What is Communication?
What is Culture?
We often use the word "culture," but what do we mean by culture in the first place? In this chapter, we will introduce two notions of what culture is.
- Visible Culture and Invisible Culture
Like an iceberg, culture has 2 parts: one part is visible from the surface, the other is invisible. Food, music, clothing, architecture, etc. are considered visible culture. Philosophy, ways of thinking, the meaning of words, the meaning of behaviors, religion, etc. are considered invisible culture. Invisible culture is larger than visible culture and has a greater impact on people. (fig.2)fig.2
When speaking face-to-face with someone, it is important to communicate with the understanding that he or she may have a cultural background, values, and a way of thinking that differs from your own. What is important is not deciding which culture is better, rather it is recognizing that your communication partner's culture is one of many cultures in the world. People who have lived in other countries, as exchange students for example, have often grown to understand that what they think of as common sense may not be in other places. They also have learned to adopt a non-judgmental attitude to various cultures.
- Three Layers of Culture
Culture can be divided into 3 layers as in fig.3.
The base layer is universal humanity. All human beings eat, sleep, feel anger, sorrow, pleasure, and so on. These behaviors are universal.
The center layer is culture. It includes society, race, nationality, and religion.
The top layer is personal culture. All of us have different personal histories. In this sense, each one of us has his or her own culture.fig.3
When you are given the opportunity to experience other cultures, by studying abroad for example, the center layer will fascinate you at first. However, in the end, it is the times you sense that people are all the same no matter where they come from (the lowest layer) or the times you feel that every individual person is different from any other individual person (the highest layer) that will have the strongest impression on you.
What is Communication?
When we hear the word "communication," we often imagine spoken language. But according to one experiment,
the language we use has only a small influence on what we communicate. The rule of Mehrabian states that
linguistic information accounts for only 7% of communication, auditory information
(speech intonation, speed, etc.) accounts for 38%, while visual information (the speaker's body language)
accounts for 55%.
Thus, in terms of overall communication, international students should not worry too much about whether your Japanese is grammatically correct or polite enough. While it is important to use correct language, it is more important to try to speak with a positive attitude and a cordial demeanor.
Communication and mutual understanding require effort from both the speaker and listener.
On the one hand, the speaker must speak intelligibly. On the other, the listener must try to understand
what the speaker wants to say as much as possible. Even when the speaker and listener share the same
mother tongue, these are not easy tasks. Indeed, communication can be a very difficult endeavor.
But there is another way of looking at this difficulty in communication. If two people's thoughts were completely the same, there would be no need to communicate, and therefore there would be no chance to understand each other more deeply and create something new. It is because people have differences that we engage in communication and, as a result, gain a deeper understanding of each other and build strong relationships. It is also an opportunity to understand ourselves better. And the act of communicating may give rise to new ways of thinking.
Today there are many conveniences in our daily life. We live in a world in which we could go without communicating with other people if we wanted to. But communication is proof that we are all human. It is irreplaceable. Once, when the world did not have the conveniences we have now, people needed to communicate with neighbors, friends, or relatives. However, in modern society, with all of its conveniences, communication is something we need to be consciously trying to accomplish.