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“Spanglish” Speakers

To attract “Spanglish” speakers, you need to appeal, invite, and get close to a younger generation of Latinos who do not necessarily are fully fluent in Spanish but have acquired the emotional vocabulary of their parents’ language.

Speaking Spanglish represents having a dual and hybrid cultural identity. The language itself is a mix of what is relevant in Spanish but does not exist in English or cannot be completely expressed in English.

Low-Context and High-Context at the Oscars

By Mari D. González

The Oscars’ controversial comment by Sean Penn when presenting Alejandro González Iñárritu is a great example on how communication between members of Low-context and High-context groups causes misinterpretation.

According to anthropologist and intercultural communication pioneer, Edward T. Hall, North European and North American macro-cultures would be defined as “Low-context” because their communication preference is characterized by explicit verbal messages. Hall further explains that in Low-context, “Effective verbal communication is expected to be direct and unambiguous.” On the other hand, societies from the rest of the world including Latin America, Asia, and Arab countries utilize “High-context” communication in which, “most of the information is part of the context or internalized in the person; very little is made explicit (Hall, as cited by de Mooij, 2014). In these countries, people are programmed to read context and meaning between words.

Low-context communication is related to an individualistic identity in which people are “I” conscious and express private opinions publicly. Conversely, in High-context or collectivist societies expressing personal opinions and disregarding group of reference’s perceptions is not recommended. There is a risk of making them feel humiliated or what Asians call “losing face.”

In collectivist cultures, personal identity is related to and not separate from that of the group of reference as in “we.” An offense to a person of that group is an offense to all members who identify with that in-group. Hence, a perceived offense to Iñárritu could be perceived as an offense to those who identify as Mexicans because their individual identity is not separate from that of the group of reference as it is for members of individualistic cultures.

¡Hola Venky! Indian and Mexican Cultures

By Mari D. González

Hola Venky

Every time I hear complaints about the lack of diversity in Hollywood movies, I wish those who are dissatisfied and passionate about portraying a more realistic picture of the world resolved to change things around.

The reality is that in recent years, white-Americans have become a minority group in California while Latinos and Asians have continued to grow in numbers.

The movie ¡Hola Venky! is a great example of being proactive. According to the Mexican Heritage Corporation based in San Jose, ¡Hola Venky! is a romantic comedy that highlights Mexican culture and music, and also spotlights Indian culture, creating a rich, modern fusion.  “The film follows Venky, a divorced Indian engineer, as he comes to Silicon Valley and falls in love with a Mexican woman, Inez, whose father was a noted mariachi musician.”

Most people who have had any contact with people from India and from Mexico will immediately notice the richness and colorfulness in both cultures’ music, food and dress. That does not mean we should minimize the gaps between these two cultures which can make interactions either captivating or cheerless, depending on how open you are.

But, for those of use who love intercultural communication, ¡Hola Venky! promises to be the perfect movie.

 

When Translations Drift Away from Meaning

Drift Away

Drift Away (Photo credit: Charisma Jonesford)

The article “9 Little Translation Mistakes that Caused Big Problems”  by Arika Okrent has clear examples of wrong translations and the implications for intercultural communication, international relations, and marketing.

Interestingly enough, most examples in the article involved translators who translated into their second or third language and not into their native language. Food for thought.

Part-time Anthropologist

English: Art House Hall University Center Sout...

English: Art House Hall University Center South in Ciudad Guzman, Jalisco, Mexico Español: Pasillo de Casa del Arte del Centro Universitario del Sur en Ciudad Guzmán, Jalisco, México (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Mari D. González

In the December 2009 edition, a writer for The Economist said, “Every foreigner of inquiring mind becomes a part-time anthropologist.” That statement describes me personally and professionally.

I moved to the U.S. in the 90’s. Having completed a B.A. at eighteen, I wanted to explore the world—specifically to learn about people and their culture or their “programming” as Geert Hofstede calls it. My first job in the U.S. was bilingual health educator. At that time, my passion for learning and breaching cultural gaps was greater than my actual English-Spanish bilingual skills.

At fourteen in Mexico, I had moved from my inland hometown to the coast to study.  Although it was within the same state, the cultural differences were vast. That was my first intercultural experience. In Ciudád Guzman, my new home, I was called güerita or blonde. As you can see in the picture, my hair is not blonde nor have I ever dyed it, but that was a contextual distinction in a place were most people were darker-skinned than I. Color aside, I wanted to fit in this new place and did not want to be seen as “different.”  There were several instances when I would get preferential treatment, which I did not enjoy, such as people getting up from their chairs to let me sit.

