Course Description

NOTE: This ia an abbreviated version of the course syllabus - complete course information and materials are in the Blackboard course Web site.

"Communicating Across Cultures" is designed to help meet the challenges of living in a world in which, increasingly, you will be asked to interact with people who may not be like you in fundamental ways. Its primary goal is to provide you with the knowledge and skills that will help you interact successfully with people from cultures other than your own and in contexts/environments that are different and unfamiliar. The course will introduce standard approaches and methods for analyzing differences among cultures, developed by scholars of communication. These systems will be used to discuss a variety of countries/cultures. But we will also examine theories and practices in intercultural communication from the following perspectives: critical thinking (how universally applicable are the theories and approaches), ethics (how we deal with cultural practices at odds with our own values), and sustainability (how do we help sustain the cultural integrity of less documented cultures in the face of globalization) - all crucial to responsible global citizenship in today's world. Ultimately, the course should provide a means to move beyond superficial, stereotyped assessments of different cultures and their representatives.

Course Topics and Goals/Outcomes

By completing this course, the most successful students will acquire the knowledge, skills, & motivation to...

FOCUS 1: CULTURE - cultural rules & roles, identity construction, demographic changes/trends

Understand the nature of cultural traditions

  • perceive patterns in cultural traditions/values in behavior & communication
  • appreciate the complexity in the construction of cultural identities
  • gather knowledge in the areas of cultural geography & world demographics

Look at people as individuals

  • be aware of cultural patterns but not use them as a guide in individual interactions
  • learn how personal identities are constructed and how they can change
  • understand the roles of gender, race, families, groups in constructing personal identities

FOCUS 2: COMMUNITY - group characteristics & identities, ethnocentrism, ethics in intercultural communication

Unlearn certainty

  • value inherited values and traditions but examine received wisdom rationally and with an open mind
  • strive in dealing with new ideas/people/situations to use evidence-based critical thinking over making snap judgments
  • understand that being certain is not always an indicator of being in possession of a truth

Embrace difference

  • recognize how difficult it is to accept fundamental differences in appearances, behaviors, and values
  • accept that the first step in this goal is to understand ones own cultural/personal identity
  • understand/appreciate cultures and traditions different from ones own & from the cultural mainstream

Champion social justice

  • accept the right of all human communities to cultural self-determination
  • come to support cultural sustainability and the importance of preserving cultures & languages
  • understand the perspectives of marginalized groups, migrant communities, indigenous peoples

FOCUS 3: COMMUNICATION - verbal and non-verbal communication, language learning

Become informed communicators

  • learn the basics of linguistics => what is language, how languages work, variations in use, world language families
  • understand communication styles across cultures & individuals; how communications are shaped by new media
  • learn about non-verbal communication across cultures and its connection to spoken language

Become informed language learners

  • gain insight into language acquisition - what linguists know, what works in general, what might work for you
  • understand the role that technology plays today: social media, language learning tools and services
  • learn how to keep what you've learned (language maintenance) & how to add more (memory techniques, polyglots)

FOCUS 4: CONTEXT [intercultural communication in practice]

Understand the dynamics of intercultural interactions in different contexts, specifically in...

  • environments: how they effect communication
  • conflicts between cultures and individuals: causes and resolution
  • relationships between representatives from different cultures (friendship, dating, marriage
  • professions (business, health care, education, tourism) travel, work, and study abroad (adaptation, culture shock)