Intercultural communication is the exchange of information between people of diverse cultures (Larry & Porter, 1991). This happens only if the message is developed by members of a particular cultural group meant to be consumed by members who belong to other cultures. Intracultural communication is the exchange of information among people who share similar cultures (Lustig &Koester, 1996). The world has been reduced into a global village. Technology has enabled countries such as South Africa and Germany which are located far apart to exchange cultural information with each other. Language plays a critical role in the transmission of cultural beliefs in different societies. It is believed that many teenagers around the world have been affected by the dominant culture. The removal of linguistic hurdles is enabling cultural groups to interact freely. Communication is the process of transmitting information from a sender to a receiver (Lustig &Koester, 1996). Culture is a total way of life for people. Culture is learned.
The difference between, intercultural and intracultural communication is that the former takes place when members of different customs, values and habits exchange information. The latter occurs when people who share similar cultures exchange meaningful information. Both intercultural and intracultural communication happens at a particular site where there is an interaction of humans in a particular setup. Irrespective of the kind of communication, it entails the exchange of culture. One of the reasons behind mastering intercultural competence is to understand some of the barriers to effective intercultural communication. The barriers include anxiety, assuming similarity or difference, ethnocentrism, stereotypes and prejudice, incompatible communication codes, and incompatible norms and values. Secondly, to be able to live and work harmoniously in this multicultural world, people must be competent in intercultural communication.
Intercultural encounters can have profound effects on people of different cultures. Recently my intercultural encounter with Richard Peter, a 49-year-old Catholic believer has been of great benefit. He is a successful businessman running a chain of supermarkets in Thika. This region boasts of developed facilities. This place is also inhabited by people of all races. Richard’s ethnic background has been influential in his hard work, patience, and perseverance in life. The values and norms learned by Richard have affected his perception of life. One of the values of his ethnicity is hard work, individuality, patriotism, and success. The social identity of Richard coupled with ethnicity and perhaps religion is the force behind his success. People who value hard work and comfort must also value the hard work that comes with success and comfort. Although some of the values of various ethnic groups are in sharp conflict. Richard’s ethnic values can be compared to Americans. They also believe in individuality, success, hard work and comfort.
This encounter has been an eye-opener on taking up challenges in life. The encounter has been empowering especially on the secrets of living in a multiethnic society. The lesson learned from the encounter is that prejudice and discrimination is hurdles to intercultural communication. Tolerance, perseverance, persistence, learning the codes of communication of other cultures and friendliness are ways through which intercultural communication can be enhanced. Intercultural communication would have been beneficial because of my affiliation to different ethnic, and religious backgrounds had it come earlier. Cultural diversity can enrich societies but can also be harmful to them.
Larry, A. and Porter, E. R (1991) Basic Principles of Intercultural Communication. In Larry A. Samovar and Richard E. Porter: Intercultural Communication: A Reader. Wadsworth, Inc., CA: USA.
Lustig, M. W. and Koester, J. (1996). Intercultural Competence: Interpersonal Communication Across Cultures. HarperCollins College Publishers. NY, USA.