I was seen as an outsider and treated like one. I had more privileges because I was perceived as belonging to a higher color-based hierarchy.  That’s the type of cultural programming or enculturation that is characteristic of many societies. I found the distinct treatment fascinating, not because of the benefits I got, but because I did not believe I or anyone else deserved such treatment based on appearances. I knew it was a learned attitude that remained unquestioned, and that was my first cross-cultural analysis.

I am back to my writing on intercultural communication, a topic I love. Since my last blog post, I have completed my thesis research and earned a long-awaited Master of Arts degree in Intercultural Relations (MAIR); I am continuing to work on a paper that should be published soon; I have taken several courses in online communication and marketing and passed my written test for medical interpreting. I am happy to be able to write again.

Edited by Connie Cobb

The Latino and Mexican Online Consumer

Mexico City - Diana Fountain near El Ángel de ...

Mexico City – Diana Fountain near El Ángel de la Independencia (Photo credit: Anirudh Koul)

By Mari D. González

I’m a graduate student in Intercultural Communication doing research on online marketing specific to Latinos in the U.S. and Mexicans in Mexico. I do a lot of reading on the topic and just finished reading Joe Kutchera’s book, Latino Link: Building Brands Online with Hispanic Communities and Content.

His is a complete read on the intricacies of the Latino market from a global and international perspective. He is not simply expressing his opinions. He does extensive research and lets the voices of other experts speak and share their valuable in-the-trenches experiences. Latino Link presents the real step-by-step, “how to” market to Latinos and to middle-class Mexicans who travel from Mexico to shop in the U.S. that I haven’t found in other books.

We already know the Latino/Hispanic market is large and expanding. The numbers are there–just check the Pew Hispanic Center website. Yet, we need to understand the complexities of comparing and contrasting this market within the context of the general market. And, beyond that, he compares the Latino market with Mexico as a stand alone and expanding online market. Kutchera talks about the “invisible consumer,” the affluent and middle-class Mexican buyer whose potential has not been recognized. Why? Perhaps, because most executives and so-called Hispanic marketing consultants have been fixated on the stereotypical Latino/Hispanic and the Mexican (in Mexico) consumer and continue to exploit the market based on such stereotypes.

What I enjoyed most is Mr. Kutchera’s ability to investigate without a preconceived premise or hypothesis. He is open to being surprised and finding new knowledge outside the box even from his own nephews who are habitual internet users and are the present and future consumers. As a consumer behavior researcher who focuses on the cultural and linguistic aspects of the Latino/Hispanic y en el mercado de Mexico, and the market in Mexico, I highly recommend Latino Link.

Edited by Connie Cobb

Best Blog Comments: Cross-Cultural vs. Intercultural

English Language Camp 2008 SMK Taman Rinting 2 #82

Image by Roslan Tangah (aka Rasso) via Flickr

Since I published the article “Cross-Cultural vs. Intercultural,” it has consistently been the top post according to Ixmati Communications’ WordPress dashboard statistics. This article also prompted comments from two subject matter experts.

Leo Salazar wrote:

“Well written, Mari. One learns by writing, and the more I write the more I realize how little I know. I welcome the learning offered by experts such as yourself, who take the time and trouble to help me understand. It’s unfortunate that the particular writer on the Mashable, oops, I mean the well-respected social media blog, wasn’t open to your contribution.

You have, indeed, pointed out a very fundamental difference in terms. Most people who have a good command of the English language should understand that “inter-” and “cross-” have completely different meanings. You travel the interstate to go cross-country, but you can’t take the cross-state to go inter-country.”

Leo is the principal at Effective Intercultural Business. He specializes in learning and development in an intercultural context. He’s based in Amsterdam, Netherlands. More about Leo @srLeoSalazar

Joe Ray wrote:

“Good explanation, Mari. I have been working on presentation that includes some of these aspects and knew there were subtle yet contrasting differences in the terms.

I seem to hear the term cross-cultural thrown about more so than intercultural when navigating through the Latino market universe. However, much of my interaction is also with Native American tribes and have noticed that one term they use quite a bit is intertribal.

Your explanation was clear and very helpful. Much appreciated!”

Joe is the Creative Director at Estudio Ray, a branding agency that specializes in connecting with Latino consumers and in Hispanic marketing. He is based in Phoenix, Arizona. More about @JoeRayCr8iv