A Comparative Study of Communication Practice between the West and China
COMMUNICATION PRACTICES IN THE WEST AND CHINA 16
AComparative Study of Communication Practice between the West andChina
Communicationhappens to be an essential life skill that helps people to understandand then connect with one another in any human society. According toGuţă (2015) communication helps people resolve personaldifferences, trust and to build respect as well as fostering humanenvironment where affection, caring, problem solving, and creativeideas thrive. There are different styles of communication and aregrouped into languages that are used by different people around theglobe. Church-Morel and Bartel-Radic (2016) acknowledge that no onehas the knowledge regarding the number of languages that are spokenin the world today but it is estimated that there are nearly 3000languages spoken all over the world. All of the languages spokenacross the globe show differences in form of writing styles, sentenceconstruction, grammar, and body movement during communication.Chinese and English which are some of the most common languages inthe world comprise of different aspects that affect properunderstanding in written oral communication and body movement both inand between these two languages. The sizes of both China and theUnited States of America gives a guarantee that most individuals usethese two languages in communication but Chinese and Englishlanguages do not necessarily guarantee faultless communicationpractice in writing for different reasons. Therefore, this researchendeavors to compare and contrast communication practices betweenChina and the West.
Peoplecommunicate through different ways for instance through numeracy, themedia, visual means, listening, speaking, writing, and reading. Infact, communication practices comprises of all means of ensuring thatthe message to be passed across reaches the intended recipients whois able to interpret and understand the message regardless oflanguage, level, context and time differences. Traditionally,communication have always focused on literacy levels and thecapability of reading and writing if at all individuals are tocommunicate at different circumstances. Nonetheless, othercommunication practices are equally important especially inpluralistic societies because people only require the capacity topass across their message to the intended recipient.
Bodylanguage is an essential aspect of nonverbal communication that is acommon occurrence in pluralistic societies because it plays acritical role in communication. However, Phutela (2015) acknowledgesthat many people in the pluralistic societies pay more attention tothe correctness and acceptance of the normal verbal communication buttend to overlook the cultural differences and the influence that thenon-verbal communication have on the society. In the end, culturalcrashes and misunderstandings often happen specifically incross-cultural communication. Therefore, to effectively communicateand avoid misunderstandings, people from the West and Chinaunderstand about body language as well as its connotations. Manystudies carried out on body languages reveal that body languagesdepicts similarities and differences in the West and China. Theresearches highlighted in this literature review divides bodylanguage into two broad categories including narrow sense and broadsense. Gaziv et.al (2017) point out that there are two major types ofbody language including “action” like holding arms and smile,“quality” like weight or height but Phutela (2015) shows bodylanguage from narrow sense. Both of these studies shows that bodylanguage plays an important role to assist people in communicatingand has different meaning both in China and the West.
DifferencesDepicted in Body Language between the West and China
Differencesin body languages in the West and China are depicted throughclassifications including touch, proper distance, gestures, facialexpression, and eye contact. Touch is the way that people exchangeinformation through touching of each other’s body. However,cultures all over the world differ in the overall amount of touch.According to Nicolaou et.al (2016) high-contact pluralistic societieslike those in the Southern Europe, Latin America, and the Middle Eastoften touch each other than the way that people from non-contactculture like Asia do. As such, these cultural differences can resultin communication challenges in pluralistic societies. Normally in theEnglish speaking nations like the United States of America,acquaintances and common friends avoid touching each other’s bodiesduring communication. Body touch in overcrowded places like theelevator is not allowed and many people would hurry to apologize incase they touch other people unconsciously or slightly. Therefore, insuch countries, people tend to respect other people private spacebecause it represents people’s intimacy and privacy. Nevertheless,the sense of private space is comparatively weak in China because ofthe high population in China which results in overcrowding (Long andLiu, 2017). This implies that the Chinese people have presently gotused to body touch and often show off their tolerance andunderstanding. In some cases, people in China may feel uncomfortablewith body touch but usually forgive and generally do not get angry.
