Cross-cultural Communication

Not quite what you might expect

Cross-cultural Communication

A critical approach to the study of 'culture' and human communication.

This course will not run in the Autumn 2017 Semester or the Spring 2018 Semester as I am on sabbatical.


Course Outline and Method

This course offers a critical approach to the field of Cross-Cultural Communication by introducing students to ideas of ‘culture’ and ‘identity’. An understanding of these two concepts is fundamental to all human interaction and a knowledge of the worldwide variations found will enhance the ability of students to communicate successfully across boundaries at all levels. We also look at the importance of language in understanding cultures, and variations in fundamental understandings of such concepts as ‘space’ and ‘time’ which are shared by human beings around the world. The emphasis of the course is on human commonalities, rather than surface differences.

Attainment Objectives

At the end of this course students should:

  • have started to develop critical skills which allow them to understand, assess and evaluate information in relation to its cultural context
  • have had opportunity to reflect on their own cultural identity and how it may influence their interaction with individuals from different cultures
  • be aware of and understand a variety of approaches to understanding the concept of ‘culture’
  • be aware of similarities and differences across a variety types of human social groups

Session Schedule

1 Introductions and course outline
What is ‘Cross-Cultural Communication’ and why study it?
2 Development and background of the field of ‘Intercultural Communications’
The birth of studies of ‘Cross/Inter-Cultural Communication’. Edward T. Hall and the Foreign Service Institute, “The Silent Language”, and the classic IC Paradigm.
3 Concepts of Culture:1
Conceptions of the notion of ‘culture’ have changed over the centuries. How did we get to where we are now? Culture as ‘growth’, culture as a ‘standard’, ‘mass’ culture.
4 Concepts of Culture:2
Postwar thinking on ‘culture’, the culture onion, complexity.
5 Dimensions of Culture
Quantitative approaches, survey methodology. Hofstede and Trompenaars.
6 Classifying Culture
Culture ‘ranking’, stereotyping.
7 Language and Culture
The ‘language=nation=culture’ paradigm. Identity and sociolinguistics.
8 World Languages Now
The value of language, linguistic imperialism, language death
9 Non-verbal communication
Proxemics, gestures and ‘paralanguage’.
10 Perceptions of Time
Human perceptions of time. Chronemics: ‘monochronic’ and ‘polychronic’ attitudes. Time related language and gestures.
11 Perceptions of Space
Proxemics. Conceptions of position and direction. Language and space.
12 Culture Shock
Intercultural encounters: the U and W curves. Transition Stress, measuring and ‘life change units’.
13 The Politics of Culture
Culture as nationalism. Gendered and classed cultures.
14 Identity Theory
What is identity?
15 Summary and Review
Review of the main points made over the past 14 sessions.


Attendance and participation: 30%

Active efforts to take part in discussion, willingness to express ideas and ask appropriate questions. During the course it is your responsibility to provide me with evidence that you are attempting to engage with the material in a thoughtful and critical manner, you can do this primarily by asking questions and joining in with discussions in class.

NB. If you are absent five times or more without due reason you will automatically be awarded an F grade.

Final Essay: 70%

Deadline: end of week 15
Word count: 2000

This is an ‘argumentative essay’ on a subject of your choice, it will require you to;

  • choose a topic related to the content covered during the course
  • provide evidence of independent reading
  • provide evidence of the ability to reason logically
  • refer to appropriate sources and cite and reference them properly
  • use appropriate presentation and style.

A rubric showing how the essay will be graded will be provided near the start of the course.

You will also need to submit, at specified points throughout the course,
1) an initial research question and proposed title for your essay, and
2) a short annotated bibliography of the sources you intend to use. Deadlines for these pieces of assessed work will be set at the beginning of the course.

Please be aware that I use the Turnitin software to check all written submissions. If you have objections to your work being submitted for plagiarism checking, please discuss it with me. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. It is your responsibility to ensure that you are aware of what constitutes plagiarism and of the university’s policies regarding plagiarised work.


YOU are responsible for your participation in this course, I will not remind you to attend class and I will not remind to hand in work on time.