Stumbling Blocks of Intercultural Communication


StumblingBlocks of Intercultural Communication

Interculturalcommunication is the act of transferring ideas from one person to theother of different background or culture, more so of differentlanguages. Individuals that have immigrated to the United States forexample, or any other country other than their own, have at somepoint adjusted to changes, and in this case, communicationdifficulties with one another. It does not necessarily mean they onlyspeak another language other than English. In interculturalcommunication, there are numerous problems faced other than justlanguage barriers. Barna (2007) talked about some of the limitationsor stumbling blocks in his article, for instance, language,stereotypes and preconceptions, and nonverbal symbols and signs. Thepaper therefore, will examine solutions to these three problems, andat the same time, give solutions, either bad or good ones. This willthrough analysis of the problems, in that intercultural communicationis presented with its own stumbling blocks, but there are solutionsto solve these obstacles.

Solutionto Language Barrier

Acrossthe world, English is considered by majority of the countries, to betheir official language. To handle this, one should embrace his orher own mistakes while adjusting to learning a new language. Oneshould first show respect for the local language, in this case, forexample, when in a foreign country. Aiming to be understood by peoplethat speak different language is considered a two-way deal. In adifferent country for instance, should prompt one to know kind oflanguage is being spoken in that locality. One should be in aposition to learn some phrases from the language being spoken. Thiswill help in cases of emergencies for example, directions, and forone’s confidence. Embracing language customs is again important. Itis important not to be sensitive about one’s difficulty inembracing a new language.

Accordingto Barna (2007), native speakers or any language, appear to speakfast and confidently, as perceived by a non-native speaking person,more so when trying to comprehend what a native-speaking person istrying to pass across. To solve this, slowing down when speakinghelps a non-native speaking individual to understand what is passedacross. The non-verbal clues will help one understand, and thus tryto adjust with it. If, for example, one person is stuck or has toconstantly ask the other to repeat something, this is because theother person could be speaking fast. Solution to this is for one torepeat, but slowly, and when that does not work, say it again, butwith different words, will help for better understanding of thelanguage.

Solutionto Non-verbal Signs and Symbols

Barna(2007), in her article, pints out that language is not the onlyobstacle a foreigner in a cultural setting, is likely to face.Solution to this is to learn these signs and symbols. It is importantwhen learning the actual language becomes a problem. This will helpis certain situations that apart from language, may not allow the useof verbal medium of communication. A person could be in a differentcultural setting for a short while. The time frame could be enough tolearn how to communicate with the natives in their own language. Thiswill prompt the use of non-verbal methods such as graphs, colors,symbols, and pictures. For example in danger, the red light issupposed to mean there is danger.

Toensure that this kind of situation does not happen, one will berequired to learn or be familiar with all the non-verbal signs andsymbols aspects of it, along with the language. For instance in theUnited States, Spain, or Turkey, smiling people seen on the streets,even when they appear as strangers, is a normal behavior. The samebehavior in the Asian countries, such as South Korea, China, orJapan, is totally misinterpreted or misunderstood. Again, againexample is the different ways of touching. Although it may be validfor majority of Arab Countries, two men in countries such as SaudiArabia and Syria can hold hands, and are perceived to be friends.This scenario, in Western cultures or majority of countries of theworld, would view them as a couple.

Solutionto Stereotypes and Preconceptions

Barna(2007), in her article, points out that stereotypes andpreconceptions are hard to get over. This is because people shouldaccept their national culture to be true. Solution to suchstereotypes and preconceptions should first come from real commitmentand acknowledgement that we are human and that stereotypes andpreconceptions are a part of us. Secondly, people should then workhard to be aware of one’s true feelings and how these feelingsaffect one’s beliefs and actions. This should then be followed upwith factual information to ascertain that will aim at discountingour preconceptions and stereotypes. Factual information can beobtained through exposure from different people and cultures.

Some individuals have led conservative lives, and that they prefernot to eat pork nor drink alcohol for all things religion, howeverthere are others that have embraced Westernized cultures. This kindof preconception about difficult cultures, is a characteristic seenacross the board, and is often a preconception of people’s culturesand believes, traditions, and even food. Solution to this is to getaccustomed to certain cultures and be easy to embrace new ones. Oneis also required to be open-minded, easy to accept different types ofcultures, and should be ready to embrace change.


Ofimportance is the willingness to understand and accept other people’slanguages and cultures for successful communication with people fromdifferent cultural setting. It is also important for one to embraceopen-mindedness to guarantee a change of attitude towards otherpeople’s actions, beliefs, foods, and religion. The future demandsall this. The future of the world is projected to be better,especially in terms of how people will be in a position to livetogether in harmony and peace. For this to happen, people arerequired embrace their differences and be ready to accept change.People need to change in order for this like communication andintercultural relations to work for the better.


Barna L. M (2007). Intercultural Communication Stumbling Blocks.In R. Spack (3rd Eds.), Guidelines: a cross-culturalreading text and writing text (p. 66-73). USA: Cambridge UniversityPress.