Welcome to
Eavesdropping on the Cultural Conversation,
an online resource for teachers and students of American English
in Taiwan's Applied Foreign Language Departments.
PREFACE
CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION
This site is your resource as...
"All thought draws life from contacts and exchanges."
    - Fernand Braudel, Historian (1902 - 1985)
"Perhaps through realising human nature in a shape very distant and foreign to us, we shall have some light shed on our own."
    - Bronislaw Malinowski, Anthropologist (1884 - 1942)

A brief introduction:

Why "encountering"? Why not a simpler word like "meeting," learning," or "understanding"? The word encounter is an excellent term for
what happens when a person from one culture meets a person or things from another culture: There is an element of mutuality, surprise,
challenge, and even threat, as well as simply "meeting." The Chinese translations bear this out: 相會, 相遇, 遭遇, 邂逅, 會戰, 偶然相遇.
Encountering different cultures is one of life's most intellectually stimulating challenges and -- in my opinion -- pleasures.  Learning how
other people live and think is a window to your own life and thought.

You already use your native language, which is rooted in your culture, to interact with people and understand media every day. Most of
this interaction and understanding takes place happily without the application of linguistics, sociolinguistics, cultural anthropology, and
other such lofty knowledge. When you are required to use a foreign language to encounter foreign people and media, however, your
success will depend on much more than knowledge of your target language's grammar and vocabulary. Successful communication will
depend on knowing...
...a new set of rules about who may say what to whom, in what situation and what manner,
...how these rules are governed by cultural values, attitudes and beliefs, norms, sociological variables, basic human motivations, and are
shaped by history and reflected in material culture.

This may sound daunting, but it isn't so hard. You already communicate quite competently in your own language among your cultural
peers, and you draw upon all of the above listed knowledge unconsciously; it is automatic or
out of awareness. As a student of a foreign
language, it is useful for you to bring this unconscious knowledge into your awareness. Why? Because cultures foreign to you are no
different from your own in that they have social organization and are motivated by the same basic human needs. The ways cultures go
about meeting their needs and organizing their societies makes them different. By learning the ways in which we are the same, we can
better understand the ways in which we are different.

You could do this by trial and error, as millions of people do when they immigrate without any cross-cultural training. But by studying
culture and communication, you will spare yourself much frustration, confusion, and misunderstanding when you encounter a foreign
culture, its people and their behavior and media.
...you use
American English
Culture
Linguistics:
grammar
and
vocabulary
Sociolinguistics:
roles
context
function
values, attitudes and beliefs

rules for interaction
(cultural norms)

sociological variables

basic human motivations

history and material culture
observable behavior,

print, film and electronic
media  

communicative competence
Language
People and Media
to cross cultural boundaries
and encounter foreign
people and media.
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