A major component of a culture is its systems of values, beliefs, and material products. First, culture includes belief systems that involve stories, or myths, the interpretation of which can give people insight into how they should feel, think, and/or behave. The most prominent systems of beliefs tend to be those associated with formal religions; however, any system of belief in which the interpretation of stories affects people's behaviour-a system of superstitions, for example-can contribute to a component of a given society's culture. Second, culture includes value systems. Values are formed based on how we learned to think things ought to be or how people ought to behave, especially in terms of qualities such as honesty, integrity, and openness. Third, culture is also defined by material products such as food, clothing, and music.
Communication is about sending and receiving messages. On a daily basis we communicate with people in every sphere of our lives-at home, at work, and in various manifestations within our community. Our messages are open to interpretation, and often we experience communication challenges. Just when we think we are communicating well, we realize that someone has not understood what we were trying to say. Our culture has a role in presenting us with those challenges: it has helped shape the way in which we approach problems, how we participate in groups, and how we interact with people in our communities. In groups, we often notice how differently people approach their work together2 and what happens, for example, when one person interprets a remark differently than the rest of the people in the group. Words and behaviours denote different things in different cultures, and even within a culture. The following is an examination of the way people communicate-that is, their communication styles. Note that although a culture doesn't use one particular communication style to the exclusion of all others, most cultures tend to use one more than another.
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Students with diverse cultural norms are threatened if teachers have modest knowledge, sensitivity or appreciation of the assortment in communication styles. Such teachers may distinguish differences as problems and react to students’ diversify with negative feelings, low expectations and culturally improper teaching and assessment procedures. Culturally as well as communicatively diverse students, sequentially, may respond with low self concepts with low academic accomplishment to a school climate they distinguish as hostile. The result is seen in these students’ excessive situations in special education, strong placements in talented and gifted programs plus high suspension rates.
Now that your “cultural eye” has been honed, let us look at how culture persuades students’ language skills and their knowledge of standard English. The notion of communicative competence (Hymes, 1962), established on one’s knowledge of the regulations of language formation and language use within a known culture, will be helpful. A major accountability of teachers at each and every grade level is to educate the language and communication skills required for academic success, as well as for career and social mobility. Numerous students come from cultures that use dissimilar, though valid, communication and language methods from what is believed “normal” in the classroom. The learning of sociolinguistics can help us comprehend different systems as a means of enhancing the quality of our teaching in language as well as the communication arts.
Cultural Differences in Discourse
Additionally to differences in pronunciation, vocabulary as well as grammatical structures between cultural groups, variations also present in the rules for general conversation in oral communication, covering such detailed acts as narratives and discussion. In communicating with each other, teachers and students naturally will abide by the assumptions and rules governing discourse inside their respective cultures. Conversation rules govern such features of communication as:
- Beginning or closing conversations;
- Taking turns throughout conversations;
- Using silence as a communicative mechanism;
- Identifying appropriate topics of conversation;
- Interjecting humor at suitable times;
- Using nonverbal behavior;
- Defining laughter as a communicative device;
- Knowing the proper amount of speech to be utilized by participants; and
- Sequencing of elements through discourse.
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With respect to descriptions, Gee (1985) claims that story telling through sharing time in the early school years assists to offer students the foundation for reading plus writing training in grades afterwards. Both he and Michaels (1981) states that schools and teachers choose linear, single topic storytelling, the method that is compatible with strategies come upon in reading and writing actions.
These topic-centered stories are distinguished by tightly structured sentences that replicate on a single or small collection of highly connected topics. The speaker assumes little shared knowledge with viewers. Topic centered stories, consequently, tend to be very explicit and hold great detail, emphasizing more on telling than showing. Topic centered stories are beleived by some to be connected with the field independent cognitive method. Gee and Michaels note additionally that many working class children, chiefly those from oral cultures, tend to choose a topic connecting narrative style. These story tellers believe a shared knowledge with the listeners, do more showing than telling and involve linkages among a wide range of issues which need not be offered in temporal sequence. Topic linking narrative style is thought by a number of to be associated with the field reliant cognitive style.
Examples of Cultural and Communicative Tendencies
Based on a review of literature with anecdotal reports, Taylor (1985) has listed verbal as well as nonverbal communication methods of working class African Americans as they diverge with those of Anglo Americans with middle class persons of other ethnic groups. Comparable comparisons may be made among other cultural groups in the “usual” American classroom. Unfamiliarity of cultural communication differences can direct to misinterpretation, misunderstanding as well as even unintentional insult. For instance, the African American student who demonstrates little reserve in stating his or her point of view may be misperceived as aggressive, or perhaps as dangerous. The student, in the meantime, may see himself or herself as a truthful person eager to share feelings as a essential first step in solving problems.