discourse (and they do not realize what relationship-constituting functions they are simultaneously rejecting, see Helmolt 1997, 155ff). The presentation of arguments also follows culturally differentiated rules. The French tend to notice that many Germans attempt to support their statements with detailed background information and facts. From a French point of view, Germans formulate their statements with too much complexity and detail, so that the implications of their statements become clear only at the end of their contribution; all the while, the French will be waiting impatiently for the Germans to get to the heart of the problem. In contrast, German conversation partners are likely to be irritated by the French style of talking, with their references to authority figures, their tangential topics and associations and their plays on words. Finally, also conversation conclusions are difficult in intercultural discourse, especially in telephone calls. Here, non-verbal behavior on either side cannot be mutually adapted or employed as an aid to inference (see non-verbal factors in 4.8). In many cultures it is characteristic of such sequences of discourse that speaking is regular, overlapping and partially phatic. In its course, certain topics are repeated, finalized and embedded in leavetaking ritual moves. From an interactionist point of view it is important to note that most participants are not aware of the effects the differences described in this domain have. In general, the participants do not attribute ‘deviances’ (from their perspective) to different conventions of communication, but to the character of their conversation partner(s) or how they relate to the situational context. This leads us to expect reactions that will be met with the same (lack of) understanding that The underlying rules of discourse organization are closely tied to those of speech act realization (see 4.2). They become apparent especially in phases of meta-communicative negotiation on how to proceed with the conversation. 4.4 Choice of Topic
Different cultures have specific rules for the choice of topics. These have to do with which topics are considered taboo topics (Schröder 1997, 96ff) and at which point others can be chosen in certain situations. In high context cultures (Hall 1976; Ting-Toomey 1988) such as China, Japan or Indonesia, Germans are frequently unsure even about what topic is being Germans are amazed by the way in which some North Americans tend to integrate their own therapy experiences into an informal conversation with apparent ease. Foreign exchange students find that Germans will frequently introduce political topics into situations that are rather private and informal and discuss them fervently with a considerable amount of disagreement. Such behavior seems strange to outsiders, given the perceived relations among the conversation partners. In face-to-face interaction, attention must be paid to proper sequencing of topics (similar to speech act sequencing), thus allowing for thematic continuity; this varies from one speech Certain forms of phatic communication cannot be unambiguously assigned to a topic category. G: Na Karl, simma ma wieda am Rasn am mähen? ‘So Charlie, mowin’ the lawn again, are we?’ The topic of this utterance is not ‘the mowing of a lawn’. Just as, when uttering the everyday question we do not expect a summary of someone’s state of health. Rather, such utterances serve as ‘connectives’, their goal being to reassure oneself and to re-establish an existing social relationship. Theoretically any topic can appear in such connectives. Practically, however, they have been conventionalized and certain topics appear over and over. The choice of topic is also related to culture-specific social meaning (see 4.1). 4.5 Directness / Indirectness
Comparative studies, e.g. between German and Swedish, may reveal that German speakers are direct and Swedish speakers are indirect in expressing their communicative intentions. However, most comparative approaches fail to mention that such statements must be seen in relative terms, because a number of e.g. Asian speakers would describe the Swedes as being very direct. To be more precise, the above statement should be: Compared to many Germans, many Swedish speakers are less direct in expressing their communicative intentions. This does not mean that their intentions are not expressed clearly enough, but simply that they make use of certain conventionalized contextualizers (Gumperz 1992), which speakers from the same culture can as a rule easily interpret as indicators of these intentions. Communication is severely impeded if, as a German, one is used to receiving more explicit contextual clues, or if, as any non-native speaker of Swedish, one is not able to fully and correctly interpret these Many foreign businessmen find the German way of expressing rejection/disagreement explicitly very unusual. French businessmen, for example, criticize Germans for not making enough of an effort to phrase disagreements in a form more acceptable to the French, e.g. by making use of modals or subjunctive phrases and particles. Kotthoff (1989) analyzes a widespread and accepted strategy of expressing disagreement in Germany, which is to literally repeat something the previous speaker has said, but adding a negation. In intercultural situations such ‘oppositional formats’ are interpreted as very confrontational and as threatening loss of face. For example, G: Herr X kann (eben) nicht nochmal nach Süddeutschland fahren und den Kunden besuchen. ‘Mr X cannot just go to Southern Germany again to visit the client.’ Participants from cultures preferring more indirect means of expressing their intention normally react to such ‘provokingly expressed viewpoints’ by temporarily or even completely retreating from the situation. French negotiation parties state that German representatives make very direct statements. For example, G: Bei einem solchen Preis brauchen wir gar nicht mehr weiterzudiskutieren. ‘If that’s the price then there’s no point in discussing matters further.’ or G: Das is völlig unakzeptabel. ‘That is completely out of the question’. In French negotiations, categorical statements such as these would seriously rupture the relationship. Besides, it is considered impolite to openly reject the continued attempt to reach an agreement in the course of the discussion. Directness and indirectness are also related to quantity: minutely detailed agreements have a form of explicitness that some cultures consider excessive and sometimes even insulting. The French notice, for example, how very precise work instructions are within German companies. To them this form of instruction implicitly questions their professional competence. Speakers from language communities that express their intentions directly will feel a need to find out more about the metacommunicative intention, cause and form of any utterance they perceive as vague because it was indirectly embedded into the context. They will also attempt to establish mutually acceptable rules of communication. In principle, such meta- communicative activities can be used to clarify the conventions and problems of communication. However, experience has shown that precisely in cultures applying indirect modes of communication in order to achieve discourse harmony, a shift to meta levels is considered to be potentially face-threatening and therefore taboo. The response to a German G: Am besten, wir sagen uns alles direkt, dann wissen wir beide, wo die Probleme liegen und wo wir dran sind!? ‘Let’s both be completely honest. Then we’ll know immediately where the problems are and what to expect!?’ Foreigner: Ja, vielleicht wäre das gut! This would, however, have to be read as a contextualized rejection of the suggestion. Examples such as these show that also metacommunicative suggestions for clarifying communication problems, which e.g. Germans like to employ, are part of the problem of In both linguistic and non-linguistic communication, the domain directness / indirectness is a very broad one. Apart from the mentioned linguistic categories, it also affects especially acts of reference (4.1), choice of topic (4.4) or non-verbal expression (4.8). 4.6 Register
Register is probably the most complicated category of interaction in intercultural situations. ‘Register’ denotes ‘functional varieties of speech’ (Scherfer 1977), i.e. alternative formulations that interactors use depending on − the situation (from very ritualized to informal); − the status of the person being addressed; − the age of those present; − their rank; − their gender; and finally, − the level of speech (formal - informal) chosen by the co-participants. In general, all participants will attempt to take these six features of register into account and formulate their utterances appropriately. The choice of register constitutes the situation (From my point of view, how informal/formal do I conceive the situation to be?) and defines/confirms the relationships (How status/person related do I construct the situation? What relationships between persons/roles do I assume or (do I) plan?) (Hog 1981). Not only is the realization of registers problematic, but also their interactive determination, which is in all situations - except strongly ritualized ones - the mutual responsibility of all co- participants: How are small talk sequences marked linguistically? When and how can deformalization take place, i.e. moving from a socially defined and ritualized situational frame to one that is primarily constituted by individuals? How can/should one move on to business matters and which register is suitable for that, etc.? The use of situation-constituting registers is particularly important in first encounters. They either take into account existing relations of status and power or are used to lay a claim to these. If a foreigner enters the office of a German manager to keep an appointment and says the German manager might simultaneously say G: Ich begrüße Sie Herr Leblanc. (‘Good day Mr LeBlanc’), thereby using a different register with its corresponding interactive potential. As a rule such a - sometimes only slightly - differing use of register points to a different assessment of the situation/relationship. 22 In this sense ‘register’ is the category by which situations are constituted, i.e. in an interactionistic sense language is here not a derivative of predefined situations, but rather serves to ‘communicatively’ create situations as perceived reality. Germans are often surprised when an employee of a French firm is referred to as F: Et ça c’est Moinier, il travaille déjà depuis 5 ans chez nous. ‘And this is Moinier, who’s been working for us for five years.’ Such forms of address without Mr./Ms/Mrs. in German, express a colloquial register not suitable to the professional context. In French companies, however, such forms are commonly used for reference and sometimes as a form of address. From a French perspective, Germans seem to make too much of a difference between professional and private communication. French people tell us that professional communication is very formal in Germany and that it hardly changes, even when one gets to know one another at a more personal level. For example, during an evening of bowling the French and the Germans had chatted at a very informal level. Back in the office the following morning, however, the Germans returned to a very distanced and objective style of talking, which irritated the French. Because of the distance created by this choice of register, some of the French participants even asked themselves whether they had over-interpreted the personal relationship formed during the previous evening. It is especially difficult for Germans when they have to decide which form of ‘you’ they should use in intercultural situations: the familiar ‘Du’ or the polite ‘Sie’. While some have no problem adapting to the practice used abroad of addressing colleagues with the familiar ‘you’ plus first name, problems arise as soon as German colleagues or superiors arrive who at home are addressed with the polite ‘Sie’ (which one cannot hide from the French?? colleagues). Questions arising in this context are: Which rules of register and therefore which relation definition should be applied? And, what consequences might the choice have In terms of the consequences it has on the realization of speech intentions, choice of register affects all other domains mentioned in 4.1 through 4.10. 4.7 Paraverbal Factors
Languages are clearly distinctive in the rhythm their speakers use, the volume, word and sentence stress, speech rate, intonation or division (number and length of pauses). German and French speakers prefer different rules for the regulation of turn-taking in group-meetings (team discussions): Germans will continue speaking with a loud volume to keep and defend their ‘turn’ (Helmolt 1997, 82ff), 23 A similar situation is described and analyzed in Speicher 1985:94 ff. while the French increase their speech rates to signal that they want to continue. In German discussions long pauses have negative connotations: they point to insecurity (the speaker/listener needs time to think). Longer pauses occurring in a conversation are normally considered so embarrassing that German speakers will attempt to reactivate the discussion under all circumstances. Germans notice that both French women and men make use of their full pitch range in confrontational phases of conversation (at the end of an utterance sometimes even reaching falsetto). To Germans, this seems affected and occasionally out of place. For example: F: Quoi, il n’y en a plus!? (‘What? There’s none left?!’) It is not only Germans who feel Spanish people speak louder than they themselves do. This can be interpreted negatively (they want to move into the center of discussion, dominate) or positively (they appear self-confident). Such paraverbal factors of interaction have rightfully moved into the range of interest of linguistic investigations of conversation (Selting, 1987, 1992) in recent years. Their influence on the course of interaction is manifold and certainly remains underestimated to date. 4.8 Non-verbal Means of Expression
Possibly even more important than messages conveyed by words are non-verbal messages imparted by facial expressions, gestures, degree of proximity, or eye-contact. A general rule of communication seems to be that non-verbal forms of expression are taken more seriously than verbal ones. However, since the actual form of expression of non-verbal messages differs from one culture to another, we should point out the danger of misinterpretations. Manifold non-verbal means of expression are used in intercultural situations (just as they are in monocultural ones) to add the actually intended meaning to the verbal expression, sometimes with substantial modification. Yet, the non-verbal elements of an utterance are „generally not viewed as mere by-products of the spoken dialog ., but as elements of communication which are closely related to verbal ones and together create the complete event dialog.“(Weinrich 1992, 95) We might describe the role of non-verbal elements of communication as functionally equal, yet with a different distribution in concrete situations of interaction. Their use and interaction 24 This fact and the experience that non-verbal activities are noticed more than verbal ones in intercultural situations stand in contrast to the lack of empirical research of the non-verbal components of intercultural situations. can vary quite drastically in an actual communication event. Argumentation in political debates, for example, „is not just about information, but to the same extent (at least) about the recipient’s imagination“ (Weinrich 1992, 99). Weinrich reminds us here that co-participants are heavily influenced by visual perception. This can only happen via conventionalized signals, and differences are evident in all intercultural situations. The French perceive the slow and slight gestures of German speakers as boring and expressionless. To