Intercultural Communication in Business Contexts

Term Paper, 2008

29 Pages, Grade: 1,3



1. Preface

2. Why should you participate in this course?

3. General information about the seminar

4. Overview of the content of the seminar
4.1 Difference between informal talk and negotiations
4.2 Institutional Dialogue
4.3 Telephone conversations
4.4 Repair and complaints in Business Interaction
4.5 Sensitisation for occurring problems
4.5.1 Puns
4.5.2 Pragmatic transfer
4.5.3 Silence
4.5.4 Usage of words: “warum” and “wieso”
4.5.5 Laughter
4.5.6 The meaning of nonverbal communication: gestures
4.6 Practices of “membership categorization”
4.7 Psychological perspective: Transactional analysis
4.8 Turn- construction methods
4.9 “Weird” effects: coherent- creating groups & sense of being stared at
4.10 Useful advice: how to create better international brand names
4.11 How to detect liars- is this really possible?

5. Discussion

6. Preview

7. Sources

1. Preface

A lot of people think that communication isn’t more than decoding a message that an information source transmits through a channel to you-you in this case are the destination where the message arrives (see Chandler (2000) p.1). The chosen words, the accentuation and the circumstances of the talk (e.g. on the phone, private or institutional dialogue) sometimes show how something is meant by the speaker but this aren’t the only important cues during a communication process. You should also take care of the nonverbal cues everyone sends to a receiver of a message like gestures (Archer (1991)) and the culture of the specific information source.

2. Why should you participate in this course?

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The world needs marketing experts who recognize that the rising complexities of communication across geographic or more precisely said cultural borders are more important than they have ever been. You have to notice that cross cultural communication is different than “normal” interaction, because there are lot of things that can go wrong. Reasons for that are for example different cultural assumptions, different ways of structuring information or arguments or different ways of speaking (see Gumperz (1981), p.5). The seminar “Intercultural Communication in Business Context” prepares you to understand, describe, analyse and facilitate all kinds of communication in local and especially global business contexts. After visiting this seminar you will be able to understand the source of misunderstandings e.g. conflicts because of different cultural norms and values (see Blommaert (1998)) and you will be hopefully prepared to solve and prevent major problems arising in cross cultural communication. In short: We will try to instruct your intercultural awareness (see Blommaert (1998)).

3. General information about the seminar

This seminar in “Intercultural Communication in Business Contexts” is especially designed for the marketing experts of Ford in Cologne, but other interested individuals are more than welcome to participate in this weeklong seminar as well. Please take in mind that a registration is mandatory because there will be a maximum number of participants of 15 per seminar. We try to keep the courses as small as possible because we will analyse telephone conversations, videotaped materials and we will try to motivate you to an active participation.

4. Overview of the content of the seminar

At the beginning of the seminar, in the first “module” (4.1, 4.2, 4.3), you will learn a lot about how to structure a conversational analysis. You will get the theoretical background and we will give you written or oral examples to practice your knowledge. In the next “module” (4.4, 4.5) you will learn how to solve occurring problems and you will get more information about the problem- sources (e.g. laughter, silence or puns). In the third module (4.6, 4.7, 4.8, 4.9) you will get some information about more deep going issues like membership categorization, transactional analysis, turn construction methods and “weird” effects. The last module will first give you some advices how to create better international brand names, which is more related to your working field as a marketing expert (4.10), and then it will show you in a further deep- going analysis how to detect liars (4.11). The seminar will end with a discussion about one of the major issues: culture.

4.1 Difference between informal talk and negotiations

In the first part of this module you will learn something about the behaviour of people from different countries in specific interaction situation. We will discuss a study done by Professor Lars Fant of the Stockholm University, in which he compares the behaviour of Swedes and Spaniards during negotiations and during informal talk.

Prof. Fant uses five conversational dimensions to distinguish the typical Spanish from the Swedish behaviour (see Fant (2006), p.6). The first one, intensity, is measured by the amount of speech. The Swedish show the highest amount of speech during informal talk and the lowest in negotiations. The Spaniards have the same values for informal talk and negotiations. The second dimension, proximity, shows the distance between the participants during a conversation. The comparison shows that Spaniards produce higher proximity regardless of the kind of conversation. The third dimension is competitiveness, which is measured by the overlaps occurring during the conversation. In this dimension Spanish negotiation talk and then their informal talk score the highest. Cooperativeness is the forth dimension and the comparison shows that Swedes are more cooperative than Spaniards. Fant suggests that they have different understandings about cooperativeness. For Spaniards it means to “pass the ball” and for Swedes it is “avoiding creating obstacles”. The last dimension is the self- assertiveness, where initiative taking moves are an indicator. Spaniards are more self- assertive in informal conversation but not as much in negotiations.