Differencesin body language communication practices in China and the West isalso depicted through gestures which are critical elements ofnonverbal communication. Essentially, gestures indicates specificbody movements that have peculiar meanings and in narrow sense theyrefer to hand movements that are closely associated with speech andexemplify the meaning. According to Caute et.al (2013), gesturesthrough hands are capable of communicating a great deal whereby someof the hand gestures signify emotional arousal and are applicable inall cultures. In the United States of America, pointing at people isa very common hand gesture as most Americans points at people andobjects with their index finger and the Germans points using thelittle finger. Nonetheless, pointing at other people using the indexfinger is considered rude in China and most Chinese use their hand orwith their palm up when making gesture ("AComparative Study of Body Language between China and the West",2014).Additionally, people who come from the Western countries tend to turntheir rings to reveal uneasiness and nervousness but turning of ringsin China is regarded as showing off richness. Therefore, it is clearthat same gesture has different meanings in the pluralisticsocieties, an indication that people from different cultures inpluralistic societies can express similar meanings using differentgestures. As such, it is necessary for people to understand the factthat culture differs in pluralistic societies to preventmisunderstandings.
Facialexpression is also a common nonverbal body language that carriesdifferent meaning among people that exists in pluralistic societies.The face is an organ of emotion because people often read facialexpression to understand what different people are feeling. Facialexpression carry meanings that are determined by relationships andcontexts and most of the facial expressions have often times beenregarded as having an innate in the lives of people. For instancesmiling shows pleasure, convey politeness or shows affection but painis conveyed through grimace which also exemplifies disapproval ordisgust ("AComparative Study of Body Language between China and the West",2014).Smile generally shows merriment, joy, pleasure, satisfaction,approval, and friendliness which is true in China and the West aswell. Yet, there are certain laughter that often times causesnegative reactions by the Westerners.
Eyecontact is yet another common body language communication practicethat varies from culture to culture. In most cases, people from theWest have more eye contact when communicating with one another ("AComparative Study of Body Language between China and the West",2014).The major difference that is evident between the English and Chineseeye contact is related to etiquette. According to the tradition ofthe United States of America, Americans are generally required tomaintain eye contact with their counterparts during communication toshow honesty or they may be regarded as being absent-minded,indifferent, sacred, or disdained. Additionally, staring at peoplefor too long is also regarded as being impolite even if the lookshows appreciation of beauty because it makes people feel embarrassedand uneasy in the English speaking countries ("AComparative Study of Body Language Between China and the West",2014).On other hand, most Chinese people often stare at the foreign peoplewith curiosity in public places. It is true that such behaviors hassince violated the taboos of communication but with the culture ofthe Chinese people is a common practice and is nothing more than justcuriosity.
SimilaritiesDepicted in Body Language between the West and China
Itis essential to admit the fact that body language shows somesimilarities because the present economy is presently mingled whichmakes the world smaller to the extent of being termed as “globalvillage”. Some common similarities in body language noted from theresearch include head nodding which implies agreement in most Westerncountries and China. Additionally, applauding means agreement orappreciation in China and the West as well (Nishimura,2016).In other cases, when people are hurt, they often times cry to showpainfulness, when people are happy they tend to smile and waving ofhands shows goodbye. Furthermore, some Chinese and Englishexpressions together with their meanings refers to the same thing.For instance, folding of arms indicates indifference, smiling showshappiness and pulling a long face reveals anger or unhappiness.
Lewisand Lovatt (2013)put it that thinking patterns are some of the most essential cuesused in any society or culture because it is narrowly linked topeople’s cultures and represents different aspects of culturalpsychology. Difference and similarities of patterns of thoughtsemerging between the West and Chinese nations can be studied fromdifferent point of view.
