A Study On Embarrassment English Language Essay

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

In order to understand why confusion might be the result of miscommunication, one needs to have a look at the example of interaction between students from China and the UK mentioned in earlier in grammar sub chapter of this dissertation. [1] This misunderstanding was caused by inadequate language proficiency of the Chinese student who replied the things that contradicts to what he actually meant. It resulted in the fact that the student from the UK was confused by the Chinese student's answers that made him think that the Chinese student was busy. Fortunately, this situation was corrected quickly.


Misunderstanding might also result in the feeling of discomfort. For instance, an American visitor experienced discomfort because he had to apologize for completing the conversation with a Chinese who failed to understand the hint that the American had to leave [2] .

The American visitor: Nice to meet you.

Chinese: Nice to meet you too.

… (After chatting for a while).

The American visitor: Nice meeting you.

(Chinese teacher continued talking, without realizing this as a signal of wanting to close

the conversation).

The American visitor: Sorry, we have to go.

The problem was that the Chinese didn't see the subtle difference between "Nice to meet you too" and "Nice meeting you", the latter of which implied the completion of the conversationalist's interaction and his departure. The American, experiencing discomfort because of the fact that his polite hint that he needed to leave was not comprehended by the Chinese, had to employ another strategy - directness that might seem a little rigid in either culture.


Another fruit of miscommunication is embarrassment. For instance, one misunderstanding had occurred when the girl asked the Japanese for directions to the bath room. The problem arose as the term implies both shower room and toilet in the USA, whereas Japanese consider it only as a shower room without the toilet. Hence, they unfortunately guided her to a room where she could acquire only cleansing, but no relief which reduced her time for satisfying her physical need and made her feel embarrassed [3] . The language proficiency did not suffice to avoid oral miscommunication between the representatives of high context and low context cultures. There was a need to know what each culture implies to each word.


When one could reply to those two misunderstandings with advice for those Chinese to improve their English, however this misunderstanding would be not be solved by language proficiency. A woman from Thailand, when having received a present from an American friend, immediately deposited it in her bag after accepting it. Such behavior was interpreted by her American friend as rude and strange, as in the States it is common, and sometimes even considered common courtesy, to unwrap the present and then express delight and gratitude all in the presence of the giver. Thais, in contrast, "rarely express their actual emotions to others. They keep their feelings inside as they unwrap the gift in privacy". Though this temperament may come across to people of other cultures as the Thais' inability to act straightforward, Varan Pradittatsanee explains that they merely "do not want to make others uncomfortable by expressing their feelings" [4] . The problem was beyond language knowledge that resulted in the false perception of a woman from Thailand as rude and strange by her American friend.

One can review another example when language would be of little service to avoid oral nonverbal miscommunication with the result of misperception. Individuals of Latin American descent will look into the other person's eyes and then immediately allow his or her eyes to wander while speaking. The British may consider this difference in culturally learned eye contact as betraying a lack of confidence, certainty, or truthfulness. However, it is not true. In culture of Latin America direct, prolonged eye contact means that one is challenging the person that one is angry, or that one has a romantic interest in the person. That is why individual of Latin American origin may feel uncomfortable during the interview, as he may interpret the British' direct eye contact as expressing disproval. Even when both the British and Latin Americans speak a common language, let it be English, they undergo false perception that may lead to prejudice and stereotyping.

One needs to take into consideration that one may have false impression when seeing others speaking unfamiliar language thinking that they have a quarrel. One can see it from the example bellow.

"British-Polish joint venture is coming across problems. One of the key members of the Polish sales staff has been sent to London to work with the UK partner company. The London office is very impressed with her performance, and would like her to stay on for another six months. The British manager of the London office asks her to call Warsaw to see what they think. The telephone conversation is in Polish. Although the manager cannot speak Polish, it seems apparent to him that she is having a disagreement with the Warsaw office. When she puts down the phone, he says to her, "Magda, sorry to have got you into this mess- I hope we haven't made you unpopular in Warsaw." She is confused and says, "What are you talking about? Everything is fine - Warsaw has given ok." [5] 


There are circumstances when misunderstanding in oral communication may cause that one might become upset. For instance, simple words often turn out to have unexpected cultural meaning, as the following dialogue noted Britain shows.

British speaker: would you like to come for tea?

Arabic speaker: Yes. What time?

British speaker: come about six o'clock.

(Later Arabic speaker arrives at the British speaker's house)

Arabic speaker: Do sit down. I will serve the food.

British speaker: I have already eaten.

British speaker: but I invited you to eat here!

Arabic speaker: No… I thought you invited me for tea.

British speaker: exactly. [6] 

Arabic speaker was a visitor to Britain. She was only expecting a cup of tea and was puzzled by the offer of food. The British hostess was upset that the Arabic speaker had already eaten since she had, she thought, specifically invited the Arabic speaker for food. The source of misunderstanding is the word "tea" which in Britain, especially among lower social classes, often means an early light meal. Although the Arabic Speaker speaks excellent English and is, in fact, an experienced university English teacher in her own country, she had not realized that a simple word like "tea" can have different cultural meaning.