them this type of gesture signals lack of personal commitment and persuasiveness. Non-verbal ‘pointers’ (Poyatos 1983) frequently lead to misunderstandings in intercultural situations because they are very different but at the same time have a guiding role within an interaction: In Germany it is customary to point to objects/ persons with your arm or index finger, while people in other cultures will move their chin forward, ‘roll’ their eyes, or move their heads to indicate the equivalent (see also Apeltauer 1997, 32-33). Another domain neglected also in training programs is that of degree of proximity, i.e. the physical distance considered ‘normal’ between two human beings and the spatial arrangement of objects in general (Kartari 1997, 133ff). How sensitively we react to an invasion of our imagined personal space and how differently it is defined, from culture to culture, can be seen not only in monocultural (German) experiments, where for example, someone takes a seat ‘too close’ to an uninitiated individual or moves closer to someone while speaking than that co-participant is used to. Culturally different communicative conventions have more effect in this domain than in any other. At the same time, however, we are less aware of them. People more readily look for psychological explanations when their sense of appropriate proximity has been violated than they do in more conscious categories of interaction. In addition, they easily misinterpret the complex network of conventions underlying intentional and Take a course room in Indonesia that is only gradually filling up. Someone sitting down next to or very close to one of the few people already present will from a German perspective regularly be interpreted as presumptive. Germans will never see this as neutral, culturally conventionalized ‘normal’ 25 Kalverkämper describes this relationship as „functional community“ and states more precisely: „Non-verbal communication contains signs with both expression and content <lexicon>, it has sequences and continuities <syntax> as well as rules of use <grammar>. It has integral coherence and encompassing reference <text> and abides by specific rules of usage and interpretation founded in the socio-cultural context, the community’s code of behavior, and in the ethnic environment (<culture>, <intercultural contrast>).“ (1995, 133). behavior, and hardly interpret it as a positive and polite attempt at establishing closeness. At receptions in Italy some Germans feel that they are constantly ‘in reverse’, i.e. backing away from their (Italian) conversation partners. Naturally, the Italians frequently react by moving closer again to reach the proximity normal for them. The variety of non-verbal activities presented in so-called intercultural training courses, however, are frequently related to (situation-specific) rules of etiquette. Axtell (1985) and Wahrlich (1991) provide a compilation of these. Yet, from an interactionist perspective it must be noted that non-verbal behavior is quickly adjusted to the (supposed) conventions of the foreign culture or the given cultural context. In turn, new uncertainties as to how one should behave are created by this mutual adjustment. The choice and variation of non-verbal behavior are closely related to all of the categories 4.9 Culture-specific Values / Attitudes
Of course the question as to whether the interpreted behavior of co-participants is based on their culture-specific value systems (and not on the use of different communication conventions) also has its place in the framework for analyzing intercultural situations. In the past fifteen years Hofstede’s comparative studies have dominated the discussion and practice of value-oriented training. In two extensive research projects (extended version published in 1991) Hofstede identified five central dimensions, each with a scale according to which he determines culture-specific and behavior-guiding values worldwide: − Individualism vs. Collectivism (Scale re: extent to which individually or collectively determined values influence argumentation) − strong vs. weak Power Distance (Scale re: whether a rigid distribution of power is accepted as natural or rather as a consequence of differing competences) − strong vs. weak Uncertainty Avoidance (Scale re: degree to which people feel threatened in ambiguous and unstructured situations) 26 With regard to handshaking conventions, Mosbach, for example, points to adaptations Japanese make abroad: „In Japan itself very little handshaking is in evidence. However, Japanese meeting other Japanese overseas sometimes shake hands and sometimes bow - which can lead to confusion.