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Meaning is shared among communication partners who encode and decode messages. This process can be complex when communication partners involve struggle to attribute the same meaning. Partners from different cultures can find it very difficult to share meaning and might perceive communication between cultures as a challenge.
If you are South African, you are inevitably exposed to the challenges of intercultural communication. South Africa is a country in which the many cultures within its borders continue to offer a rich field of study for intercultural communication. People of different cultures interact with each other the result has a direct impact on how they live our lives. It is through communication that we can enrich our South African lives. Since 1994 South Africa has increased foreign relations. This offers new opportunities for engagement.
Contact among different national groups often leads to disharmony. Only 10 international and national conflicts form part of the 75 armed conflicts. The rest have formed between ethnic and political groups within a country. Some conflicts come from a legacy of colonialism around the world.
Some conflicts are related to economic differences and colonialism. The influence of technology and media is seen as a good influence by some people and as resistance for others. Studies found that communication for social change created cultural hegemony in secondary effects of use.
Delgado cites the claim of Canadian leaders that a Canadian cultural identity is impossible because of American media being dominant. In Europe he observed that the US influences music, television, film and cars. He saw that locals were amazed and resentful at the same time at the influence of US culture. It is naive to assume that simply understanding different cultures will end war, but these problems do indicate that there is a need for us to learn more about other cultures where we are not a part of.
South Africa’s economy has become more connected with international economies resulting in partnerships such as SADC. According to Carol Hymowitz “If companies are going to sell products and services globally, then they will need a rich mix of employees with varied perspectives and experiences. They will need top executives who understand different countries and cultures”
Business must necessarily pay more attention to diversity issues. Many businesses are trying to gain from on workforce differences. Gaining from workforce diversity includes working with diverse employees and employers, but also finding and developing new products for different cultures. From this perspective a diverse group is a powerful economic too for businesses
Globalisation is the global movement towards economic, financial, trade and communication integration and implies the opening of local and nationalistic perspectives to a broader outlook of an interconnected and interdependent world with free transfer of capital, goods and services across national frontiers.
Globalisation offers opportunities to cheaper products, with higher quality, but also threatens workers that can be replaced with foreign cheap labour.
Many see globalisation as an economic breakthrough while others see is as the biggest wedge between the rich and poor, the encourager of poverty, unemployment and economic imbalance.
South Africa is a sought-after market for new investors, has a great potential for diversification from an investor’s perspective, still houses a cultural gap for foreign countries and vice-a-verse-a.
Cross-cultural trainers offer information and strategies to deal with cultural differences when someone goes to a foreign country. The idea of cross-cultural trainer is grounded in how important and valuable is to understand and respect different cultures when doing business with them, as well as being understanding of their perspectives of the world and South Africa. Countries that do not make use of cross-cultural trainers send unprepared people out into the world that act as communicators of their homeland. Unprepared communicators can create a misperception of their homeland and this can negatively influence future negotiations.
Economic exchanges promote intercultural communications that holds more work, as well as a bigger drive towards international trade.
McLuhan coined the term “Global village”, to describe a world in which communication technology such as TV’s, news services and radio, bring news and information to the most isolated places. Today, people make use of the internet, cell phones, e-mails and many more technological aids to create relationships and to communicate.
Gergen believes that technology encourages an adaptive communication pattern. In the past social relationships were determined by how far someone would have walked to reach the other person, but today with technological advances, relationships are determined through cars, radio, TV and films.
These days anyone can communicate on different internet platforms. with many people simultaneously without any face-to-face contact. With this technological advance people who have less face-to-face contact are at a disadvantage since people can hide behind a cell phone instead of communicating in person.
Access to technological communication can be disrupted through your age, income, geographical location and your race. The dominating language that is used on the internet is English and 90% of the internet consists out of it. English is an obstacle since not everyone can speak is and thus a lot of information can be missed when they use the internet.
There should be strived towards a diversified language use on the internet instead of just English, then everyone can pull equal advantages from it.
Digital divide points towards the division between people with access to the internet and people who don’t have access, although the divide is getting smaller. People that struggle to get access to technology are usually people with lower incomes and a lower education.
Your social environment can also be a motivator, since people are more likely to make use of technology if their friends and family use it. The internet fulfils and important role in today’s society, since it is used for work applications, sales, communication and many more.
