by A. Scott Moreau and Mike O’Rear
Few skills are as important to missionaries as those which help in mastering communication in a new culture.
Few skills are as important to missionaries as those which help in mastering communication in a new culture. As anyone who has crossed to a new setting knows, it is not just the language that is crucial. Knowing the culture, the ways people express themselves and how people communicate can be just as important as the language itself. In this installment of Missions on the Web we provide a collection of links that will help you master the communication patterns of the culture in which a certain language is spoken. As always, we have provided a page on the MisLinks site1 that will guide your browsing. Here we will highlight the more significant sites.
Before we begin, however, we need to point out one potential problem with our subject, namely that there are two terms that are often used interchangeably—intercultural communication and cross-cultural communication. Technically they do not refer to the same thing: intercultural communication refers to people of diverse cultures meeting and interacting; cross-cultural communication refers to studying the same phenomena in two different cultures and comparing them (Gudykunst and Kim 1984, 8). Both are closely related. For example, because of what they do, missionaries typically need training in intercultural communication, but in that training it is often helpful to compare their new culture to their home culture (the focus of cross-cultural communication). To fully explore this, then, we need to use both terms. Note the differences: a Google web search for “cross-cultural communication” yields about 871,000 hits, while a Google web search for “intercultural communication” yields about 2.5 million hits. On our MisLinks page we provide links to either or both terms, depending on which is more appropriate for the search context.
There are several valuable introductions to communicating across cultures from secular perspectives. The first is Michele LeBaron’s article “Cross-Cultural Communication”, found on the Beyond Intractability.com site. This site offers a knowledge base of resources to enable constructive approaches to destructive conflicts. The introductory article explains basic issues in cross-cultural communication and supplies a helpful list of additional articles. (Note: The focus of these is on the mission of the website, which is constructive conflict resolution.) “Culture and Communication: A Primer for Instructors” is from Medicine Hat College, a community college in Alberta, Canada. The collection of pages offers a practical overview for use by teachers, including introductions to core ideas, teaching tips, activities and additional web-based resources. The third overview is found on the web-based encyclopedia Wikipedia. “Cross-cultural Communication” offers a concise overview with links to other Wikipedia articles (e.g., cultural competence, intercultural communication principles, intercultural competence, intercultural relations) as well as to off-site pages.
There are several good bibliographies on intercultural communication available online. The University of Minnesota’s Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA) site has five bibliographies, including “Culture, Intercultural Communication and Education”. This bibliography has fifty books of a general nature. For those interested in books on particular cultures or locations, try the culture-specific books bibliography.
Another helpful site is provided by CultureSource, which hosts a searchable bibliography of over 2,100 intercultural communication books. Although it is based in Germany, the database is set up for doing a search in English. If you want to see all the items, leave all the fields blank and click on the Search button. A search on the name Hofstede yielded five items, two of which had links to the German Amazon.com site for purchase. Those based outside of Europe will need to consult their own regional Amazon.com site for availability and cost.
A third helpful set of bibliographies comes from Intercultural Communication Institute, a private, non-profit educational organization. The most relevant for the general reader is “An Introductory Guide to Selected Books” (pdf format), which lists 102 surveys of intercultural communication. Finally, Wycliffe/SIL offers a bibliography of articles written by Wycliffe translators and linguists around the world (), including eighty-seven general articles and seventy-four articles based on specific countries.
Several journals devoted to intercultural communication are available on the web. Intercultural Communication Studies, published by the International Association for Intercultural Communication Studies of Trinity University (San Antonio, Texas), offers links to 137 pdf formatted articles published from 1991 to 2000.
The Journal of Intercultural Communication, an outgrowth of the work of the Nordic Network for Intercultural Communication, offers a complete collection of more than sixty articles published since the journal began in 1999.
Finally, Language and Intercultural Communication is one of the thirteen journals available from the publisher Multilingual Matters. All these articles are online and searchable by full text. Abstracts are provided in html format for free; full texts are available through subscription.
