Academic journal article The Journal of Business Communication

International Business and Training: Preparing for the Global Economy

Academic journal article The Journal of Business Communication

International Business and Training: Preparing for the Global Economy

Article excerpt

The globe is no longer divided by artificial and arbitrary geographic boundaries; it is becoming one economic and political marketplace. As nations' economies become more interdependent and as electronic communication media become more and more available; this process will continue to accelerate. In order for companies to attain and maintain a proper stance in this international marketplace and to function effectively in diverse and multiple cultures simultaneously, business leaders must incorporate training in intercultural communication as a foundation for and prior to their business dealings in the international marketplace. Harris and Moran (1991) declare:

Too many corporate and government leaders are operating upon 'old pictures' of the cosmos and human nature, including the nature of work, the worker, and the management process itself. Executives in transnational enterprises should join the common struggle for a world cultural rebirth, and assist in conjuring up the new visions that will energize or motivate the human family. (p. 5)

Culture and Communication

Victor (1992) continues the call for improved intercultural communication when he suggests, "The nuances of international business - defined as any business conducted across national borders - are different from those of solely domestic business. The fundamental principles of domestic business apply abroad but with added complexities" (p. 245).

Carbaugh (1990) points out, "Two problems that are basic to the cultural practice and theory of communication [are] . . . shared identity [and] . . . common meaning and meanings" (p. xv). Chick (1990), in writing about intercultural communication reminds us, "the competencies that ensure effective intercultural communication are so complex, covert, and context bound that they cannot be taught as a body of knowledge in any straightforward way . . . however, effective intercultural communication can be learned" (p. 255). These ideas highlight the importance of successful intercultural communication transactions to corporate leaders as they prepare their employees and business strategies to compete in the global economy (Naisbitt & Aburdene, 1990; Frederick, 1993).

Perceptions of conversations between people speaking a foreign language - whether in person or in the media - are common experiences for all of us. We react positively, negatively, or neutrally as we reflect on these situations. Our positive reaction might include statements such as, "That's impressive" or "I wish I knew what they were saying." A more negative reaction to the same situation might be: "They should be speaking English, they're in America now" or "That's rude." A neutral reaction includes people who don't care one way or the other. They might believe that America is a melting pot of many cultures and it's not unusual to hear people speaking a different language. For some Americans, the neutral reaction seems fair; for others, especially those who are ethnocentric, the negative reaction is more common.

No one, regardless of culture, likes to feel like an outsider to a conversation. Yet, it is not uncommon to feel like an outsider in our own country when conversations are not in English or when they are in English but are filled with jargon or technical language. In these situations, the lack of understanding the language, and/or culture, can foster a "foreign" feeling. When we enter a foreign country, we may not only have to learn a foreign language, we are also entering a different culture. To communicate competently and fit in it is equally important for us to understand the characteristics of the culture as well as the language.

Victor (1992), in assessing the importance of intercultural communication and the potential for growth of American business in the international marketplace, states:

Increase in international trade far exceeds either the gross domestic product [in the United States] or the industrial production in any single major industrialized country. …

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