“ (1988, 192). − Masculinity vs. femininity (Scale re: extent to which the dominating values of a society promote individual achievements and success vs. the strengthening of the community’s well being and quality of life) − long vs. short term Orientation [Confucian Dynamics] (Scale re: Is the society dominated by values such as persistence, status-oriented relations, thrift and prudery or rather by values such as personal stability, saving face, tradition, and a reciprocity of give and take?) According to Hofstede, the dominating attitudes/value systems of people from different nations can be identified with the help of these five scales. However, the patterns of behavior attributed to the individual dimensions remain very general. Consequently, in a concrete interaction situation even knowledge about a society’s concrete position (on the scales) does not enable one to make useful hypotheses about behavior-guiding preferences of that society’s citizens. It also remains unclear whether or not and how the attitudes identified via questionnaires are significant in intercultural situations. An alternative to Hofstede’s dimensions is the concept of ‘culture standards’ developed by A. Thomas over the past few years (1991, 1996). The standards include all varieties of perceiving, thinking, valuing, and behaving . that the majority of a specific culture’s members consider normal, a matter of course, typical and obligatory for themselves and others. On the basis of these culture standards people assess and adjust their own behavior and that of foreigners. (1996, 112). Such standards serve to explain culture-bound behavior. In a new definition of the term, Thomas includes the fact that in concrete behavioral contexts such value orientations are adjusted interactively. Accordingly, their function is restricted as follows: „In such [intercultural] contact situations the participants do not only perform and confront each other with actions bound to culture standards; rather - in an interactive process - they create, test and agree on the definition of new forms of culture (cultural events of meeting, problem solving, cooperation).“ (Thomas/Schenk 1996, 25) Such an approach to the analysis of value orientations in intercultural behavior can (even under training conditions) take into account the fact that, at a closer glance, ‘German’ culture standards such as abiding by regulations, directness/truthfulness, or bureaucratic structures of order are primarily „German culture standards in the domain of [non-German] managers“ (Thomas/Schenk 1996, 95ff; in their study the non-German managers are Chinese). It may be that German-Chinese constellations, for example, regularly lead German co-participants to stress culture standards such as directness/truthfulness (see 4.5), because they interpret the contextualized Chinese conversation style as vague. They thereby make a culture standard relevant to the interaction that may be latent, but that does not have the same status and expressional force in German-German interaction. Rather, it must be seen as a re-action to behavior caused by the intercultural situation involving Chinese people. In other intercultural constellations, e.g. with Finnish individuals or North Americans, other ‘German’ culture standards may prove to be relevant to the interaction because they are created by the situation. Culture specific values and attitudes affect all of the categories treated in 4.1 - 4.8. 4.10 Culture-specific Behavior (including Rituals) and Behavior Sequences
One form of understanding that which is foreign in every-day life is based upon isolating individual perceived actions or situations and evaluating them in a context-neutral way. Surveys and interviews have revealed a number of repeatedly mentioned types of behavior (see below) that are used as situational evidence for fundamental value orientations / culture standards. Germans are regularly confronted with such individual observations in intercultural situations, which is why these should be included in training programs. Trainees should be warned, however, against drawing any causal conclusions from such a selection of ‘typically German’ (from a foreigner’s point of view) behavior or behavior omissions. Too many people tend to employ a strategy of processing foreign experiences by reducing them to single aspects or isolated actions and then making a causal connection between them and generalized value orientations that are sometimes garnished with historical It is obvious that the Germans bow to authority, because - even as pedestrians - they stop when the light is red. Just like the Prussian ‘Strammstehen’ (Attention!). The following table presents instances of behavior that foreigners notice in Germany, listed without any hypotheses about why they are noticed. In interviews and international training 27 In his research ‘Germany’ was used to refer to pre-reunified Germany. courses these instances of behavior were described by foreigners with surprise, amusement, 28 For a systematic presentation see Ludwig-Uhland-Institut 1986, Helmolt/Müller 1991 or Schenk/Thomas 1996. Identified as ‘German’ because of what is Identified as ‘German’ because of what is not • uttering loud ‘Germanic guttural sighs’ • not singing together during a social night after a big swig of beer (expected behavior: and community by singing; e.g. expressing the solemnity of farewells at international loud blowing of nose (expected behavior: paying attention to rules of hygiene), etc. Eating habits & public behavior • when abroad, not letting other Germans • eating ‘on the street’ and at all times (expected behavior: to do this in designated • publicly ‘raising’ the amount to be paid • not starting up a conversation with people in close proximity (expected behavior: on behavior: dealing with financial matters public places like a bus, train or street café such as the size of a tip discretely), etc. casually chat with those around you and let explicitly (expected behavior: expressing • knocking on the table on arrival in a pub (expected behavior: