Samstag, 7. Oktober 2006

Intellectual Styles

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In 1981, social researcher Johan Galtung published an essay in which he outlined and compared differences between Saxonic (USA, United Kingdom), Teutonic (Germany), Gallic (France) and Nipponic (Japan) intellectual styles. Apart from other things he established how members of these four cultures would react if they were faced with a (scientific) proposition and which typical question they would ask.

(cf. GALTUNG 1985)

Although Galtung indicates that this figure should not be taken too seriously, it can be pointed out that the Japanese (Nipponic style) lay emphasis on the importance of their masters and teachers. In this regard, Japan could be seen as representative of nearly all East Asian countries. The status of the teacher seems to be different compared with the one in Western cultures (North America and most of Europe). These cultural differences can lead to intercultural misunderstandings as the following examples reveal:

  • An American teacher at the foreign language institute in Peking exclaimed in class "You lovely girls, I love you". Her students were shocked (cf. GTZ 1989, p. 50).
  • An Indonesian language teacher taught a group of German managers to speak Bahasa. He was completely terrified when the company expected from the learners that they should evaluate and criticize his lessons.
  • A guest lecturer from Malaysia felt disrespected and disdained because the German students were late for his lecture and did not even apologize.
  • A German engineer who instructed teachers at a Chinese vocational college was at a loss. His "teachers" would consequently avoid any practical demonstration when giving their lessons (cf. REISCH/TANG 1992, p. 2).

These four situations indicate that the involved persons are very often not aware of little traps. It is not easy to move in foreign societies without knowing about the cultural differences and these examples show once again clearly the significance of intercultural communication and competence.

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