Table of contents:
2. Verbal communication in the USA, Japan and Indonesia
3. Non-verbal communication in the USA, Japan and Indonesia
4. Conclusion: Educational implications of language communication
The language communication is an essential part of human life.
In fact, it is even possible to estimate that the language
communication is the unique feature that distinguishes humans
from other species for it is only humans that are able to
use verbal communication with such an efficiency. At the same
time, the language communication is a broad concept which
involves not only verbal but also non-verbal communication
because the language, as a system, incorporates both verbal
and non-verbal means, such as gestures, mimics, body movements,
etc. On the other hand, in spite of the seeming similarity
of the language communication, this concept is not absolutely
homogeneous and identical among all the people inhabiting
the Earth. What is meant here is the fact that the language
communication is, to a significant extent, affected by various
factors, including cultural norms and traditions, social standards
of behavior, social hierarchy and interpersonal roles people
perform in the community. In fact, the variety of factors
affecting the language communication makes the communication
original and unique. This is why the language communication
of Americans differs consistently from that of Japanese people,
but even cultures, which are similar in a way, such as Japanese
and Indonesian, have also certain differences in the language
communication. Hence, it is possible to view the language
communication as a culturally differentiating factor or marker
since each culture has its own language communication style
Verbal communication in the USA, Japan and Indonesia
On analyzing the verbal communication in the USA, Japan and
Indonesia, it is important to underline that they differ consistently.
The difference is particularly striking between the USA and
Asian countries. In this respect, it should be pointed out
that the American language communication is characterized
by the high degree of liberalism compared to the language
communication of Japanese and Indonesian people. In fact,
American verbal communication tends to more liberal and democratic
style. In practice, this means that Americans tend to communicate
as equal and, what is more, they tend to use quite a democratic
communication style even in the formal environment (Bovee
and Thill, 2005). To put it more precisely, many American
organizations admit the possibility of the development of
interpersonal relations and verbal communication on the democratic
and liberal ground that means that leaders of organizations
or managers can communicate with their subordinates as equal.
This situation is absolutely unacceptable in the Japanese
society and, therefore, Japanese organization, where, in spite
of the growing impact of western culture, the social relations
and communication are regulated by the norms of the social
hierarchy. In practice, this means that Japanese people do
not admit the possibility of informal or simply friendly verbal
communication between people that occupy a different position
in the social or organizational hierarchy (Kotter, 2001).
For instance, a Japanese manager does not communicate with
an employee as equal, which may occur in American organizations
and society at large. Moreover, in terms of the American society
the verbal communication between people is even less formal
than within organizations because Americans treat each other
as equal a priori, while for Japanese people, the social status
of an individual is of the utmost importance. At this point,
Japanese culture and verbal communication are similar to Indonesian
ones, where the status of an individual often defines his
or her verbal communication style.
The difference between American, Japanese and Indonesian culture
may be easily traced in the process of verbal communication.
For instance, the general democratic and liberal verbal communication
style is realized not only through the communication of Americans
as equal, even though they have a different social status,
but it is also realized through the possibility of the verbal
communication. What is meant here is the fact that Americans
can start the verbal communication when they have something
to say, even if a person has a lower social status or takes
a lower position in the organization (Bovee and Thill, 2005).
In contrast, in the Japanese society and organization as well
as in Indonesia, people occupying lower positions or having
lower social status cannot start talking to a person who has
a higher rank or social position. Moreover, in Japan leaders
of an organization or people who take a higher social position
do not even “descend” to the communication with
people of the lower social level. The same trend can be observed
in the verbal communication between genders. In the USA both
men and women communicate as equal and women can start the
conversation first, while in Japan and Indonesia such a situation
is extremely seldom, especially in relation to Indonesia,
where relationships between genders are regulated not only
by cultural traditions, but also by religious norms, for Islam
is very influential in Indonesia. As a result, Indonesian
women are often very limited in their verbal communication.
They cannot talk first and they cannot talk to strangers,
especially if they are men. In Japan this trend is not so
strong, but, as a rule, it is men who starts the conversation
and plays the leading role in the conversation, while women
perform a secondary role. In the US, women can converse as
equal and, what is more, their personal judgments are not
perceived as skeptically as they do in Indonesia and partially
Furthermore, it is also necessary to pay attention to the
amount of talking. In this respect, Americans are very talkative
and the verbal communication plays a very important role in
the USA for it is the main means of the communication. It
is through the verbal language Americans share their opinions,
ideas, express their position, etc. The situation in Japan
and Indonesia is quite different in this regard. In fact,
the verbal communication, being significant, is traditionally
companied by meaningful and very important non-verbal communication
which bears a considerable message between communicating people.
At the same time, the importance of the maintenance of face
in Japan and the importance of being serious and concrete
in Indonesia makes people not as talkative as Americans. As
a result, the amount of talking in Japan is consistently lower
than in the US and is similar to the amount of talking in
Moreover, it is necessary to underline the fact that Americans
often tend to verbal arguments and discussions, while in Japan
and Indonesia the possibilities for arguments are limited
because of the existing cultural or religious restrictions.