greeting those already • not working publicly at certain times, e.g. present individually) • congratulating children on their birthday by (expected behavior: letting everybody do as expressing affection, e.g. with a kiss on the interpreting prohibitions more flexibly) To a certain extent these types of behavior and expected behavior form a separate category. Though they could be assigned to individual categories in 4.1 - 4.8, they seem to have attained a special status because - from a foreign perspective - they are considered to be prototypical German activities. Because they are consciously perceived behavior they are part of the cultural everyday knowledge foreigners have about Germans/Germany. As such, they serve as a basis for everyday discourse, e.g. in ‘first-contact’ situations with Germans. Finally, I would like to point out that observers from other cultures might easily view such individual activities - those listed above or in 4.1 - 4.8 - as an expression of generally accepted psychological attributions, i.e. as stereotypical. These feature attributions are verbalized differently - depending on the other cultural backgrounds - in the form of a judgment (Quasthoff 1978). In intercultural training programs they must be reconstructed as a side- effect of direct experiences of the foreign. 5 Conducting and Evaluating the Training Procedures
The LAC module outlined here is suitable for use in several training approaches and can have − It can be integrated into one of the various critical incident approaches; there, it can serve as a communication-oriented complement to the psychological reconstruction of isomorphic attributions in the phase in which alternative solutions to overlaps in critical incidents are discussed. − As a supplement in culture awareness training it can provide trainees with information about which important categories of intercultural communicative behavior may cause misunderstandings (these would otherwise be generally identified as ‘culturally’ generated). − When preparing for bicultural team-building it can serve as a foundation for necessary metacommunicative discussion of encountered communication problems. In all implementation possibilities the categories provided in 4.1 - 4.10 are worked out step- by-step. To do this we would normally provide a framework listing the criteria for analysis without explanations or examples. Using this framework, trainers will work on individual criteria in any order using selected case studies to illustrate them. In the subsequent discussion these criteria will be further specified, compared to the trainees’ own experiences and expanded accordingly. This can be done in open, i.e. interactive modes of teaching, group 5.1 Step 1: Introducing the Desired Attribution Procedures
When first introducing LAC training procedures trainers should: − indicate the goals of the training module (see above); − explain that the LAC approach complements psychologically oriented training modules (e.g. working out core culture standards); − present a selected case-study (see example below) which allows multiple − develop different and alternative linguistic explanations using a case study, and at the same time pointing out any tendencies to rashly attribute the observed differences to different attitudes on the part of individuals or to whole nations’ mentalities. Coming up with alternative explanations can be considered the first phase of a deliberate metalinguistic reflection on intercultural situations. The trainees’ own experiences should generally be included in the meta-communicative attempts to describe and analyze intercultural situations. All activities can be carried out in plenary sessions or in group work. 5.2 Step 2: Determining the Individual Categories using Critical Incidents
In this phase the categories listed in section 4 are to be introduced with examples of critical incidents. These should be carefully selected from different constellations of (fictitious) intercultural situations. Trainers should emphasize that the examples used are based on a contrastive approach (see 3.2) and that no attempt is being made to reach conclusions about the typical communicative behavior of members from either culture29. This information should serve to avoid two typical objections raised by trainees, namely that 1. they do not know anything about one of the cultures and are therefore not able to 2. they know the culture very well, but have never encountered the respective behavior In this phase of training we are not concerned with how authentic or typical certain forms of behavior are. Rather, we are aiming at systematically working out linguistic categories that represent a carefully selected choice of factors which threaten intercultural situations. The trainees are told to memorize the ‘checklist’ and to apply it to further case studies (see 5.3 below). This list will enable them to systematically analyze intercultural situations in search of possible linguistic reasons for misunderstandings. At the same time they will acquire the necessary basis for generally talking about intercultural situations in the future. Experience has shown that this last function of the framework must be repeatedly emphasized during the In the final phase of Step 2, one should discuss whether certain ways of behaving that are described as critical should possibly be considered a common product of the situation itself, 29 Knapp-Potthoff also warns us about making rigid behavior and communication attributions (1997, 189). 30 Most trainees are not aware of the fact that their SL competence does not normally include the ability to describe linguistic inter-action. Although SL teaching conveys metalinguistic terms, these are used for describing linguistic systems and not linguistic behavior. i.e. seen as inter-cultural behavior, rather than being considered typical of one culture or the other. This should help trainees to systematically move beyond comparative observations and develop the awareness that certain types of behavior are reactions to the effects that the (foreign) behavior of a co-participant might have. 5.3 Step 3: Evaluation
