Bridges: Intercultural Conversation
Carol Dussere and Mary French
In memory of Darcy Shipman
WELCOME TO THE ROUNDTABLE
Hi. My name is Anne. Every week a group of my friends, both Koreans and Westerners, meet in a Seoul coffee shop to talk. We represent differences in race, sex, culture, nationality, age, occupation, social class, religion, political opinion and lifestyle. You’re welcome to join us, listen and then talk about the issues in your own groups. (To download a chapter, click the link after the arrow.)
WHO WE ARE
A Westerner’s experience in Korea, personal gains from foreign travel, “Us” versus “Them.” Cultural bridges: Psychological dimensions of cultural and racial differences. Key concepts: Generalization, prejudice, impression, stereotype, race, ethnic group; use of metaphorical language. Grammar: “What” clauses. –> vol 1, chapter 1
IS EAST THE OPPOSITE OF WEST?
Contrast of Korea and North America using cultural dichotomies. Cultural bridges: Understanding the big differences to explain the little differences. Key concepts: Authoritarian, authority-centered, individualism, community, collectivism, guilt, shame. Skills: Recognition of key concepts in context. Discussing with particular emphasis on the accurate use of terms. Application to real-life situations. Grammar: Modals. –> vol 1, CHAPTER 2
CHAPTER 3: PERSONAL QUESTIONS
Several explanations for foreigners’ unfavorable reactions to personal questions. Cultural bridges: Examples of how cultural mores affect individual behavior on a subconscious level. Key concepts: Defensive, mores, personal, privacy, sensitive, share, small talk. Grammar: Logical and dummy subjects. –> vol 1, chapter 3
Clashes in Western and Asian cultural norms for non-verbal behavior; “disgusting” habits, walking, personal space, privacy, and lining up. Cultural bridges: Examples of how culture and habits affect non-verbal behavior on a sub-conscious level; awareness through participation in a culture game. Key concepts: Behavior, nonverbal, taboo. Grammar: Infinitives and gerunds. –> vol 1, chapter 4
DEFERENCE IN KOREA
The successes and amusing blunders of Westerners attempting to deal with Korean hierarchies at home and in the workplace; verbal and nonverbal communication. Cultural bridge: Stories of Westerners who are attempting to deal with often complex situations to create empathy for non-Koreans. Key concepts: Deference, politeness, respect. Grammar: Relative clauses. –> vol 1, CHAPTER 5
Traditional and modern Korean families, patriarchy versus matriarchy from European American and African American life, the experience of a single mother. Cultural Bridges: Students increase their awareness of the different possibilities in family structure and in the roles which can be assumed by family members. Key concepts—matriarchy, role. Vocabulary–discipline, extended family, housekeeper, housewife, lenient, nuclear family, patrilineal, role model, strict, unconditional love. Grammar: Participles and gerunds. –> vol 1, CHAPTER 6
An American businessman’s blunders, special recognition, working hours, the influence of the military on company life in Korea, the vertical hierarchy, the merit system versus the seniority system, job assignments and horizontal interaction. Cultural Bridges: Students increase their awareness of how a different corporate structure in East and West affects the working environment. Key concepts: hierarchy, merit, power distance, seniority. Grammar: Passive. –> vol 1, chapter 7
The history of the women’s movement in the U.S. as related to possible developments in Korea. Aspects of the democratic process are also explained.Cultural Bridges: Students increase their awareness of parallels between the changes in women’s status in the US and in Korea. Key concepts–accountability, constituent, democracy, equality, lobby, participation, republic. Grammar: word formation. –> vol 1, CHAPTER 8
CANADIANS SPEAK–Reading for extra credit paper: Rountable discussion on Canadian cultural identity. –> vol 1, CHAPTER 9
SAME AND DIFFERENT
Westerners’ experience in Korea, contrast of Korea and North America using cultural dichotomies, “Us” versus “Them.” Cultural bridges: Psychological dimensions of cultural and racial differences; understanding the big differences to explain the little differences. Key concepts: Authoritarianism, authority-centeredness, individualism, collectivism, race, ethnic group, generalization, prejudice, stereotype, impression. Grammar: Nouns—countable, uncountable, plural, mass, collective nouns. –> vol 2, CHAPTER 1
FRIENDSHIP AND RESPECT
Types of friendships in North America, distinction between respect in North America and deference in Korea. Cultural bridges: Differences in the formation and expression of relationships. Key concepts: Deference, politeness, respect ,the mentor and role model. Terms of address; suggestions and requests. Grammar: Articles in fixed phrases. –> vol 2, chapter 2
Dating in North America; Korean and American experience with intercultural dating. Cultural bridges: Similarity and differences in expectations and behavior; complexity of this phenomenon even within one culture. Key concepts: Arranged marriage, dating, chauvinism, commitment, expectations and support. Grammar: Cross-referencing. –> vol 2, chapter 3
GETTING THROUGH SCHOOL
Experience of putting oneself through college in North America and Korea; Korean experience at an American college. Cultural bridges: Similarity of work and school experience; cultural differences in the classroom. Key concepts: Independence, individualism, being self-sufficient/self-supporting. Grammar: Prepositions. –> vol 2, chapter 4
Cultural aspects of the US military presence in Korea; experience of Korean-speaking US servicemen and a former KATUSA. Cultural bridges: Explanations for culture clash, misunderstandings; examples of successful, happy adaptation. Key concepts: Culture shock and the ghetto. Grammar: Adverbs. –> vol 2, chapter 5
WOMEN AT WORK
Status of women in the Korean workplace; observation and experience of American businessmen in senior positions and a successful Korean professional woman. Cultural bridges: International perspective on a worldwide phenomenon, gender-based discrimination. Key concepts: Discrimination, sexism and issues.Grammar: Indirect speech. –> vol 2, chapter 6
