Thursday, June 28, 2012

Our Culture and Language

Part 1:
                I found this experiment to be very difficult.  I enjoy talking to people and sharing my thoughts.  At first when reading the guidelines I was really excited that I could still use ASL until I saw that guideline.  It made it very difficult for me to get across what I was trying to say to the other person, not to mention very difficult not to speak at all.
                My partner in this communication session seemed very confused at first.  I didn’t fill her in on what I was going to do so that her reaction wouldn’t be biased.  She kept repeating herself at first, thinking that maybe I didn’t understand her, and then she started to use more hand gestures when she was talking to me.  I assume that this is in an attempt to essentially use the same language as me.
                I don’t really think that either one of us had an advantage in the discussion.  At first examination I felt that I did because at least I could understand what she was saying whereas she could not understand me.  Then I started thinking back to the conversation and realizing that really I did not have an advantage, after all I was the one that was struggling to communicate properly and make her understand me.  If we were different cultures trying to communicate for the first time then it would still be the same, neither of us would have an advantage.  The best we could do is use those hand gestures that hopefully we both can understand.  Within our own culture deaf people have trouble communicating with spoken language, and they have the same problems that I was having.  Most of them are also unable to speak and therefore they’re trying to communicate with us using nothing but symbols and pointing at what they want, while for the most part as long as we’re speaking normally they can read our lips so they know what we are saying.

Part 2:
                I barely lasted a minute using nothing but speech to communicate.  Not using hand gestures was easy, granted I had to sit on my hands, but that was the easiest thing to keep myself from doing.  Not moving my head was somewhat easy, I only caught myself doing it 2 or 3 times during the 15 minute conversation.  The hard part for me was not to change my tone of voice.  I hate it when people speak in monotones, even if it’s only for one sentence, and my voice is extremely animated.  I couldn’t figure out how to not use the tone or volume of my voice as a form of communication.
                The person that I was communicating with kept trying to get out of the conversation.  She didn’t want to talk to me because I showed no emotion what so ever.  Head movements, hands, and tone of voice all can portray what you mean.  Saying that you’re happy for someone or sorry for them doesn’t come across as being true when you say it as if you’re a robot.  Because of this she didn’t really want to keep the conversation rolling but rather kept trying to find ways out of it.
                As I just said, non-verbal communication in a spoken language is extremely important.  In my opinion it actually makes up at least half of our communication.  People read body language as a way to judge what the person really means by what they’re saying, or if they even mean it at all.  Tone of voice completely tells others what we’re feeling; it can communicate anger, fear, stress, joy, excitement, as well as any other emotion that we are feeling.  Without those we lose an enormous part of our language and our communication.
                There are indeed people who have trouble reading body language; they are around us every day.  There are also experts that can see that split second of emotion even if we’re trying to hide it.  The people that can’t understand non-verbal communication have a lot of trouble in social settings.  They often don’t get jokes, sarcasm; they don’t understand when they are pushing boundaries, or making people angry.  I honestly can’t think of a way for it to be a good thing to not be able to read body language.  In every profession and every situation it seems to be a good thing.  Even if you’re on a deserted island it’s still not bad to be able to understand body language.  It’s never going to hurt to be able to read non-verbal cues; it might not always help though.

Part 3:
                The experiment in part 1 definitely would have been easier if we were allowed to use written communication.  Especially at our age we use written language every day with texting each other.  I could have easily written down what I wanted to say, and then I still had non-verbal language to work with so that all together it could have been combined to communicate effectively.
                Written language has a great deal of advantages to a culture.  First off it means that you are able to communicate over farther distances.  You can write down our stories that have always been passed down through oral tradition.  You’re able to write down different medicines and treatments, symptoms of diseases and such.  Once a culture develops written language, they can truly begin to thrive and they have a better chance of survival.
                Written language has had an enormous impact on globalization.  It has given us an easy way to spread our ideology and our histories.  We’ve been able to learn so much about other cultures through their books of mythology, medicine, and history.  And once we know about other cultures we can start to interact with them better and then join them in business.


  1. The second experiment was definitely tougher for me as well. Keeping my voice monotone proved to be much harder that it sounded, especially when you are tying to explain something. I received somewhat of the same response for not showing emotion. My partner seemed bored after the first 5 minutes, I guess having a boring monotone conversation is just as bad if not worse than having one without words at all. I like the point you made about how nowadays we use written communication more and more with texts and emails, I mean this whole class is essentially written communication so awesome point. All in all good post!

  2. Kudos to you for trying to do this without letting your partner know ahead of time. This wasn't required, but you certainly do get the full force of their response, don't you.

    This was a great sentence for part 2: "The person that I was communicating with kept trying to get out of the conversation." That is a very common response and sometimes your partner doesn't even know they are doing it. They just know something is not right and they automatically wish to escape!

    Regarding an advantage to not being able to read body language: What if the body language "speaks" a different language from yours, such as if you are in a new country? Different cultures have different forms of body language. A body sign that could earn someone's life long friendship in one country might get you arrested in another! Maybe the chance of misreading "foreign" body language might make it wise to ignore it? Just a thought.

    Great final follow-up in section 3.