DATABASES AND WEB LIBRARIES
Better collections of articles in databases or virtual web libraries enable in-depth research through relevant and limited literature and are helpful for studying a particular interest. The first we link to is the ERIC database. ERIC (Educational Resources Information Center) is sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) of the US Department of Education and hosts over 110,000 full-text materials in a total database of 1.2 million cited items. All are focused on educational research and application. A search in the database on intercultural communication (no quotes) using the Keywords field yields 3,079 results; the same search on the Descriptors field yields 2,439 results. When we used cross-cultural communication the results were 2,322 and 1,088 respectively. All materials issued from January 1993 through July 2004 are available electronically at no cost.
A second e-library is Google Book Search. A search on “intercultural communication” yields 19,600 books; “cross-cultural communication” yields 6,570 books. Click on any of the books from either search, and you will be taken to the book itself with the search term highlighted. Within any book you can click on the Go button by the Search in this book option to find all references within that book.
The third e-library, which has more than ten million items, is made available through LookSmart’s Find Articles.Searches for “all articles” on “cross-cultural communication” gave 267 hits; “intercultural communication” gave 239. By choosing “free articles” rather than “all articles” and searching again, the site returned 169 hits on “cross-cultural communication” and 146 on “intercultural communication.” You can also search for particular journals by general topic. (Note: We did not find any journals with an exclusive focus on intercultural communication.)
Missionaries and missiologists regularly use principles and practices of intercultural communication to more effectively communicate the gospel across cultural divides.
The best overall resource for missions articles with a focus on intercultural communication is the Network for Strategic Missions KnowledgeBase, which currently has over 16,500 articles on missions in more than two thousand categories. The topic “Intercultural Communication” has forty-three articles covering a span of more than fifty years of writing. You will find 106 articles under “Cultural Values”, with seventeen additional subtopics of specific values such as individualism (sixteen articles) and collectivism (twenty-one articles). With the collection constantly growing, the numbers may be larger by the time you visit the site.
A very practical and helpful database of articles is provided by the Peace Corps. For over forty years they have trained volunteers to successfully cross into cultures for two years of service. The Peace Corps provide a virtual library that has over twenty-seven thousand entries indexed in 430 categories. The collection includes articles, stories and on-going conversations about Peace Corps issues. For example, the topic “Cross-Cultural Issues” has four primary articles and dozens of related stories and conversations.
Our final entry in this category is Questia.com. Full access to sixty-six thousand books and 1.4 million articles requires a subscription. Intercultural communication has been identified as a specific research topic by Questia.com; cross-cultural communication has not. Browse to the topic intercultural communication and you will find a list of recommended books and related research topics. If you click on the link that reads More Full-text Books and Articles on Intercultural Communication under the book list, it automatically searches for intercultural or cross-cultural communication and provides access to 1,099 books and 643 journal articles. Subscribers are able to set up electronic bookshelves, including links not only to the whole book but individual pages that they identify as valuable for ongoing research.
Anyone involved in training people to cross cultures understands the value of simulations, workshops and educational games. Many elements of crossing cultures are emotional and can be dealt with through an experience that connects theory with action and experience. There is an impressive and growing number of simulations available on the web. CARLA, mentioned in the Bibliography section of this article, offers brief descriptions of twenty-seven popular simulations, a bibliography of eighteen books focusing on simulations and contact information (including URLS) for nine distributors and three gaming associations. This is a good place to start to see the variety and types of available training materials.
Perhaps the best known name in intercultural communication studies is that of the Dutch social scientist Geert Hofstede, author of Culture’s Consequences: Comparing Values, Behaviours, Institutions and Organizations Across Nations (1984) and Cultures and Organizations: The Software of the Mind (1991). His son, Gert Jan Hofstede, who also works in the field, provides a rich site full of lecture materials and ideas, as well as several games (www.info.wau.nl/people/gertjan/games.htm). For example, “The Windmills of Our Minds” is designed to simulate the clashes that happen when a multinational corporation tries to develop a plan for communicating the company’s newest product around the world (in this case, windmills). As more and more mission agencies become multinational in composition, and seek to remain focused on a single message, simulations like this might help them understand how the cultural values and mindsets of their members impact the agency itself.
