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School of the Arts

Intercultural communication is topic of IUSB Forum

Lecturer Tami Martinez and Dr. Gottfried OosterwalLecturer Tami Martinez and Dr. Gottfried Oosterwal

Director of the Center for Intercultural Relations Dr. Gottfried Oosterwal presented his lecture “You Just don’t Understand, Communicating with People from Diverse Cultures” to an audience of students and faculty at the fall IU South Bend forum on October 19. Dr. Oosterwall’s lecture discussed cultural diversity and how it affects national and international multicultural societies.

The United States population consists of 175 different ethno-cultural groups. English is the most spoken language in the Unites States with Spanish following second, Chinese third and Russian fourth.  Communication with other cultures is necessary in our daily lives because of its widespread impact. Cross cultural competence is necessary for educational, medicinal, business, and political occurrences. 

To become competent in cross cultural communication Dr. Oosterwall described four habits to practice. According to Dr. Oosterwall, knowing your own cultural code and recognizing different cultural codes of others is important and necessary in our globalizing world.

Cultural codes are created by members of each ethno-cultural. Members are characterized by their own specific cultural code. Another aspect to consider along with cultural codes understands the differences between high and low context cultures. 

Communicating in a high or low context culture changes verbal and nonverbal meanings in language, behaviors, and beliefs. Effective communication depends on following the four practices of competency in Cross Cultural communication.

  1. Understanding one’s own cultural code &how it shapes the way we act and think, relate & communicate.
  2. Knowing other people’s cultural code & how it affects communication.
  3. Developing  a sense of humility, recognizing that all cultures are ever so many different ways of being human and/or pursuing happiness
  4. Becoming skilled in using other people’s code when relating & communicating with them

Communication is more effective when people attempt to understand one another’s differences and make accommodation for those differences in their own communication.

Dr. Oosterwall shared a variety of entertaining parables about his experiences where he first hand experienced cross cultural situations. Dr. Oosterwall was introduced to IU South Bend by Lecturer Tami Martinez, who has been a long -time friend and former employee at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan.