Abstract pattern and shapes in red paint

My Reflections on Cross-Cultural Communication

Image Credit: David Liu

Ever since I stepped foot into the ANU, the phrase “cross-culture communication” has been thrown around so often that it’s easy not to pause and think about what it means to us personally. Studying in Australia has made me become aware of the way people communicate their thoughts, opinions and ideas. Inadvertently, it has also made me reflect on the way I express myself to others.

As an international student, translation and interpretation is a major part of my life. I have to constantly process the information I’m receiving, and then translate it into my second language. Being able to accurately use my words is important because it helps me to precisely express myself. I have found myself in various interesting scenarios due to a mistranslation between languages. For instance, one day I was trying to explain to a group of friends that I play the Nintendo game ‘Super Mario’. In Mandarin,, however, the words translate into ‘Super Mary’. As you might expect, my friends roared with laughter upon my apparent ‘mistake’ of Mario’s gender. Another instance was my mistranslation of Hegel’s “All that is real is rational; and all that is rational is real”. In China it is often mistranslated as “Existence is reasonable” and one day I used the mistranslated phrase with a friend. My friend, however, was kind enough to correct me on my mistake. Mistranslation may lead to inaccurate expressions, which in turn create possibilities for misunderstanding. It is important to have clarity when it comes to communicating with others. t is important to be respectful, patient, inquisitive and reflective. Learning and improving a second language is never easy, but being open-minded about it can help deepen mutual understanding across cultures.

Besides improving the language, it is also crucial to understand culture and how it influences and spreads values within an environment. While I was reading a brief introduction on a showcase of the Battle of the Somme at the War Memorial, a group of young people were being rowdy and disruptive. I do not know how much they knew about the War, or its impact on Australia. The point is, it is important to be respectful towards the foundations of a country. When you deepen your knowledge of a country’s history, it is easier to understand cultural differences. Actively meeting people and their cultures halfway opens the door to better communication.

In general, it is important to be open-minded and to never rely on assumptions when communicating. You may believe you’re knowledgeable enough about something, but there’s always more room. Reflecting upon this should make cross-cultural communication easier and more comfortable.