The use of the internet stretches worldwide, but a divide in usage can be seen. Continents like Asia are among the top internet users, while Africa has the lowest.
The imbalance in internet access has a great disadvantage in intercultural communications since information the current day king is and not everyone has equal access to it.
Before we speak about South African demographics, one needs to understand what it truly means first. It is the number and characteristics of people who live in an area or form a group. Overtime in our country the demographics have changed immensely from 1995 after the death of apartheid. In the textbook they speak about how SA history was started, whether it was the period of Jan van Riebeeck setting foot in Cape Town (back then Cape of Good Hope); or even further back in the 1400’s when Bartolomeu Dias sailed around the southern tip of Africa. To be quite honest I reckon it goes back to a time where we had settlers already established in our country who they were, was the Khoisan and Bantu speaking people. They lived in peace for the longest time and they weren’t disrupted or cause any trouble amongst one another. Until came the people from Europe came into the country to build settlements for themselves to rest as well as to hunt, which then was the downside to the settled people who were already living there that there was a low productivity of the land. It didn’t stop there in that year as more and more people from Europe came to flood the country as a result the influence radically changed the structure of the country South Africa throughout the next hand or so more years.
Even though when we were young we were taught that the Portuguese had been the first people to sail around the southern tip of Africa however it was the Dutch who first established a permanent stay in the Cape in 1652. Then the section of Chapter 1 speaks on about how the Dutch later developed their own philosophies on the culture especially towards the Khoisan people which resulted in them being the Khoisan working for the Dutch and the British settlers. Then as the years when on, people and cultures changed and were shaped into what we know today brining in many diverse cultures in South Africa. In the 19th century where there was a constant war struggle going on in the country as they were affected, it was time to put a truce or an agreement amongst the various tribes to stop the war but rather help each other instead. Thus, in the 20th century came the political parties like African National Congress (ANC), Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), National Party just to name a few. The section of demographics also reminds us about the Sharpeville massacre which happened back on the 21st March 1960 as protesters who were black, marched to the town of Sharpeville to the police station to stand for their Defiance Campaign which was formed in 1948. So, because of all the historic scenes, the protesters were attacked and as close to 69 odds of them were shot dead.
All in all, our country went through a lot of demographic changes to shape into the proud country we know today as South Africa. Instrumental figures like Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki helped shaped this country from its dark days into a recognized state in their tenure as President.
Ethical judgements focus more on the degree of rightness and wrongness in human behaviour than do cultural values. Some judgements are stated very explicitly, while others are assumed as givens. Ethical principles are often bound by culture and so intercultural conflicts can come from different opinions on what is “right” and what is “wrong”. The relativity of cultural behaviour teaches one that there is no inherent “right” and “wrong” in cultural patterns and to answer the question of universality among these cultures would depend on one’s perspective. Some would like to spot the similarities of ethics in cultures so that universal right and wrongs can be decided on. Some other would argue that the behaviour of a culture can only be judged within that culture and not from the outside so to say (Relativists). Some philosophers agree on ethical values found to be constructive such as tolerance. Learning about intercultural communication can very well lead to the questioning of our core decision frameworks and so can challenge our existing beliefs on the world.
Four skills are important here: Practising self-reflexivity, learning about others, listening to the voice of others, and developing a sense of social justice.
1. Practising self-reflexivity is done by understanding yourself and your position in society, this will teach you about how you react and interact in certain intercultural situations which in turn can rid you of any predispositions you might have not only of others but of yourself too. Understanding in what groups in society you fall under in can help you understand others. Therefore, understanding the structure of the categories that you are inevitably placed in you can seek to perhaps change the ideas on these structures that seem to hold other groups captive for example.
2. Never to lose sight of humanity is an important concept here. Listening carefully as people attempt to convey their experiences and knowledge will help you learn and understand holistically. Interactive dialogue is better than one-way communication because we cannot assume that both parties fully understand what the intent of the other might be until questions are asked etc.
3. The responsibilities that come with intercultural insights and conclusions. First, acknowledging that oppression and groups of “less-importance” exists. Cultural differences are set in hierarchies where some make the rules and others follow them. Following what the effects of things such as stereo-typing and prejudice are will help one consider the structures that dictate the behaviour for cultures.
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