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WHAT IS COMMUNICATION?

Communication is the process of passing information from one person(s) to another using a channel communication and subscribing to certain spatial-temporal coordinates. Even if it may appear simple, communication is difficult to define, analyze and categorize. Communication has received numerous and various definitions which merely illustrate how intricate and how difficult to grasp communication is. The majority view communication as a process, an ongoing event by which people attempt to transmit thoughts, ideas, wishes, emotions or just try to maintain a cordial social relationship. Communication has two varieties: verbal communication and nonverbal communication. However these two categories do not offer two different choices for the process of communication, so that either one or the other is to be used when communicating. In fact these two varieties usually complete each other and more rarely occur one without the other. Nonverbal communication is the process of sending and receiving wordless messages. Communication without words circumscribes a large range of elements: chronemics (the study of perception, structure, reaction to/in time), kinesics (the study of bodily movements), paralinguistics (the study of the vocal features accompanying speech), proxemics (the study of spatial distances between people engaged in communication) and partially semiotics (the study of signs and symbols). Nonverbal communication can occur through any sensory channel such as sight, sound, smell, touch or taste; consequently messages can be communicated through gestures, body language, facial expression, eye contact, clothing, hairstyle, make-up, intonation, voice inflexion etc. Verbal communication is the process of sending and receiving verbal messages. With the use of language and words people communicate ideas and thoughts. The ability to communicate verbally is taught and learnt, and people are those who use language as a tool. However their ability to use this tool may vary from one individual to another, depending on training and natural talents. Verbal communication is most susceptible to misunderstandings, as words are usually tightly linked to the context in which they are said. Moreover people do not associate similar feelings or emotions to same words as their experience to the subject may be completely different. The communication process is made of six elements, elements which in time have received various labels according to different theoreticians of the communication process. Regardless of their labels the six elements have remained the same: - sender/ encoder/ creator/ inventor/ communicator - message/ content/ information (is encoded in a language) - channel/ medium (is used for transmitting) - interference/ noise (appears during transmitting) - receiver/ decoder/ interpreter/ consumer - feedback (is provided by the receiver) The sender is the person who transmits the message, as he literally encodes meaning into words of a language. The sender may be the author or just the disseminator of the message. According to Tait & Wibe (1980: 4) there are several elements that influence the sender in any communicational process: communication skills, attitudes, knowledge, social position and culture. Because the role of

sender and receiver is played in turn by the people who communicate, these elements are influencing the receiver as well. Communication skills are acquired by people from an early age and they are perfected in time, so that they may become efficient communicators being able to send and receive messages. Speaking and writing are sending skills, while reading and listening are receiving skills. The fifth skill is necessary both for sending and receiving communication, in fact necessary for every human action is the reasoning skill. Attitude is important as it can substantially influence communication. Attitudes may be projected either onto the sender himself, self-confidence and positive conduct may change the impact of the message on the receiver. Attitudes toward the message, may determine a certain choice of words and a specific content thus influencing the receiver. And thirdly, there is the attitude toward the receive himself that influences communication. The sender behaves differently when delivers a message to people s/he likes or dislikes, similarly the structure of the message is different when one communicates with higher-ups, subordinates or people within the same social group. Knowledge of the subject to which the message belongs is also very important. When the sender is well prepared and knows many things about the subject, the message is likely to be more coherent and better structured hat when s/he knows little about the subject. A good understanding of the topic is necessary for producing a clear content. Social position of the sender in society has a certain influence on the communication process, even if this influence is more subtle than in case the previous elements. This element works both on the sender as well as on the receiver, as each one has a well established position within a group and communication is determined by the functionality of the group. Cultural background influences greatly the sender and the receiver of a message. Communication functions better for people having similar cultural background. The greater are the cultural differences, the more like to appear misunderstandings in communication. The message is what the sender is trying to transfer to the receiver. Every message has content and form. The content of the message consists of ideas, opinions, feelings, explanations, facts and data. The form of the message is the totality of elements which refer to material or immaterial shape of the content. The selection of the form and content of the message is greatly determined by the senders, as well as of the audiences communicational skills, attitude towards the topic, knowledge of the subject matter, social position and cultural background. Depending on the content the message may be characterized as being informative, persuasive, descriptive and demonstrative. The channel, often referred to as communication channel, is the medium (the pathway) used to convey information from a sender to a receiver. In a technologically changing world the channels for communication evolve rapidly as well. One cannot but notice how easy is to communicate nowadays in contrast to the past (only two decades ago). However, even if the devices through which the message is transmitted have changed greatly, the human channels of reception have remained the same. Beal (1967: 6-7) distinguishes between two types of channels: sensory channels based on the five senses of sight, sound, touch, smell and taste and institutionalized means such as direct interaction, printed materials and electronic media. In fact with the senses one receives messages transferred through institutionalized means. The reception of the message by a certain sensory channel through the appropriate means gives the division of communication into oral and written. However Tait and Wibe (1980: 6) mention that the receivers