The goals of training lie in mastering the method of analysis (and not in the ability to reproduce knowledge about typical behavior of representatives of foreign cultures). In keeping with these goals, certain forms of evaluation need to be given special attention. In the evaluation phase, prepared critical interaction situations - supplemented by others reported by trainees during the course of the seminar - will be introduced and systematically interpreted according to the framework (see below). This means that forms of behavior illustrated in the case studies are to be identified as problems of proximity, of different speech act realizations, of pause structure, or as problems of interpreting non-verbal signals. The generated hypotheses about possible reasons for communication problems are deliberately not put into a hierarchical order with regard to plausibility or frequency of occurrence in this first The reason for collecting all possible cause attributions as explanations is to deliberately simulate a tolerance of ambiguity. Contrasting hypotheses are considered equally possible until one or the other receives more credibility from additional information. Only subsequent to this does the plenary discussion deal with the question of the plausibility of individual explanatory hypotheses. In the course of this discussion, trainers might show that the LAC approach is also suitable for reconstructing authentic interaction situations - which participants may have been involved in a while back and which only seemed on the surface to In various training situations, I have provided the following case study to be analysed according to the framework introduced above. 31 From a gestalt-theoretic point of view, conflict situations cannot be solved completely until adequate explanations have been provided. This is why they are remembered for a longer time (Thomas 1996, 316) and are therefore more accessible to a conscious reconstruction than ‘successful’ everyday interactions. Dr. Greiner has been transferred to Seoul (Korea) to become department head in a German company’s branch office there and has called a first team meeting. To gain a general orientation, he has noted down a number of questions to gather important information. However, he soon realizes that the answers of his future colleagues are very vague, and become more and more vague and even evasive the more precisely he phrases his questions. To ensure that they understand his English, he even repeats his questions whenever the answers are provided reluctantly and attempts to make eye contact with the evasive Koreans. After the meeting he does not know a lot more than he did before and is quite irritated. He resolves to phrase his questions even more precisely at the next meeting. Trainees provided the following possible explanations, in accordance with the above instructions not to attempt to find a ‘correct’ solution but rather to generate numerous contrasting hypotheses: − the Korean colleagues gave contextualized answers to the questions. It is possible that Dr. Greiner cannot but interpret the statements as vague even though - according to Korean conventions - they are quite clear. Therefore, he cannot understand why he was not provided with concrete information (category: directness/indirectness). − Dr. Greiner might have posed questions which called for a decision. These are frequently avoided in high-context cultures because the answers might require a face-threatening commitment (category: speech acts). − Dr. Greiner was not introduced according to Korean conventions - an important prerequisite for communication in first-contact situations (category: culture specific attitudes; culture standards). − Dr. Greiner wrongly interpreted his colleagues’ lowered eyes as a sign of embarrassment or ignorance and not as being a gesture of politeness towards their superior (category: non-verbal communication). From an interactionist point of view, which includes the effects of foreign behavior in the given situation, further hypotheses were developed. According to these hypotheses, communication was not successful because − Dr. Greiner’s reaction to his interpretation of the Korean answers was to ask even more concrete decision questions that were unsuitable for the situation. Thereby, he might have provoked his colleagues to give even ‘vaguer’ answers and ‘avoid eye contact’ more strongly (interactively caused misunderstanding, category: speech acts). − Dr. Greiner reacted to the other conventions of eye contact by trying even harder to obtain it. Thereby, he might