Problems and Recommendations: Enhancing Communication with Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students (1)

By Kader, Shereen Abdel; Yawkey, Thomas D. | Reading Improvement, Spring 2002 | Go to article overview

Problems and Recommendations: Enhancing Communication with Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students (1)


Kader, Shereen Abdel, Yawkey, Thomas D., Reading Improvement


Communication between teachers and culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students need serious consideration especially in recognizing potential sources of miscommunication and misinterpretation. Within verbal communication, several sources of miscommunication include: cultures as collectivistic or individualistic; uses of basic interpersonal communication skills and cognitive academic language proficiency skills, negations and fat/muscle words and cooperative transactions. From a nonverbal communication perspective, several potential sources of misinterpretation include: communication environments as polychronic or monochromic-, personal space between speakers; body or kinetic motion: and paralanguage.

Each of these elements is discussed with examples in CLD classroom settings.

Problems and Recommendations: Enhancing Communication With Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students

The culturally, and linguistically diverse population of the United States is increasing. Using current Census data, Brice (2000) reports population statistics for several groups. For example, Hispanics represent over 10%, African-Americans comprise 12.1% and Asian and other cultural groups represent another 7.7% of the population in the United States (Brice. 2000. p. I). With the large and growing numbers of culturally and diverse populations, problems of communication arise in schools and elsewhere such as service delivery settings (Bryant. Neff-Smith. Pierce & Fahs. 2000). Teachers who work with culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students report numerous instances of teacher and CLD miscommunication in and outside of classrooms (Yawkey. In Preparation).

The intent of this narrative is to explore some potential areas of miscommunication in schools between teachers and CLD students and families and provide some recommendations to make communication more effective in these settings. Some baselines for understanding, the reasons that communication problems arise are addressed. In addition, examples of miscommunication that commonly arise in schools with CLD Students and families are identified.

Finally, some recommendations are provided are to reduce these potential problems and assist educators in better working with CLD populations.

Some Baselines: Understanding Miscommunication

Problems of communication arise for a variety of reasons. The bedrock of many miscommunications may be diversity in cultural and social systems (for details, see Cummins, 1994; Vygotsky,(1962, 1978).

Communication, language and culture cannot be separated (Rosa-Luco & Fradd, 2000). Braynt, et al. (2000. p. 40) note that, "Communication and Culture reciprocally influence each other ...!"

Communication in any culture is a setting "... for members of that culture to learn how to behave and interpret other's behaviors (Bryant, et al.. 2000, p.40)" This cultural setting provides a means for maximizing listening, and speaking effectiveness between members of this culture (Brice, 2000).

According to Vygotsky (1962, 1978), culture is a blueprint that governs behaviors and actions in societal groups. This blueprint also includes expectations- i.e.. what is expected of the individual, which in turn governs behaviors. Brown (2000, p. 177) also sees culture "... as the ideas, customs, skills, arts and tools that characterize a given group of people in a given period of time." Culture gives past, present and future contexts and is all encompassing and actually becomes more than the sum of behaviors plus customs, skills, arts and so forth.

However, problems in communication often times occur because teachers interpret messages from CLD students and families using their own particular cultural setting and system (see Brice. 2000). With great variations, for example, existing between cultural settings that anchor conceptual referents of Anglos, Hispanics and Asians, the possibilities increase for communication misunderstandings. …

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