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    Cross-Cultural Communication Needed Badly

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    John Harrison
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    Cross-Cultural Communication has become a bit of a buzzword these days, with the term being used frequently in even the mainstream press. Yet not all of us really understand what the term actually means, at a time when understanding and respecting different cultures is perhaps more important than ever before.

    Dr Oksana Danchevskaya, an Associate Professor at the Institute of Foreign Languages of Moscow State Pedagogical University, joins the programme. Oksana specialises in Cultural Studies, Cross-Cultural Communication (CCC) and American Indian Studies.

    Oksana starts by offering a definition of what CCC is: "In short CCC is the study of the communication of people from different cultures. However, many people often misinterpret this, thinking CCC only occurs when there is an interaction between people from different ethnic backgrounds and countries. In fact CCC is much wider because every sub-culture, religious group, gender, age, social group has its own culture, and communication between such groups can also be classified as being cross-cultural."

    Studying CCC, Oksana says: "First of all enables one to study oneself, because when we study and understand other cultures, we also understand our own cultural background. It helps people adjust their own behaviour to different situations, both professional and personal. It enables people to perhaps not completely avoid but get prepared for culture shock when they travel or become expats. It helps people become better communicators….We learn to understand ourselves and learn how to avoid judging others….We learn not only to understand but respect other peoples, their cultures, religions, beliefs, norms and so on."

    Studying CCC means learning how not to be influenced by stereotypes. Host John Harrison asks how is it possible to teach this. Oksana says: "There are a lot of different ways, I really love what I am doing, and I try to apply different approaches….For example, I ask students to simply observe how different nationalities behave on the Moscow Metro regarding their personal space, eye contact and non-verbal communication. They made a lot of really interesting observations…"

    Oksana also talks about her deep interest in the mythology of North American Indians. "I started with mythologies of these people, and then discovered how similar they are with the mythologies of other peoples, especially those from Siberia and the Russian North. There are so many parallel mythological motives all over the world, but I'm interested in all mythologies. The more I understand, the less I know…"

    As far as the relevance of CCC in a world that is becoming more and more fragmented goes, Oksana expresses that we do indeed live in interesting, and changing times. "I always tell my students to just look around them because tomorrow the world will already be different. But I believe that fragmentation depends on individual people, on what kind of world people want to live in….We want our communication to be successful, but if we are not familiar with various aspects of the cultural background of the people we are dealing with, we can easily make mistakes. Some of these mistakes can lead to cultural misunderstandings and culture shock. These can be corrected, but some of them can lead to serious consequences which offend people and can cause a break off of relationships or even conflict. CCC teaches us not only how to correct such unpleasant mistakes but also how to avoid them."

    Oksana feels that the world is clearly ready for this subject.

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