Another source is Intercultural Press, a commercial publisher providing numerous resources on intercultural communication. While we link to them all, space here allows only for discussion of “An Alien among Us” ($29.95). In this simulation teams must choose six candidates from twelve applicants to join a space mission. The game exposes participants to issues of stereotyping and the need for creative thinking about people who are different from themselves.
The next source of simulations is Wilderdom, a retailer that specializes in providing materials for experiential learning. Their helpful resource page “Multicultural, Cross-cultural & Intercultural Games & Activities” links to games (some with full instructions) and other game sites. While their focus is on multicultural and diversity training for children rather than intercultural communication for adults, several of their linked simulations could be used or modified for use by mission agencies. The last source of experiential learning is Simulation Training Systems, which offers two simulations widely used in missionary intercultural preparation. BabaBafa is a highly interactive game in which representatives from two radically different cultures undergo initial stages of interaction. Starpower has three different groups involved in a trading game which introduces participants on an emotional level to differences in power among socio-economic levels in a culture. Although these simulations carry a somewhat steep price tag ($249.00 each), their reusability makes them affordable in the long run for any school or agency that uses them on an annual or more frequent basis.
CROSS-CULTURAL TRAINING PROGRAMS
Our final segment focuses on short-term (three months or less) intensive programs that train missionaries to cross cultures. In addition to those listed here, almost every formal missions degree program will offer some type of intercultural communication skills courses (see a short list of syllabi).
The first intensive program is the Center for Intercultural Training, located in Union Mills, North Carolina. They offer six levels of training from re-entry debriefing to a ten-week residential program.
The Institute for Cross-Cultural Studies, operated out of the Billy Graham Center of Wheaton College, is an annual 3 1/2-week summer training program with an intercultural communication course integrated into the curriculum.
International Training Partners, an informal network of representatives from over eighty organizations, offers week-long workshops on developing interpersonal skills in various locations around the world (see www.itpartners.org/schedule.htm for the schedule).
MissionPrep, based in Toronto, offers four types of training, including their COPE (Cultural Orientation for Personal Endurance & Enjoyment) program, a two-week intensive training designed for people who intend to live more than a year in a new culture. The last group is Mission Training International, which also offers several programs, most significantly their SPLICE (spiritual, personal, lifestyle, interpersonal, cultural and endure/enjoy) program, a three-week training designed to help prepare people (including families) to successfully cross cultural boundaries.
Successful missionaries are those who have learned how to cross into new cultures and adapt to new ways of living and communicating. Whether you serve as a missionary, agency leader or church leader, we hope you will find our links helpful. We appreciate hearing from readers who report links that should be added to any of our pages. As you come across ones you would like us to add, just use the Contact Us link on the MisLinks homepage to let us know what we have missed.
1. All links are assumed to start with http:// unless otherwise noted.
Gudykunst, William B. and Young Yun Kim. 1984. “Preface.” In Methods for Intercultural Communication Research, pp. 7-10. Edited by William B.
Gudykunst and Young Yun Kim. Beverly Hills, Calif.: SAGE Publications.
Hofstede, Geert.1984. Culture’s Consequences: International Differences in Work-Related Values, abridged ed. Newbury Park, Calif.: SAGE Publications.
_______. 1991. Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind. New York: McGraw Hill.
A. Scott Moreau is editor of EMQ and chair of Intercultural Studies at Wheaton College Graduate School (Wheaton, Ill.).
His email address is A.S.Moreau@wheaton.edu, and the Wheaton Missions Department web address is www.wheaton.edu/intr.
Mike O’Rear is the president of Global Mapping International (Colorado Springs, Colo.), which is dedicated to providing access to information for church and mission leaders, especially in the Two-thirds world. He also serves as Lausanne senior associate for information technology. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and the GMI web address is www.gmi.org.
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