Christopher Newport University
Everyone on this Earth lives in the same world, however everyone experiences his or her own reality. The inhabitants of different cultures or perspectives view the world through different lenses. I have had the opportunity to experience different cultures first-hand by living overseas for three years. Being in a military family has forced me into cultures that are unknown to me and forced me to communicate with my family members using different means of technology at a young age. I understand the struggle of not being able to communicate with people in unfamiliar cultures. At the young age of nine, my family and I moved to Madrid, Spain. The immediate change in language was alarming to me as I had never been in a public setting that spoke and communicated exclusively in a language other than English. Having not learned more than a few words of Spanish, I was unable understand the world around me. I could not read signs, understand people, and I didn’t know the cultural differences between the society I had grown accustomed to and this new strange world. At the age of nine, I learned the importance of language. I knew the only way I could live in this new place was to learn the dialect. Luckily, I was fortunate enough to attend a private school: The American School of Madrid. While the professors and many students spoke English, a number of students were Spanish-speakers learning English as their second language. I was able to understand these different perspectives as well, something that not many American-born people have had the opportunity to experience.
Language is just a component of communication but, without it, communication is impossible. Communication creates culture and creates the way in which we think (Kuhn, 1962). If nothing else, sharing a common language creates a sense of unity, a sense that I did not experience outside of the American school or my home. It is difficult to share values and cultural experiences when ideas and words cannot be understood. Language can define a culture, for example, my Spanish friends in the fourth grade were extremely comfortable with using curse words and other inappropriate language. What was even more surprising was their parents’ lack of concern when their young children were cursing, in English or Spanish. When my Spanish friends would speak to me, they would use curse words throughout the conversation to the point of it being uncomfortable. This was one of the first cultural differences I noticed when first attending elementary school in Spain, other than everyone’s strange obsession with soccer. Kuhn also explains that language limits the way we think; there are words and sayings in some languages that don’t have a direct translation to other languages. I learned this is Spain when learning the meaning of the saying “te quiero”. This is a way to tell someone you care about him or her but with more romance than “I like you” and less romance than “I love you”. The Spanish language has created a new describable feeling that is unknown to Americans and other countries around the world. The culture differences in Spain, such as taking a “siesta” after lunch are a product of the language.
When I lived in Spain and traveled to other European countries, I was physically in the same place as the natives, however the way we saw the world was very different. I was not able to see past the signs and symbols that were in other languages or had meanings I was unaware of. James Carey brilliantly created two views of communication: the Transmission and the Ritual views (1989). The transmission view is what most people think of when it comes to communication; it is the process of sending messages to others.
Using experiences in my life, I have been able to analyze between the two views. A specific interaction that comes to mind regarding the transmission view…