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Social Interaction in a Multicultural Group: How People from Different Cultural and Linguistic Background Negotiate Communication and Establish Relations

Victoria, Mabel



There has been a wealth of studies that explore the interplay between culture and communication. However, many of these investigations tend to focus disproportionately on misunderstanding, communication breakdowns and failures. Indeed, it can be argued that the problematic nature of communication among individuals from different cultural backgrounds has turned intercultural communication research into a “celebration of miscommunication” (Sarangi & Roberts 1993). This is not to underestimate the potential challenges and difficulties that might arise in encounters among individuals from different cultures; but rather to narrow the gap between the failures and the successes

The present investigation seeks to bring out the recognition of the need to move in the direction of paying more attention to communication successes. Drawing from pragmatics, discourse analysis and ethnography, this research analyzes naturally occurring audio-recorded data and interviews taken from a 12-week ethnographic study of an employment preparation program for Canadian immigrants where English is used as a common language. Research participants consist of teachers and adult students who come from different national and ethnic origins. Preliminary findings illustrate how group members subvert institutional classroom discourse, challenge (im) politeness conventions and create new rules for negotiating meaning while at the same time maintaining solidarity and harmony. As Blommaert (1998) argues, when members of different cultures meet, “people shift into a medium which is no one's property,” and “cultural conventions get sacrificed in a split second.”

BLOMMAERT, J. (1998) Different approaches to intercultural communication: a critical survey. Lernen und Arbeiten in einer international vernetzten und multikulturellen Gesellschaft, Expertentagung. University of Bremen.

ROBERTS, C. & SARANGI, S. (1993) "Culture" revisited in intercultural communication. IN BOSWOOD, T., HOFFMAN, R. & TUNG, P. (Eds.) Perspectives on English for international communication. Hongkong, Hongkong City Polytechnic.

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Conference Name EPICS IV - 4th Symposium On Intercultural, Cognitive And Social Pragmatics
Start Date Mar 24, 2010
End Date Mar 26, 2010
Deposit Date Dec 20, 2021
Public URL