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Human beings are social beings and learn most skills through verbal and nonverbal communication. Communication is the process of exchanging information and sharing ideas amongst individuals using various modes like writing or speaking (Lunenburg, 2010). The communication process involves the sender, a medium, and the receiver with the message being the outcome of encoding that takes the form of verbal, nonverbal, or written language. Culture and to a great extent geographical location influence the acquisition of communication skills. Linguistic and psychological theories (Wang & Liu, 2008) provide a comprehensive explanation of the differences in communication acquisition from a socio-cultural perspective. In their argument, Wang and Liu (2008) established that socio-cultural factors played a critical role in communication acquisition and slips. The essay aims to discuss the role of social and cultural factors in the acquisition of human communication skills.
Culture nurture the social aspect of human interactions since it provides people with ways of thinking an interpreting the world(Carpendale& Lewis, 2015). It is common to find similar words that carry different meanings in different languages, even when they are pronounced in a similar way. Most people have been forced to acquire a new language like English. According to Anyanwu (2016), English has become a second language especially in English non-speaking countries since it has become an intra national and international language for communication. However, culture dictates how people acquire and learn the English language since it also creates a form of cultural identity when people are communicating. One can tell where someone comes from just by hearing their accent, intonation and pronunciation of words. Religion is a fusion of social and cultural factors that dictates individual and collective orientation (Konsky, Kapoor, Blue & Kapoor, 2000). The belief systems guide people's communication, an instance that has in some cases has generated negativity due to religious conflicts and different understandings of the teachings in religion. Religion involves religious rituals, which communicate a certain message or symbolize a certain act. Take an example of the Catholic faith which celebrates the holy mass through the Holy Communion and the Eucharist.
The celebration symbolizes Christ's Passover message. It is a non-verbal means of communication to convey such a message. Islam also has numerous codes of conduct which individuals strictly conform to. Most Arabic nations use Islam religion to direct the course of life and communication in society (Ozdipciner, Ceylan&Soydas, 2015). Religions have laws, which affect the patterns of communication and interactions with strangers. According to Mckay and Whitehouse (2015),Islam culture encourages use of the word "inshallah" which implies "if God wishes." The phrase is commonly used and if someone asks a colleague for a favor and receives such a response it will practically mean "yes" more so if told two times.
Culture in conservative areas, especially Islamic, Orthodox Jews and Christian regions is termed as contact culture (Legare& Nielsen, 2015) because they are guided by religious laws that insist on respect, discourage sexual immorality, and shape the way of communication among people. In these regions for example, respect to people of the opposite sex is held in high regard and modes of communication like eye contact are key and can easily be misinterpreted or cause shame if misused. For instance, it will be a shameful act to wink an eye at a colleague of the opposite sex. Furthermore, colleagues of the opposite sex are encouraged to maintain a free conversation with minimal privacy such as leaving the door open when inside a room to eliminate doubts of issues like sexual abuse.
Hierarchy or position in power is another major factor in society that will impact on communication skills. People of a lower rank in an organization tend to be more verbal when communicating with each other while fewer words and non-verbal signs such as nodding are used when they communicate to a person at a higher status. This shows respect to people in high power and often the titles Sir, Mr. or Mrs. are used. In Japan for instance, young members of the society are taught talk in a polite manner when addressing their elders. They are discouraged from using seductive phrases to show respect(Ford, Downey, Engelberg, Back & Curtis, 2012). Most Asian cultures tend to use positive nodding to gesture agreement to the speaker which however does not always imply that they have agreed with them. Dodge (2014)established that in Mexican and African American cultures, communication skills are greatly taught to encourage respect. For instance eye contact is used as a means of showing attention and respect to people of high power and also shows confidence in the ideas being expressed or shared.
The United States however tend to encourage equality amongst all levels of power but most people in other regions of the world may not accustom themselves to such ideologies. Barrett, M. (2016) reported that national culture greatly determines the manner in which decisions are made in an organization between people of high power and those of low power. In most cases the decision making process is left for the high power people because those of lower power tend to eliminate themselves in the participation of decision making as a sign of being obedience and showing respect. In countries where unequal power distribution is accepted, communication is done with the use of formal or official language in an organization.
