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Cross-cultural communication

12 May 2013

Because my essential question for the Teachers for Global Classrooms program involves communication across cultures, I’ve been logging some recent websites about that issue. And now because they’re clogging up my Firefox, I’m posting them here!

First is an obit from NPR about John Gumperz, a pioneer in crossing anthropology (study of cultures) and linguistics. Gumperz was called on to study why workers in the employee cafeteria at Heathrow Airport in London felt like the South Asian cafeteria workers were forcing them to have gravy. Read it here.

NPR also has started a blog focused on code switching, the practice of changing language conventions based on situation, commonly associated with African-Americans shifting between standard and Black Vernacular Englishes.

I am particular interested to see how code switching involves itself in India’s polyglot cultural stew, united perhaps more by a common past as a British colony than by religion or language. The area I’m going to, Assam, has Assamese as its primary language. But the language has so few users relative to Hindi and Urdu. Perhaps because of its minority status, the Assam Literary Society was formed in 1917, promoting the language and culture of the region. Even so, this blogger, employed by a national television network, has become so used to speaking English that he has a hard time returning to his homeland and speaking his native language.

What issues of cross-cultural communication have you noticed? I’d be interested in your replies!


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