Task 2. 4 An intercultural incident?
Aim: To examine an incident from an intercultural perspective
Time: 20 minutes
If you consider that the mind of a person from one culture is going to be different in many ways from the mind of a person from another culture, then you have the explanation for that most fundamental of all cross-cultural problems: the fact that two people look upon the same reality, the same example of behavior, and see two entirely different things.
Any behavior observed across the cultural divide, therefore, has to be interpreted in two ways:
- the meaning given to it by the person who does the action
- the meaning given to it by the person who observes the action
Only when these two meanings are the same do we have successful communication, successful in the sense that the meaning that was intended by the doer is the one that was understood by the observer.
Read the story about an incident at an adult education centre below.
Aygen was tired of not being able to understand the notes her son brought home from school. In fact, more than tired, she was ashamed that she could not help her son more by understanding German. She had arrived in Germany 10 years ago from Turkey to marry Mehmet and somehow had never got round to learning more than a few words and phrases of German. They watched Turkish TV and Mehmet's family and Turkish friends were the people she interacted with most. But now, because she had not understood the message, it seems that her son was in trouble because he had missed some sort of deadline. Her cousin, Lale, had told her that she really should take the time to learn German properly and given her the name of a nearby class that would start soon. But Aygen knew that it would be difficult to persuade Mehmed that this was a good idea. After a great deal of heated discussion, he eventually agreed and she went to her first lesson. Mehmet took her and saw her into the classroom. After collecting Aygen from the class when it ended, they chatted about it and Mehmet was stunned to discover that Aygen's teacher of German was not only male but not even German! His name was Rachid and he was originally from Morocco. Mehmed, who had been very unsure about Aygen going to these classes in the first place, was outraged and demanded a meeting with the head of the adult education centre to ask for "a proper German teacher".
Based on a true incident
You will each consider the situation from different points of view:
- Group 1: What do you think were the motivations for Mehmed’s actions? (Names A, B, C, D)
- Group 2: What do you think Aygen’s perspective is now after this first German class? (Names E, F, G, H)
- Group 3: How do you think Rachid feels after this first German class? (Names I, J, K, L)
- Group 4: If you were Rachid’s boss, the head of the adult education centre, what would you do about this situation? (Names M, N, O, P)
All groups: Why do you think this happened? How much of what happened is due to culture and how much is due to the personalities of each of the characters? You can discuss these issues in terms of the cultural metaphors from Task 2.2.
Discuss your responses to these questions in your own group thread. Try to use dialogue principles rather than the debate approach (Task 2.3). Make sure that you make at least three contributions to your group forum.