RationalThinking VS Visual Thinking
Empiricalthinking mode or envisaged thinking mode creates thinking forms justas Hadarics (2016) acknowledges, establishes key differences betweenthe Chinese and Western countries who are known to embrace rationalsystematic thinking modes. Generally, the Chinese people areperceptual in their thinking modes but normally, people from theWestern countries have just developed their own analytic and rationalthinking patterns. While speaking, the people from Western countriestend to stress the components and the specific, and the Chinesespeaking people stress the whole and then the abstract theWesterners are known to favor analysis while the Chinese speakingpeople are known to favor analysis. For example, when the two groupsof people existing in pluralistic society converse about time, theChinese people would begin with general units and then proceed tosmaller units but this is quite the opposite among the Westerners.Even during the time of their acquaintance introduction, the Chinesespeaking people are known to list people’s titles before proceedingto mention their names but with the English speaking people firstmention people’ names before listing the succession of eachindividual’s duty from the lowest to the highest.
AnalyticalThinking VS Generalizing Thinking
TheChinese people mostly focus on their individual bodies whenarticulating their emotions, an implication that thinking happens tobe their major mode of thought because people study objects as awhole but then emphasizes their entirety. As such, there is asystematical naturalism in the Chinese philosophy (Hadarics, M.(2016). But individualism is greatly emphasized among the Englishspeaking people as evident from their thinking patterns.
Theresearch identified the fact that there are different dialects ofChinese language including the Taiwanese, Cantonese, and Wu (Mi,& Hyun, 2014).Most of the differences emanating from Chinese and West communicationpractices were related to alphabet, phonology, grammar, andvocabulary. According to Tsangand Chen (2012)Chinese people use logographic system for written language instead ofthe alphabet that is used with the Westerners. The logographicsystems symbols just represents words by themselves because words arenot necessarily made of up of letter like with the alphabet system.Additionally, most elements of the English phonological systempossess challenges for the Chinese speaking people in pluralisticsocieties. This fact is attributed to the fact that most phonemes inEnglish do not exist at all in Chinese language because intonationsand stress are different between these two languages. Chinese is atone language because it uses pitch of sound to differentiate themeanings of words (Tsang& Chen, 2012).On the other hand, changes in pitch in English language is appliedwhen expressing emotions but not when giving difference to the soundof words. Additionally, English and Chinese written languages differsin form of grammar. Much of the information in English language iscarried using verb inflection and auxiliaries. But, Chinese languageis an uninflected language which conveys information through sharedunderstandings of the context, adverbials and word order.
Accordingto Tsangand Chen (2012)the biggest similarities that is evident between Chinese and Englishspoken language is the basic sentence construction. Just likeEnglish, the Chinese basic statement with no exception follow thenormal order of Subject-Verb- Object format. In other cases, theadjectives also precede the objects in both English and Chineselanguage sentence construction.
Statementof the Problem
Languagesare utilized when expressing people’s point of view whencommunicating with each other. According to the definition oflanguage, English can be classified as alphabetic writing whereas theChinese language can be termed as hieroglyph writing. NowadaysEnglish and Chinese play increasingly important functions in cultureintegration, economy, and world politics an indication that bothEnglish and Chinese languages are becoming more and more importantand popular. Therefore, it is true that English and Chinese languagesare among the most popular languages and studying their similaritiesand differences is fundamental in understanding communicationpractices in the pluralistic societies.
Thisresearch has the objectives of comparing and contrasting the Chineseand the West language practices through review of the body language,thinking mode, the linguistic differences that result from Chineseand the West thinking patterns
Thestudy seeks to answer the following question: what are thedifferences and similarities between the West and Chinesecommunication practices in pluralistic societies?
Thesignificance of the study
Understandingmajor differences and similarities between the West and Chineselanguages practices is important because it enables the learners tofocus exclusively on the elements that are troublesome. Therefore,this study is fundamental in enlightening the English and Chinesespeaking people of the importance of understanding and patience whencommunicating with each other in the pluralistic society.
