Intercultural Communication Stumbling Blocks


Stumbling blocks in intercultural communication

In modern times, students or families take part in exchange programs,which are events where they travel to another country to mix with andlearn from other cultures. It is understood that various cultureshave different norms, ways of living and traditions, which makes themunique from the rest. Therefore, it is expected that there are someelement of culture that people may come across, which may be totallydifferent from theirs. Lack of understanding what the differentcultures mean may lead to frustrations as people from differentcultural back grounds meet to interact. In interculturalcommunication, it would not be sufficient to have simple approachesthat one may take for good intentions, for instance, the ways ofgreeting or taking care of other people’s requests. This paperlooks at three significant stumbling blocks that may hinder positiveexchange in communication between people from different cultures.

Differencesin languages

There are several elements of language that cause difficulties incommunication for people from different cultures. For instance,dialects and vocabulary. One of the problems that may arise is whensomeone from a different language dialect learns a new word from theother culture. Sometimes, the people may be compelled to use thatword in a number of occasions, and sometimes, using it out ofcontext. At the same time, different words may sound the same indifferent cultures, and have totally different meanings. Forinstance, in the East and Central African language Swahili, the word‘sawa’ means ok in English. At the same time, it sounds just thesame as ‘sour’, referring to taste in English. Therefore, someonemay confuse these two words in a conversation, and lead tomisunderstanding. Similarly, even same words with the same meaningsmay be used in different ways in some cultures. For some cultures, itis not expected that a guest says ‘yes’ to a meal offer, at leastfor the first two invitations. Many people would end up starvingshould they not understand the nature of communication in thisculture.


It is normal for people to show signs of anxiety when they are facingchallenges in new settings. However, these challenges are supposed tobe met with positive feelings, to push away the negativity and solvethe problems. However, it has been established by psychologists thatthe environment of challenges may sometimes overwhelm the bearer, andin most cases, lead to other forms of defense mechanisms such astotal withdrawal from the situation or yet still, aggression. Thisform of response is unique from other stumbling blocks in that it ischaracterized personality and attitude. A guest in a differentcultural setting may sometimes feel like they are threatened andvulnerable, and that they may not have a way of facing the situationthat is before them. As they react, which in real sense, they feel asnormal, the people from that culture may feel like they are acting inan absurd way. This further negatively affects their self-esteem, andmay be looked down upon by the other people.


This is common stumbling block in communication. Most probably, outof ignorance or being naïve, most people assume that all culturesshare certain similarities. This is because they take that beinghuman naturally makes all people the same, and that they would domost things in the same way. However, this is not the case. There isa vast difference in beliefs and traditions that have been overlookedby many people. The assumption of similarity affects communication ina number of ways, such as language, signs and symbols. Culturesdefine the way that people perceive these elements of communication.As such, people learn how to treat each in a separate way and createmeaning out of it. This determines the level to which emotions areregarded as right or wrong, an how people are supposed to react toother people’s emotions. For instance, in some countries, raisingone hand at the road signifies a request for the driver to stop andpick up a passenger. However, in Germany, such as sign is consideredillegal, as it was a sign in the Nazi regime that glorified Hitler.As such, it is important for people from different cultures to treateveryone as an individual, and try to understand their language.


The paper has demonstrated some stumbling blocks in interculturalcommunication. It has been shown that there is more to communicationthan just learning to communicate in one culture. While thedifferences are facilitated by cultural variances, it is possible forpeople from different cultures to learn the norms of the others as away of avoiding misunderstanding. Sharing information about thestumbling blocks in communication goes a long way in ensuring thatpeople learn about other cultures, and awareness of the same israised. Other coping strategies too have been designed to guidepeople through these stumbling blocks, and has gone a long way inpromoting better intercultural understanding.