attention is more likely to be gained if the sender uses a combination of institutionalized means which involve two or more sensory channel. In this way not only that attentions is gained, but the likelihood of miscommunication is greatly reduced. The sensory channel of sound entails speaking (the sender) and hearing (the receiver). Depending through which institutionalized means sound is delivered, this is associated with seeing and interpreting gestures. Delivery of message through the institutionalized means of face-to-face conversation, telephone conversation, teleconferencing or video conferencing/ images constitutes oral communication. In the case of face-to-face conversations and video-conferencing/ images, even if the transfer is made by sound, there is a certain visual component which helps the decoding process. The sensory channel of sight refers to writing (the sender) and reading (the receiver), and hence constituting written communication. The transfer occurs through printed materials (such as books, newspaper articles, notes, posters) or text sent by electronic media, mainly computer-mediated communication (such as electronic mail messages), but also telegrams and faxed documents. When decoding a written message, one does not have the additional tool of gesturing in order to interpret the message. The receiver can rely solely on the written text for understanding the message. In order to compensate for this limitation, the written text must comply with more strict rules. (See below the differences between oral and written communication). The sensory channels of touch, smell and taste may reinforce what is heard or seen, sometimes playing a considerable part in the transfer of the message. The receiver is the person who receives the message, having the task of decoding and interpreting the message. Just like the sender he is equally responsible for achieving the goal of the communication process. In addition to the elements influencing communication described for the sender (see page 2), the receiver has to give his/her undivided attention for understanding the message. The process of tuning in the senses for the reception of information is called attention. In order to have a successful transfer of information, the sender must tune in his/her senses to this process, for example the sender must not only be physically present in the same room with the sender, s/he must listen carefully to what the latter is saying. Another important element regarding the receiver is comprehension which implies understanding the message by the receiver. Significant are here the cognitive abilities of the receiver as well as all the other elements mentioned previously for the sender like cultural background, social position, attitude towards the topic, previous knowledge of the subject matter, etc. It is true that the sender plays a considerable part in this process as s/he must take into consideration the receiver when conceiving the message and must do everything in his/her power to make the reception task easier. The feedback is the modality through which the receiver points out to the sender if communication was effective or not, without it there is no way of knowing if communication was successful. When giving feedback the receiver becomes the sender and the process of communication is reversed. Through feedback the sender has the possibility to adjust his/her message and make it more effective.

CONTACT ACROSS CULTURES

Problems in international business relationships are not always caused by language difficulties. Fill each of the blanks in the following text. Use one word only in each space. Doing business with people of other nationalities involves more than learning foreign languages. There are often cultural differences people of different national backgrounds. These differences sometimes complicate business relationships negotiations. It tendencies as important to be aware your own cultural

as those of your business partners. include body language, gesture, socializing business practice. It is useful hands less often than other European often than many other nationalities very important.

The areas which we need to be aware customs, attitudes to know,

punctuality and dress, example, that the British first names

people, that Americans and that the Japanese We

that harmony and consensus

find out about other cultures with experience. When we

reading and talking to other countries, it is important to

good observers and listeners. We avoid criticising other cultures and realise that we all have similar problems but different ways of dealing with them.

Words! Words! Words!


Mini-Quiz 1. What does "crook" mean? 2. What does "naff" mean? 3. What does "grunge" mean? This quiz just hints at some of the richness and diversity of the English language. There are many varieties of English spoken as a mother-tongue: British, America, Australian and South African, etc. In addition, there are words used only in certain regions, or by a certain age-range, or a particular class. Certain fashionable words are in use for a short time and then become extremely out-of-date. The English language has a remarkably large vocabulary. The Oxford English Dictionary lists

about 500,000 words. The language contains at least a further half million technical and scientific terms. With Germanic, Celtic and Romance roots, the language contains many words in common with most of the languages spoken in Europe: German, Dutch, Flemish, Danish, Swedish, French, Italian and Spanish. There are many synonyms (for example, "pick up"="lift"). In addition, another feature of English vocabulary is that many common words in English have been, and continue to be, borrowed from other languages all over the world. The Oxford English Dictionary, for example, lists about 900 of these "loan words" coming from India alone. You can also find borrowings from Hebrew, Arabic, Malay, Chinese, the languages of Java, Tahiti and Polynesia. This helps to explain why the English language has one of the richest vocabularies in the languages of the world. The reason for this richness is partly historical. For instance, from 11th to 15th centuries, French and Latin were the languages of the ruling class and the church in England. Later, in the 18th and 19th centuries, the soldiers, civil servants and other people working for the British Empire overseas brought back many words and expressions from the five continents. Here are some examples of loan words and their origins: ballot garage Italian French

kindergarten German kiosk marmalade Turkish Portuguese

ombudsman Swedish robot slim sofa tycoon verandah window Czech Dutch Arabic Japanese Hindi Icelandic

All the above words are very commonly used. In fact, many native speakers of English would be surprised to discover that they were not originally English words. The English language is far from static. It changes as society changes; new developments and inventions require new words, and people travel. The English vocabulary is in a constant state of renewal with new words and expressions entering the language and other ones disappearing. (During the Gulf War in 1991, for example, the phrase "friendly fire" was coined to describe the unfortunate incidence of troops firing on their allies by mistake, instead of the enemy). As the international language for tourism, diplomacy, aviation, pop music, business, computers and the media (to name but a few!), the English language is constantly evolving new specialist words.