Communication Accommodation Theory
Communicationaccommodation theory (CAT) is needed now more than ever. We have madeso much progress in terms of communication. This progress has beenfacilitated by the use of the internet which allows immediatecommunication across borders. People of different cultures andbackgrounds are easily connected through the World Wide Web. Thegeneral idea behind CAT is establishing a common ground between twopeople from diverse cultures for efficient communication. CAT relieson four assumptions: speech behavior differences and resemblances,perception and evaluation, status, and social suitability. Thistheory suggests that people from different backgrounds will havecertain aspects of their speech differ and others resemble eachother. Because of the perceived differences in culture, communicatorswill evaluate the conversation based on those perceptions. Most ofthe time, the communication will rely heavily on the social status ofthe speakers. Speakers adapt to the communication style of the personwith the high social status. Social suitability is the finalassumption. This assumption means that communication has to followuniversally accepted social norms like letting those with authorityspeak first. Also worth noting is the two strategies used in CAT:namely, convergence and divergence. Convergence literally meansarriving at a common meeting point. With the convergence technique,one speaker accommodates the other by adapting to theircommunication. A good example is where one speaker from anotherculture pronounces words in a manner similar to that of theiropponent’s background. One reason why people use this form ofaccommodation is that they usually feel inferior when it comes totheir own culture, accepting the other person’s way of living asbeing more superior. Divergence is a tactic whereby one person openlydisplays the differences in culture when communicating with another.Individuals use this tactic to show they have confidence in theirheritage and culture. Because CAT is an important communication tool,it needs to be applied at the right moment for it to be effective.
Inthe presentation by Pellegrino Riccardi, he mentions thatcommunication accommodation is affected by familiarity andacceptance. This idea is similar to the CAT assumption of perceptionand evaluation. Riccardi uses his own life experiences to explainthis phenomenon. In one example, he describes the differences betweenthe Nordic language and English. According to him, English uses a lotof words to describe something so small, while Nordic languages useless vocabulary to depict big ideas/meanings. This illustration meansthat an English man visiting the Nordic countries has to learn to saylittle to accommodate the natives and guarantee smooth communication.The other example of CAT in practice used in the video is divergenceas a communication strategy. Pellegrino talks about how speaking ingood English gets people to take him seriously, while communicatingin Italian has a counter effect. Pellegrino uses this tactic at theairport and during talks to ensure his audience accommodates him andthey listen to what he has to tell them.
Althoughapplying CAT is helpful in daily communication, it should not belimited to the idea of accommodation only. Using online platformslike YouTube, people from all over the world post videos on differentideas about life and individuals who are not from the same culturereadily accept them. If people’s ideas appeal to others fromdifferent cultures, then accommodation is not a big deal. Insteadcommunication theories should focus on merging cultures to form auniversal correspondence language that everyone can understandregardless of their country of origin.
Insum, CAT becomes an important communication tool when it is appliedcorrectly. For example, Riccardi speaks English when he wants peopleto take him seriously. CAT focuses on accommodating the other personduring communication. But it should not be limited to that specificfunction. A better approach is one that merges different cultures tocreate a universal communication tool which eliminates the ethnicitybarrier and unites people.
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