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Intercultural stumbling blocks always exist between people who come from different countries. Barna describes six stumbling blocks during the process of communication. These are assumption of similarities, language difference, nonverbal misinterpretations, the presence of preconceptions and stereotype, tendency to evaluate and high stress. Many people have difficulty when it comes to across cultural communication. All the same, it is a process for anyone to adjust into a new culture. Language barrier, which can lead to misunderstanding, is the biggest and common problem when we talk to a foreigner. In addition, stereotype helps in identifying a new person before getting to know about him. This can influence a person’s intention of communication. Moreover, if people are blocked during the communication process, it is easy to cause high anxiety that make them feel uncomfortable and alienate.
Language difference and misunderstanding can cause many problems in the cross cultural communication. There are many different styles of using languages. For example, some countries used to speak more expansive while others are more succinct. Barna demonstrates a paragraph written by an international student from Korea. The Korean student described how his American friend hurt his feelings because of the difference of using languages. When I first came to the United States, I had a hard time to understand what people were saying. I felt they talked a lot and pretty fast. Thus, it was a challenge to get their information clearly. In the same way after I have been here about three months and have made a lot of American friends, I began to understand basic things like when an American says “no”, it means they do not want any more for sure. Differently, when people say “no” in most of Asian countries, it means that they might need more. In my opinion, language is a bridge to connect each other, there might have some barriers, but it is an important way to bring people who are under different cultures together.
A preconception and a label for that matter that has been used to identify people before we communicate with them may interfere with the quality of communication. According to Barna, “Stereotypes are over generalized beliefs that provide conceptual bases from which to “make sense” out of what goes on around us”. That is true. However, these labels should not be used to explain everybody. Barna says that we should overcome them. We should get to know people around us by ourselves. Sometimes, a group of people might leave a specific impression for others, but it does not necessarily mean that everyone from that country or group is the same. I have met a Japanese girl, who is acting more like Chinese. She is not that shy and speaks in a low voice. Moreover, she likes Chinese traditions and can speak Chinese very well. When I was talking of playing with her, I have never felt there were some stumbling blocks between us. I would not have had this friend if I put the preconception on her at first time.
High anxiety is another major barrier during across culture communication. This can be caused by misunderstanding of language, stereotypes and many other factors. Barna asserts that when an international student cannot understand what Americans are saying or laughing at, he or she pretends sometimes that he or she understands by smiling. In the same way, I have experienced the same situation when I came to De Anza College at first quarter. I have registered history 17B class at that time because there were no more classes available at all. It was very difficult for me when we had any group discussion, because all the students were native speakers. They were very friendly and willing to talk to me. However, I experienced a lot of stress and nervousness when I had to express my ideas after them. Sometimes, I could not understand what they were saying, but I naturally kept quiet by smiling even when I felt embarrassed.
Intercultural stumbling blocks do exist in across culture communications. Most people will experience hard time to adjust themselves into a new culture. In my own view, we should keep a positive attitude and persistence to overcome these problems when we are blocked by some intercultural barriers. Language difference and misunderstanding could be solved by practicing. Stereotypes should be overcome by our own attitude and understanding. Moreover, it is important to be brave and courageous always when facing these challenges or stumbling blocks. High anxiety is just part of an individual’s adjusting. All the same, everything will be good in the end if we trust ourselves and make the best efforts to overcome these difficulties.
Barna says that there will always be differences amidst people from all corners of the world. These differences must be assumed. Well, while a common language can be a uniting factor generally promoting social integration, managing these differences in communication across cultures would be facilitated. According to Barna, it is comforting when we assume all people are the same since we will not have to deal with these differences. I therefore agree to Barna’s predisposition that, showing competence in intercultural communication is “the overall internal capability of an individual to manage key challenging features of intercultural communication: namely, cultural differences and unfamiliarity, intergroup posture, and the accompanying experience of stress” (p. 187).
To become competent intercultural communicators, Barna says that the communicator must develop an analytical attitude that is nonjudgmental. This position is most likely going to develop effective intercultural communication. Barna explores on an approach that is most likely to determine a good intercultural communicator. Having a high tolerance for any ambiguity is a very fulfilling approach towards cultural assimilation. This is a very logical perception that Barna presents. Cultural assimilation according to Barna can be realized through managing our intercultural communication. Overcoming these stumbling blocks among the different cultures would promote the integration that is anticipated in the society. Learning to appreciate the values and assumptions on which a person’s behavior is founded is a key element that Barna presents in achieving cultural assimilation.
According to Barna, being inter-culturally competent basically is being in a position to manage the stress in cultural barriers, taking back internal balance, and conducting the communication approach in a manner that enhances effective interaction results (pp. 183 – 184). Having a formed opinion will hinder effective intercultural communication. This is very true in the efforts of pursing a culturally assimilated society. Nonverbal misinterpretations and the tendency to evaluate are two stumbling blocks highlighted by Barna that in most cases act as impediments to effective communication amongst different cultural groups. Barna’s view on these two elements is very true. We are all human beings with the five sensory organs. The differences do not make us different as human beings. They are just customized reactions to situations by specific social groups and therefore whatever it is that a particular group does, it can be assumed for the common good of all.
Generally, Barna’s approach and perception on these six stumbling blocks to intercultural communication present a logical argument in cultural assimilation. It is important to know that these six elements are very consequential in determining the outcome in cultural assimilation. No language, culture, values and norms are a standard for human integration. Human beings cannot be all the same. We cannot all regard our language and culture as the ultimate uniting factor in a multicultural context. There are differences that exist. However, we must have a nonjudgmental approach while dealing with these differences. Competence in intercultural communication towards cultural assimilation is demonstrated in an individual if he or she can overcome these stumbling blocks. I therefore agree with Barna on this subject that we are all the same and the best we can do is to assume our differences as we move towards cultural assimilation. Therefore, it calls for patience with one another and taking time to understand each other.