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What is the relationship between culture and communication?

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Quick Answer

Culture informs communication. It brings understanding to communication through a common background of shared experiences and histories. The people of a unique culture usually share a geographic location as well. This common geography also affects the unity of the group in that they will all share the same experiences of weather and topography. Shared experiences over hundreds or even thousands of years create culture that contributes to understanding and communication.

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Full Answer

Culture often includes a basic set of shared values and beliefs. In her book "Culturally Speaking," Helen Spencer-Oatey explores the interactive aspects of cross-cultural communication. The shared assumptions of a group of people help to interpret the behavior and words of those in and outside the group. When people have experiences in common this contributes to understanding on a deeper level than what can be interpreted by an outsider. Gestures and idiomatic phrases are often misunderstood by those outside the culture. Although people can communicate effectively with other cultures, they must make an effort to understand the culture as well as the language of the people they communicate with. Culture enhances communication, and this is why people usually understand those of similar background best. As the world shrinks, cultural understanding becomes more important. Although English has become a language of interpretation, its use as a bridge cannot replace cultural understanding as a part of true communication.

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  • Q:

    What is the difference between a low-context and high-context culture?

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    The difference between a low-context and a high-context culture lies in the mode of communication that takes place at the individual dialogue level. In low-context cultures, such as those found in the U.S. and in Scandinavia, dialogues and conversations contain self-encapsulated and very direct messages for which no outside references are required for the listener's full comprehension. In a high-context culture, however, conversations are both steeped in and guided by historical references, community relationships and family interactions.

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  • Q:

    What is a low-context culture?

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    A low-context culture is described as open, rule-oriented, individualized, detail-oriented in communication, problem-oriented, proactive and productive. The United States is an example of a primarily low-context culture, though it is important to point out that virtually no nation's culture is exclusively high or low-context. The term low-culture is more aptly applied to a specific environment such as work or school. Even in such environments, it is possible for low-context cultures to exist within high-context cultures and vice versa.

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  • Q:

    How does culture affect our society?

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    Culture, understood as the breadth of human practice, affects our society at nearly every level including politics, sexuality, gender and identity. In short, culture is formed through social practice, and therefore has a nearly totalizing effect upon society.

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  • Q:

    What are the elements of culture?

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    Culture refers to the characteristics that bond a particular group of people, including language, religion, literature, architecture, ethics, music, clothing, cuisine and the arts. Other aspects of a group's culture include the laws it makes; the folklore it creates; the food eaten there; and the customs, traditions and festivities it has.

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