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Human Encounters

Introduction to Intercultural Communication

Oyvind Dahl

This book gives a comprehensive introduction to intercultural communication. The reader is introduced to essential concepts in the field, different theories and methods of analysing communication, the importance of verbal and nonverbal languages for bringing about mutual understanding and, finally, the ethical challenges that arise.

The volume also has a practical aspect. The author discusses subjects such as handling encounters with people using foreign languages; incorporating different life styles and world views; the use of interpreters, non-familiar bodylanguage; different understandings of time; relocation in new settings; the use of power and how to deal with cultural conflicts generally.

Published as a general textbook in English for the first time following a very successful original edition in Norwegian, also translated to Russian and French, this richly-illustrated book offers a refreshing and engaging introduction to intercultural understanding

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CHAPTER 3 Communication Is Creating Something Together

Extract

The teacher on the previous page teaches Norwegian to immigrant students. The new concept being introduced is “fly”. When asked if they understand this concept they all answer affirmatively “Yes!” “Yes!” Everyone understands, but the bubbles show that they have understood different things. The English-speaking student identifies the teacher’s words “fly” with the insect in English termed “fly”. The person who speaks Norwegian, Swedish or Danish, understands “airplane”. Others have perceived various flying creatures or objects, while one believes that the movement means “flying”. Everyone has understood something.

Most of us have experienced situations where we have not managed to make ourselves understood. Sometimes we may feel anxious that the other person has not understood us and sometimes even feel that the other person might not want to understand. In such cases the situation may seem desperate.

There are also situations where we more or less consciously express ourselves in a vague and imprecise way to give the other person an opportunity to supplement what we say. It may be grounded in our own feeling of insecurity or it could be that we would like to invite the other person to express his or her opinion, which we in turn may comment on or add to accordingly. Conversation strategies can be quite complex.

The term communication is itself ambiguous. It may mean various things such as roads and railways, radio and television, phones, the internet and face-to-face communication. In this book, we will focus...

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