According to Dow, Cuypers, and Ertug (2016), the process of coming up with decisions in an institution highly relies upon the employees' relations with their seniors or employers. A conducive environment can be created in an institution by taking into consideration the staff members' cultural origin. People of high power should take time to listen to the subordinate staff in a way of seeking advice or knowledge of how to run the institution. However, due to cultural settings and regulations, as a senior being advised by a person of lower power is unacceptable. It is termed as managing the institution negatively. Therefore, a greater part of the decision making process is left to be handled by the seniors in an institution. The rest of the employees have a smaller or no impact when it comes to decision making.
Language and cultural differences come as a factor to be considered in acquisition of communication skills. Different societies all over the world have a first language taught to young children. The background of a speaker has an impact in the manner in which they relay the information and also their behavior(Bernardini, Porayska-Pomsta& Smith, 2014). Due to the diverse nature of cultural practices and values and relations in different societies, an individual's style of communication can easily be affected. For instance speech errors such as slip of the tongue or accents while using a new language is a common amongst human beings(Barrett, 2016). Speech errors are practically caused by a person's language background besides being just a mere mind set.
A speech determines the characters of a person or their background. One can quickly conclude some information about a speaker just by the manner in which they deliver their words or actions(Saville-Troike&Barto, 2016). For instance the social status of a person can easily be determined if that person is bragging about their life style. Cultural origin can also be known when an individual speaks for example the manner in which one greets the audience. Muslims will be easily identified if they say "as-salaam-alaikum." Various cultures have their unique codes of identification.
Non-verbal errors have an impact on a person's ability to make decisions for instance if the person is absentminded or reflecting on a past occurrence(Shrum&Glisan, 2015). However small they might seem, these errors can land a person in serious problems or cause disturbance to other colleagues. Slips in the mind or the tongue can arise questions about a person's eligibility for a certain superior position. In the event that slips occur in a serious situation, fatal incidences may occur. For example, if information from a control tower is affected by the slip of tongue such that it brings up a different message to the pilot, it is more likely that a serious crash might happen. Slips of the brain may also result to a serious calamity. For instance if the driver of a bus mistakes their thoughts such that they fail to stop the vehicle while the traffic light has indicated green, he may end up injuring road users.
Structural differences in words due to difference in cultural backgrounds can also affect the manner in which a person communicates. According to Ackermann, Hage, and Ziegler (2014) structural components of a language such as personal pronouns can easily be mixed up especially by the English speakers whereas it is less likely for Chinese speakers to face the same problem as their language structure differs from English.Other language errors such as accents can also result from the language and cultural background of an individual. For instance Indians will have a hard time communicating in English due to the nature of their Indian tongue. Due to their cultural practices and involvement of dance in their livelihood, they will tend to shake their head a little when speaking to emphasize their message(Virtanen, Tynjala&Etelapelto, 2014). These factors make it easier for a person to identify other individuals from different cultural settings.
Social media, a new generation technological development is being widely used in today's world(Rahman, 2013). The current generation has taken this as a trend and mostly teenagers or young adults are associating themselves with the social media. Talking of social websites such as twitter, Facebook and Instagram where individuals from different segments of the world share their ideas and opinions in a matter of seconds. This is advantageous such that even friends or family members separated by distance can still communicate and share their experiences from their locations. However, social media has greatly reduced the effectiveness of interpersonal communication as well as deteriorating proper language use.
Most social media users have a habit of using short forms while typing a message so as to be quick in delivering a messageOthman &Ngah, 2016). This results to adverse grammatical errors in language use. Social media also hinders social interactions and limits face-to-face conversations. To add on, it slowly takes away the listening skills of an individual in that during a social gathering or parties most people will be found glued to their smartphones instead of paying keen attention to what is being communicated. Therefore, it is evident that social media has several negative impacts on the daily lives of human beings more so communication as much as it is helpful in other ways.
Culture and social factors play a role in the acquisition of communication skills. Communication is a necessity in human interactions and can be influenced to align people towards a unique set of communication skills. These socio-cultural factors include religion which is a major social practice across the globe. Different religions have different beliefs and hence different ways of communication. Other factors include hierarchy where different cultures have a certain way of addressing those of high power and those of low power, language and cultural differences and technology, specifically so...
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