have provoked an even intenser avoidance of eye contact (interactively caused misunderstanding, category: non-verbal communication). − Dr. Greiner caused further insecurity in the response behavior of his co- participants by repeating questions that had been understood and even answered already (interactively caused misunderstanding, category: discourse organization/ conventions of discourse). This list illustrates how important it is to come up with multiple explanations for reconstructed critical incidents (regardless of whether they are personal experiences or documented in the literature). All the explanatory hypotheses have the potential of being accurate, for the given case study as well as for comparable German-Korean interactions. Also a combination of several of the assumptions is possible. The subsequent phase of considering the plausibility of alternative explanations is relatively short compared to that of working them out. The trainees should have these (and more) hypotheses - rather than solutions - available for any future authentic situations they might be involved in. It is important in the final discussion of German-Korean interaction or other intercultural interactions with Asian co-participants, in which personal experiences can also be drawn upon, to avoid any generalizing statements about ‘the Koreans’ (as indicated above, they are merely representative of a contrast culture here). Even if trainees ask for ‘correct solutions’, it should be made clear to them that it is more advantageous for their strategic communicative competence in intercultural situations to work with several explanatory hypotheses for the misunderstandings, since the plausible explanations will become apparent in the further course of the interaction. Finally, I would like to point out again that LAC training relates to a specific explanatory segment of intercultural communication problems and that other - especially psychological - tools can and must be used to supplement it. The question as to how to supplement it should also be raised in the plenary discussion, e.g. by asking participants how the LAC training module can be combined with other intercultural training approaches, especially with ones 6 LAC between Foreign Language Teaching and Intercultural
In conclusion, this programmatic headline is meant to clarify the current position of LAC training. I believe that reconstructing intercultural situations according to the framework presented above (as applied linguistic discourse analysis, Kotthoff 1994) has the pedagogic function of making trainees aware of how rule-governed everyday interaction is. In this sense, there are similarities between LAC and attempts to analyze authentic interactions via video as is done in university education to gain insights into the general mechanisms of intercultural The analysis of naturally occurring video sequences and the simulation or re-creation of interviews by participants provide real evidence of how decisions are constructed from interaction. They provide opportunities to shake participants out of their taken for granted ways of doing things and provide them with a set of analytic tools for monitoring their own behavior. This kind of awareness training can and should persuade professionals that there is a cultural and linguistic dimension to discrimination which they cannot ignore. (Gumperz/Roberts 1991, 79) In this position, LAC-training is an ideal link between behavior-oriented foreign language teaching (not only in elementary and secondary schools, but especially in universities and institutes of continuing education) and intercultural training oriented towards culture standards and regional studies. The training module can have such a bridging function only because it picks up on the trainees’ deficits in foreign language learning and systematically makes them aware of questions that are central to modern training programs (especially interactionistic ones). This is why LAC training is also suitable for courses and events designed for trainees that have had no prior experience of intercultural training. Previous experience has shown that many trainees feel that with LAC they are being met at that point of interaction-related reflection that they had reached in the course of their own education or 7 Bibliography
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Göttingen/Stuttgart: Verlag für Angewandte Psychologie 1994, 221-227 Prof. Dr. Bernd Müller-Jacquier Universität Bayreuth Interkulturelle Germanistik 95440 BAYREUTH Tel 0921 – 55-3639 (Sekr: -3617) Fax 0921 – 55-3620 Informations on Intercultural German Studies: Informations on our Intercultural Training Films: Informationen über die von uns initiierten Trainingsfilme
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Müller-Jacquier, Bernd (2000). Linguistic Awareness of Cultures. Grundlagen eines Trainingsmoduls. In: Bolten, Jürgen (ed.). Studien zur internationalen Unternehmens-kommunikation. Leipzig: Popp, 20-49. Müller-Jacquier, Bernd & Whitener, Ellen M. (2001). Effective Global Leadership The
Role of Linguistic Analysis of Intercultural Communications. In: Kuhlmann, Torsten;
Mendenhall, Mark; Stahl, Gunter L. (eds). Developing Global Business Leaders:
Policies, Processes, and Innovations
. Westport, CT: Quorum Books, 225-241


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