In this regard, the conversation of younger people with older
population is particularly noteworthy because in Japan and
Indonesia the opinion and position of older people is practically
unchallengeable and unarguable, while in the US, young people
can openly express their disagreement and argue with older
people that is perceived as a norm in the USA and does not
evoke any opposition or repulsion within the community. In
fact, social norms in Japan and Indonesia does not admit open
and heat discussions, especially between people who have a
different social status, or who are of a different age or
sex, while in the US such a situation is a norm.
Non-verbal communication in the USA, Japan and Indonesia
On researching the language communication in the USA, Japan
and Indonesia, it is impossible to ignore such an aspect of
the communication process as the non-verbal communication.
As it has been already mentioned above, the non-verbal communication
plays a very important role in Indonesia and, especially in
Japan (Faust, 2000). In fact, the importance of the non-verbal
communication in these countries is determined by the historical
and cultural traditions which regulate the behavior and communication
of people. In such a situation, a gesture, a glance, a posture
of an individual in the process of communication can be meaningful,
especially in Indonesia and Japan.
On the other hand, the non-verbal communication is always
present and, as a rule, it is perceived on the subconscious
level. People perceive not only the verbal message but also
the non-verbal messages sent through gesture, mimics and other
means. In this regard, American language communication does
not really differ from Japanese or Indonesia or any other
language communication in the world. However, its distinguishable
feature is its inferiority compared to verbal communication.
In fact, Americans can vividly express their feelings and
emotions through mimics and gestures, they actively use movements
of their hands during the conversation. As a rule, all the
gestures, mimics and movements accompany the verbal communication
and serve as a second signal system which only supports the
first signal system, i.e. the verbal communication.
As for Japanese and Indonesian non-verbal communication, it
should be said that it is less vivid and emotional. To put
it more precisely, both Japanese and Indonesian cultures does
not admit the open demonstration of feelings and emotions
in public. In this regard, Japanese culture pays a particular
attention to the concept of face and its maintenance. In practice,
this means that Japanese people do not express uncontrollably
their feelings and emotions in order to maintain their face
and keep their public image unchanged, while emotional reactions,
for instance, active use of gestures in the process of verbal
communication, may be interpreted by Japanese people as weakness
of an individual and his or her inability to control his or
her feelings, emotions and behavior at large. At this point,
Indonesian culture is closer to Japanese one since Indonesian
non-verbal communication is also deprived of brusque expression
of feelings and emotions and it is possible to position Indonesian
non-verbal communication between the American and Japanese
non-verbal communication, because it is less strictly regulated
by cultural norms and is not so rigid as in Japan but is more
moderate and reserved compared to the USA (Littlejohn, 2002).
In such a context, it is quite natural that non-verbal communication
in the USA, Japan and Indonesia differs consistently. In this
respect, it is worth mentioning the fact that touches are
quite widely spread in the US as a means of communication.
For instance, various touches are widely used in the process
of communication in the US, including shaking hand and even
hugs, depending on the level of the formality of the communication.
In stark contrast, Japanese and Indonesian communication styles
do not admit touches in the process of communication. Instead,
Japanese and Indonesian people prefer to keep distance between
each other and touches and other physical communicative contacts
are acceptable only between close people, either relatives
or those who have intimate relationships, but these elements
of non-verbal communication should not be public and exhibitive
(Bovee and Thill, 2005). An interesting element of the non-verbal
communication in the USA, Japan and Indonesia is a handshake.
In fact, a handshake is a common greeting in the USA, which
is used by all Americans both men and women. In this regard,
this element of communication is practically not used in Indonesia,
where any physical contact between and women in the process
of communication is undesirable, while it is very seldom in
Japan, though western influences contribute to changes in
this regard in Japan making handshakes more widely spread
on the highly formal level.
The cultural difference between the USA, Japan and Indonesia
determine the difference in the proximity of people during
the communication. At this point, Japanese culture is the
most rigid and conservative and implies the largest distance
between people in the process of communication. The proximity
is a bit closer in Indonesia but not as close as in the USA
(Hart, 2004). Through maintenance of the distance in the process
of communication Japanese and Indonesian people demonstrate
their status and their relationships, while Americans are
mainly oriented on the extent to which their relationships
are friendly or formal. At the same time, the eye contact
is very important for Japanese and Indonesian since it can
convey significant messages to conversing people, while in
the US the eye contact is significant only to maintain the
contact between communicating people and make the contact
stronger and more personal.
Conclusion: Educational implications for language communication
Obviously, the language communication plays a very significant
role in the process of education or training because the ability
of an educator to choose the proper communication style defines
the effectiveness of teaching and training. To put it more
precisely, educators should choose more formal communication
style while working with Japanese and Indonesian students.
It is important to avoid the expression of strong emotions
and maintain eye contact in the process of communication with
these students. At the same time, the communication with American
students should be more democratic and liberal and less formal.
American students need an opportunity to express their opinion
and even argue with an educator - the situation which is practically
unimaginable in a Japanese classroom.
Thus, it is important to take into consideration the background
of students to avoid problems in the process of communication
provoked by the inappropriate communication style. On the
other hand, the use of this knowledge of communication specificities
opens huge opportunities for the development of effective
communication because students need to study in a culturally
friendly environment and communication is an essential element
of culture. As a result, any problems in communication make
the learning process uncomfortable for students.
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