Even assuming that words and bodily language were perfectly understood, there is more information necessary to successfully communicate across cultures. For example, in some countries it is polite to refuse the first few offers of refreshment: "Many foreign guests have gone hungry because their U.S. host or hostess never presented a third offer." [7] In understanding communication, a listener must pay attention not just to what is said and when, but also to how many times something is said, under what circumstances, and by whom.


It turns out that one can not only get upset but also angry because of misunderstanding in oral communication between the representatives of various cultures even if they employ a common language. In order to understand it better, one can read the example bellow.

A large American corporation employed a Saudi with a good reputation and many recommendations. However, during his first month he managed to lose one of the very important clients. One phone call revealed that he had gone into a meeting room, asking the woman seated at the table to bring him a cup of tea, and then sent her back for some sugar. Naturally, the woman was angry at him for such treatment and being a project manger she made decision to cease cooperation the Saudi representative of the American company. The reason behind it is that there is a stereotype that many Saudis don't deal with women in business rather treat them as servants in the office settings [8] . One can see now that miscommunication may result in undesirable consequences.


Sometimes miscommunication may result in avoidance of some who fails to respect the norms and rules of interaction in the alien culture. In order to better understand it one can find an example bellow demonstrating the result of the intercultural miscommunication.

A medical doctor from Saudi Arabia was completing an internship in a hospital in the southern United States. Problems arose when patients refused to have the Saudi doctor examine them. Interviews with patients revealed two problems: he 'smelled bad' and he breathed on the patients. The doctor's orientation had apparently failed to include the incongruence between Arabic and U.S American perceptions of smell [9] . That miscommunication resulted in avoidance of the other party as he failed to comply with the smell perception standards of that culture where he had his internship. And language proficiency did not help him.


Sometimes miscommunication might lead to arguing. There was a case when one person from the Middle East went to the store with his spouse in the USA. He was talking to his wife in his native language while looking though items on the counter. The Store owner asked him to speak English in his presence. The Arabic person refused to as his conversation with his wife is none of the salesman business. However, the storeowner, considering anyone Arabic speaking a terrorist, decided to expel them from the store. Naturally, the stereotype and prejudice factor played its key role in this situation between them. However, this situation could have deteriorated to something that is described bellow.

Threat to one's health as well as life

The effects of cultural misunderstandings go beyond frustration with failure to convey a thought or irritation with misinterpreted conversation. Misperceptions and cultural misunderstandings contributed to division in violence between Koreans and African Americans in the United States. According to Chris Herlinger, author of the article "Culture Clash," many Afro-Americans in Southern California are "accustomed to intimacy and informality in their personal relationships," while in Korean society, "direct eye contact is considered impolite". This difference caused that these Southern Californian Afro-Americans falsely perceived those Koreans who dominated the convenient store industry as extremely rude, and interpreted the Korean grocers' reserved manner as a "sign of hostility and racial prejudice". Another factor that caused additional between the two groups because in Korean culture, grocers refuse to deviate from their set prices, whereas in the culture of black customers born in the Caribbean, it is the common practice to bargain prices. Consequently, these misunderstandings instigated numerous killings between Korean merchant and Afro-Americans customers in Southern California. In Herlinger's opinion, the mere effects of "culture clash" are Boycotts, riots, and murders. Because Koreans did not know the culture of the U.S.A, clearly their mere ability to speak English did not suffice in possessing adequate English literacy, as miscommunication still exists abundantly between the two races, and the death records surely serve as sufficient proof of this. [10] 

There is another prove when one had better know more than just language itself when dealing with the representatives of other cultures. There is a habit in western culture to sit with their legs crossed. And in the USA, it takes a form that person places his leg in such position showing his sole, which is acceptable in that culture, but it would be insulting in certain Muslim cultures in such countries as India, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia and many others [11] . A foot sole is considered unclean and applying it or pointing it at as someone is demining to such extend that it is worse than 'showing the bird in the west' that might cause even a physical conflict with a fatal outcome as for Muslims dignity is important. There was a case when an American was attacked my Arab for this innocent insult. He had a good luck remaining alive after it.


This thesis has reviewed various aspects of miscommunication in oral intercultural communication and came to the conclusion that intercultural oral communication whether in business or in everyday life cannot be achieved only by means of the language competence. The aim of this term paper which was to prove that there are aspects in oral intercultural communication had been achieved. It doesn't suffice to know the grammar and vocabulary of that language; it turns out that one also needs understand certain aspects of oral communication that might yield undesirable results. They are an indivisible part of culture, and oral intercultural communication requires not only linguistic competence but also communicative competence supported by grounding. There are many speech communities even of one language, not to mention that for certain people that language is the second one, but still they use it through the frame of their own culture that differs from other by mean of employing various communication strategies that reside in their cultures. One also needs to know other aspects of communicative and linguistic competence without which in our era of globalization and international business would be impossible to achieve mutual understanding among the nations. On the contrary, without them there are misunderstanding and even conflicts that breed prejudices and stereotypes. Those obstacles hinder us to achieve a reciprocal agreement in any business. There would be no International business without international communication; and as a result of the activity of conducting business internationally, international businesses have become an important economic force for many countries. That is the reason why this question could not be left without due attention and elaboration.