Different expectations of business people from contract-based and relationship- based cultures; employment contracts, shopping and consumerism. Cultural bridges: Recognition of potential pitfalls. Key concepts: Agreement, contract, warranty, consumer, customer, retail and wholesale. Grammar: Conjunctions. –> vol 2, CHAPTER 7
Historical background; oral history of a Korean-African-American war baby; conflict between blacks and whites, blacks and Koreans; personal solutions. Cultural bridges: Understanding conflict as a result of oppression. Key concepts: Diversity, heritage, integration, segregation, oppression, and racism. Grammar: Particle hop; “get.” –>vol 2, chapter 8
LEARNING KOREAN WAYS
Reading for extra-credit paper: Long-term American residents in Korea on their experience with Korean shamanism, birth dreams and Buddhist temple-painting. –> vol 2, chapter 9
Here’s advice on how to use the book, a summary of the value of learning intercultural communication, rationale, texts for listening tasks, surveys, sample exams, audio-visual supplements, sources for roundtable discussions.`–> SUPPLEMENT FOR TEACHERS
WHY STUDY INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION?
In modern Korea, it’s becoming increasingly likely that you will have extensive interaction with people from other cultures, particularly at work and at school. You may go abroad, or you may be required to work or study with non-Koreans here.
The better your English is, the more Koreans will ask you to explain the behavior of English-speaking people and the more English-speaking people will ask you to explain Korean behavior.
Your interaction with people from other cultures can be successful or not. How successful you are depends in part on your awareness that people from different cultures have learned to see the world differently from Koreans, just as people fifty or a hundred years ago learned to see the world differently from the way we do.
Whenever people from two or more cultures interact, problems will arise. However, if you have some idea what kinds of problems are likely to arise and why, then you will be better prepared to deal with them when they do.
To be better prepared, you need to understand some general concepts, including these: a) value and belief systems, b) social structure, c) gender roles, d) behavior toward “the other” (prejudice, stereotyping, ethnocentrism), e) culture shock, f) cultural dimensions (for example, individualism-collectivism)
To be better prepared, you need to understand specific differences between Korean culture and the other culture. In this book we present information from over a hundred interviews with North Americans living and working in Korea and with Koreans working with North Americans. The roundtable discussions themselves have been invented, but all of the information, the stories and examples the characters give, the role plays and the real life examples—everything—comes from real life.
You should be aware of one possible source of danger, and that is, stereotyping. We will need to talk about Korean culture and Western or North American culture in general terms. That certainly does not mean you should believe we think all Korean people are like ________ or you should think all Westerners are like _________. Stereotyping, or forming a category for a group of people, can create big barriers to intercultural communication. In fact, rather than think “those people always __________,” it would probably be better not to know anything about them at all. Stereotypes prevent us from seeing the person in front of us. That means we aren’t interacting with that person, but with our idea of that person.
We will use practical, real-life situations to show you how to build bridges over cultural barriers.
Bridges: Intercultural Conversations is a two-volume textbook written for upper-intermediate and advanced students and developed in the classroom over ten years. Each chapter includes readings on cultural issues, sections on grammar and vocabulary, discussion topics, and exercises and comprehension tests. The manuscript was used at Dongguk University in the sophomore-level conversation classes for English majors, along with a related, two-volume textbook for upper-intermediate non-majors classes and another for composition classes. Bridges is appropriate for the following:
- university conversation classes
- university culture classes
- institute conversation and culture classes
- university or institute training programs for translators
- in-house classes for businesses and agencies
- students preparing to study abroad
- employees at all levels preparing to work with Westerners
- international programs for Korean students
- individuals wanting to improve their English and understanding of the West
- Western teachers and culture trainers wanting to understand the difficulties Korean students have with the English language and Western culture
Bridges is like no book on the market. Other conversation books with a cultural component tend to offer little snapshots of America, Britain and places around the world, along with vague, what’s-it-like-in-your-country discussion questions. While these books have a definite place, they are less successful for developing critical thinking than they might be. Intercultural and history texts may offer insights into cultures around the world or the history and culture of a particular place but no in-depth comparison with the student’s experience in Korea. In contrast, our book offers the following:
- presentation of cultural information with an anthropological basis
- real-life anecdotal evidence from over a hundred interviews with Westerners living and working in Korea and Koreans working with Westerners
- recycling of concepts and vocabulary for better understanding and assimilation by the student
- grammar analysis and exercises based on the language of the interviews and discussions
- a variety of classroom activities to stimulate discussion and interaction
- a program that currently fills a three hours a week, two-semester class—no supplementing necessary—which could be expanded for a longer course.