To sum up, this first part of the seminar should show the participants the dimensions of conversational analysis proposed by Fant and the different values between informal talk and negotiations.

4.2 Institutional Dialogue

All participants of this course act and participate in institutional contexts in everyday life and move therefore away from sociable to institutional talk. Institutional context in this sense doesn’t mean just a particular physical setting and doesn’t have to be face- to- face interaction. It can be for example a telephone talk at home as well. As you see, it is quiet difficult to say exactly what institutional dialogue is and besides there isn’t a strict boundary between institutional and sociable talk. But you have to keep in mind that in a “sequential analysis” of an interaction (what we did before) you don’t care where the interaction takes place, in contrast to this analysis which focus on “how talk is modified, shaped, influenced or constrained by contextual factors (see Psathas (1999), p.141)”.

To illustrate the difference between institutional and sociable talk we will have a closer look at a paper written by Prof. Paul Drew from the University of York and Prof. Marja- Leena Sorjonen from the University of Helsinki. These Professors assume that speaker’s identities are not given but that they will develop during an interaction1. They proposed five linguistic resources that participants use to find out of which speech community the other participant is a member of (Drew/Sorjonen (1997), p. 97- 106). These five resources are the following:

- Personal reference (e.g. usage of personal pronouns)
- Lexical choice (e.g. select descriptive adequate terms)
- Grammatical construction
- Turn- taking (interactions organized in question- answer sequences) and
- Institutionally specific inferences (understanding of activities that each participant is performing).

In this part of the course we will analyse some extracts of conversations and try to find examples for the above mentioned linguistic resources.

4.3 Telephone conversations

In the next part of the seminar we will listen to business telephone conversations of Finns and Anglo- Americans and try to figure out about the differences in the organization of their discourse. Every analysis will consist of four parts which are called “episodes”: the opening, which consists of the introduction, the greeting and the “how are you”-part, the non-topical episode e.g. jokes, the business episode and the closing (Halmari (1993), p.412). At the end of the analysis of telephone conversations we will have a closer look at turn- taking strategies (interruption behaviour and overlapping speech).

After knowing how to divide a telephone conversation into the above mentioned four episodes, we will have a closer look just at the first episode - the telephone conversation openings. We try to figure out if there are differences between native and non-native speakers. Is there something that is universal or is everything cultural specific (Taleghani- Nikazm (2002), p.1809)? It’s your task to find this out!

You will listen to some telephone conversation openings in Germany, in Iran, in Taiwan and other countries.

4.4 Repair and complaints in Business Interaction

As you can imagine, problems can occur in speaking, hearing and understanding because of cultural or linguistic differences. Now you will ask yourself: How can I deal with this kind of problems?

In the second module we will focus on “self- repair” and “other- correction”, which further can be divided in other- initiated, self-completed (OI, SC repair) and other- initiated, other completed (OI, OC repair), as a possible method to deal with occurring problems (Vöge (2008), p.38). The self- repair usually is done in one turn; the other possible repairs (OI, OC and OI, SC) normally need more than one.

It seems to be understandable that the self-repair is always preferred compared to the other- correction.

We will have a closer look at some conversational extracts to make the difference between these three concepts more visible.

4.5 Sensitisation for occurring problems

In the following part of the seminar I will show some videotaped conversations and show the problems arising from word plays (“puns”),

Intercultural Communication in Business Contexts - Take Home Exam written by 168853 silence or laughter during conversations. They can result in misunderstandings, confusion or membership categorization, which will be explained later in the seminar.

4.5.1 Puns

Do you know what exactly “puns” are?

If not, I will try to explain it for you. First of all a short definition from me: They can be described as word plays or phrases of similar sounding words that deliberately results in confusion or have a rhetorical or humorous effect on the listener.

Prof. Emanuel A. Schegloff notice further that puns are also non habitual usage of things, slightly in error construction and slightly ill- fitted to the context. Besides Schegloff was, next to Gail Jefferson and Harvey Sacks, one of the Sociologists in the late 1960s. During these times sociology often was concerned with the issue “Conversational analysis”, which assumes that talk was primarily social and not so much about the exchange of information. With interactions people want to shape their relationships to each other (see Egbert, scrip 2, p.22- 26).

I want to end this part with a small remark: It seems quiet difficult to explain puns only in words, consequently we will have a closer look at examples like conversations and videotaped material as well to illustrate these during the seminar.


1 The same is said by Vöge: Identity is not something people are but something they do. Identities are negotiated in/ through social interaction (see Voege (2008), p.43)

Excerpt out of 29 pages


Intercultural Communication in Business Contexts
University of Flensburg
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Interkulturelle Kommunikation;, Intercultural;, Communication;, Business;, nonverbal cues;, gestures;, talk;, culture;
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Bachelor of Science Agnes Michniuk (Author), 2008, Intercultural Communication in Business Contexts, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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