Inefforts of coming up with deep understanding of the study topic, thisresearch will encompass integrative literature review that embracesboth the experimental and non-experimental study results. Theliterature review process and analysis was comprehensive to ensurethat the research contained relevant information. Considering thefact that there is a lot of information concerning the West andChinese communication practices, the research only embraced theinformation that was credible to the scope of study. The EBSCO,PROQUEST and JASTOR databases were the essential databases that wereused in this research study. The first initial step of the dataanalysis method was just limited review of the available literatureon both West and Chinese communication practices in the essence ofgetting potential information sources for use in the research. To getconcise and credible information from the identified databases, theliterature search only encompassed research articles that had beenpublished in the last five years. The rationale of using articlespublished within the previous five years in the study was to increaseinclusivity of the English and Chine language practices that had beenstudied extensively within this timeframe in an effort to getsuccinct results in answering the study question.
Cookand Cook (2016)note that there are several types of research designs includingdescriptive designs, experimental and exploratory research designs.Descriptive research design gives the responses to when, what, whereand who and gives reasons that are related to the research design. Inthe descriptive research design, the researchers obtains informationconcerning the current states of the phenomena while at the same timeelucidating different elements of the phenomena. According to Cookand Cook (2016)descriptive research design is suited to research scenarios whenthere exists sufficient information from previous studies and theresearcher or investigator has adequate knowledge concerning theresearch question.
Similarly,the exploratory research design is used in research circumstanceswhere there exists insufficient information that can be used toforecast the result. Such research design concentrates on gettinginsight and familiarity of information especially when the researchtopic is at its preliminary stages. Exploratory research design ismostly utilized when getting an indulgence regarding the bestinitiative of investigating a research topic as well as the bestmethodology to be used when gathering information.
Equally,the experimental research design just embodies the blueprint ofprocess that assists the researchers to sustain and control certainelements that might impact the results of the experiment underresearch. As such, the researchers endeavor to forecast probableevents. Nevertheless, the descriptive approach was favored in thisresearch study because the researcher was endowed with enoughknowledge concerning the West and Chinese communication practicesplus there is sufficient research information that has been carriedout on previous studies.
Inthis study, the evidence was collected by reviewing secondary sourcesin publications located in EBSCO, PROQUEST and JASTOR onlinedatabases that relates to the English and Chinese language practicesin pluralistic societies.
Thestudy identified fifteen articles available for review which werethen grouped into research and non-research articles and this processyielded ten research and five non-research articles. As a result,this paved way for articles analysis depending on their contributionto the research topic and those that did not focus on the researchtopic were excluded. The remaining articles used in the study werebased on mixed, quantitative, and qualitative studies thereby endingthe research review process after all identified articles reachedthis screening stage.
Thestudy applied thematic analysis in an effort to compare the findingsof the articles mentioned above. Each theme was given a specific codethat was to be used for analysis and this system was applicable dueto the fact that a lot of information was retrieved from all thefifteen articles identified for the study. The specific codesignified consistent themes in the analysis – Body language andthinking pattern. To come up with specific themes, the contents ofthe articles were read in an effort to understand how each articlecontributed to the study topic. Additionally, the titles of eacharticle assisted in highlighting the context of article as well asits contribution to answering the research topic. For instance, thearticles that discussed body language as a communication practice inthe West and China were grouped under one theme and others that diddiscuss thinking patters in communication were also grouped under onetheme.
Inconclusion, Communication as a fundamental life skill that helpspeople to understand and then connect with one another in any humansociety because it helps people resolve personal differences, trustand to build respect as well as fostering human environment whereaffection, caring, problem solving and creative ideas thrive. Thereare different practices of communication that are common in allcultures of the world including, verbal communication, non-verbalcommunication and written communication. These communicationpractices are similar and also differ in pluralistic societies. Chinaand the West are examples of pluralistic cultures where communicationpractices can be compared and contrasted in relation to bodylanguage, thinking mode, and verbal communication styles.
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