High Context Culture VS. Low Context Culture

Below you will find my comments on an excerpt from the Business English -Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) course I am taking online at http://www.teflonline.org

“Culture is not simply the backdrop for international communication; rather language and culture are inextricably interrelated. The choices we make concerning vocabulary, syntactic patterns, text organization, and body language are, to a large extent, determined by the cultural setting we have been raised in, as well as by the cultural setting we are in at the moment.

As a way to understand intercultural communication patterns, Edward T. Hall developed the low- versus high-context communication framework. The so-called low-context cultures, comprised basically of native English speakers, Scandinavians, and German speakers, focus on the explicit information presented in the message and therefore expect a high level of detail in their visual, verbal, and written communication. High-context cultures (Latin, African and Eastern people), on the other hand, pay a lot of attention to the meaning implicit in non-verbal details like physical surroundings, choice of attire, individuals involved in the communication, and the way the information is organized.” (Tefl online course)

The following phrase hit the nail on the head for me as I reflect on several of my relationships both professional and socially with foreign-born latinos, “language and culture are inextricably interrelated”.

As I mentioned I consider having an identity that entails both an American component and a Latino component. As the excerpt described there is what we call “low context culture and high context culture.” I have had several conversations with peers and colleagues about how the way WE express ourselves (keep in mind that as I am writing these blogs I am also reflecting and trying to make sense of my observations while at the same time exploring future doctoral focus of interests. In other words, none of the thoughts I write are a definitive point of view on my end , their simply observations, if you will, that I hope will develop into something more substantial). WE, being American Latinos vs. Foreign born Latinos, differ not only in the way we express ourselves, but the relationships we develop and maintain amongst one another. For instance, with my American Latino girlfriends, the closer we get, the more we reveal about our life, our problems, etc etc. When I have tried to develop friendships with foreign-born latinos there was a sense of not ever disappointing one other. It’s difficult to put into words. For instance, when my husband and I were graduate students we attended a Latino Student Organization. The foreign-born latinos were the ones that were concerned about how well they were dressed whereas the American Latinos were a little more casual. In addition, when we spoke to foreign-born latinos we talked about politics, the party we were attending, what we were studying. We may have done the same with American born Latinos, but it wasn’t awkward to mention personal information. I don’t think these are good examples, but as I have said this is a topic I am exploring, hopefully I can provide better one as I continue to explore my thoughts

Part of the reason I am so intrigued about culture and how we all relate (in this case as American born and raised Latinos vs. Foregin-born and raised Latinos) is because I really think it plays a huge part when it comes to teaching overall, but in a more distinct manner when it comes to teaching bilingual education. There are so many influential factors that affect the implementation of a bilingual program and I think this is a crucial one.


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