Some days ago I took my third exam since the beginning of my Swedish academic experience. As you probably remember, I’m attending a Master’s Programme in Communication at the University of Gothenburg.
I’m almost sure that many of you after reading the lines above have wondered: Communication… hmm, okay, but what does he actually mean by saying that?
Am I right?
Okay, let’s put it in this way. What do you have in mind when I say the word ‘Communication’? Words – spoken and written -, messages, channels… then? If it’s not enough, let me introduce this definition: communication is the transmission of a certain content from a sender to a receiver using a certain expression and medium within a certain environment and with a certain purpose/function (Allwood). What if I missed some other elements in this definition? When we communicate, we not only exchange messages, rather we kind of shape our conversation and strongly contribute to make it effective and meaningful: we try to interpret and fully understand what our interlocutor is telling us, and the same is for him/her. When we communicate, we share the creation of messages and meanings.
So now, more or less, you have a sort of idea of what communication is. Good. This is the basis, the milestone everyone studying Communication must bear in mind. Of course, there are other fundamental concepts to add to the broad umbrella term that Communication is, but for the moment I’d say that it’s good enough that you know what you’ve read so far.
Now, the second important step to take is knowing about Interpersonal communication, which is one of the main courses of my programme. Interpersonal communication is a form of communication that involves a small number of individuals who are interacting exclusively with one another and who therefore have the ability both to adapt their messages specifically for those others and to obtain immediate interpretations from them. (Lustig & Koester). I guess that it’s pretty clear.
Another big topic of my programme has its foundation in communication, of course, but in that case there’s a new element that we very often hear and, likewise, we may have some doubts when it comes to defining it. I’m talking about culture. So, try to mix culture and communication, and you have the subject I’m referring to.
Intercultural communication. Exactly.
Technically we are animals, aren’t we? However, we have some differences which make… the difference. We live in a nature surrounded by artifacts and traces made by humans, we have some behaviours and thoughts that shape our view of the reality and the world. Artifacts, traces in nature, behaviours and thoughts: similar patterns in all human societies. Here we are: culture. So what is intercultural communication? We may define it as such: communication between people with different cultural background. Sounds easy and not so complicated but… you must remember that when it comes to dealing with intercultural communication, there are four main aspects that are essential: production (bodily communication, vocabulary), understanding/interpretation (important background information), interaction (turn management, feedback, sequences e.g. greetings, forms of address) and context (attitudes and values, history, religion, etc.).
Intercultural communication’s aim is to disclose the differences as well as the similarities among the human beings. We all are part and share the same planet, right? So, we all may contribuite to cooperate and overcome conflicts and misunderstendings. It’s not utopia… it’s a matter of learning how to be interculturally competent.
Okay okay, class for today is over! Jokes apart, if you are interested in pursuing your studies in the field of communication and you’re especially considering to become a student at Gothenburg University, well, now you have an idea of the main subjects you’ll face. I didn’t mention other courses, likewise important; but no worries, I’m not going to put an end to the idea of sharing my academic experience.
Featured image: http://www.notredameonline.com/resources/intercultural-management/intercultural-communication-in-the-global-workplace/#.WE3IbfnhDcd