Theme 1: What is Intercultural Communication?
Intercultural communication as a human activity is ancient. Intercultural Communication as an academic discipline is however relatively new.
In this section we will discuss intercultural communication as an academic discipline:
- historic overview of the field
- the academic field of intercultural communication
- studying culture and communication
Historic Overview of Intercultural Communication
For the proper name of the field "Intercultural Communication" credit is often given to American anthropologist Edward T. Hall, who used it for the first time in his book The Silent Language in 1959. The book is sometimes called "the field's founding document" (Hart 1998).
Prior to publishing the book, Hall was a staff member at the Foreign Service Institute, USA (1951-1955), where he, together with his colleagues, worked out what can be called the first original paradigm for Intercultural Communication:
Main elements of Hall's paradigm for Intercultural Communication (Hart 1998) were:
- systematic empirical study and the classification of nonverbal communication (defined as communication that does not involve the exchange of words)
- emphasis, especially in nonverbal communication, on the out-of-conscious level of information-exchange
- focus on intercultural communication, not as earlier on macrolevel monocultural studies
- a non-judgmental view toward, and acceptance of, cultural differences
- participatory training methods in Intercultural Communication.
The beginning of Intercultural Communication was for applied purposes rather than for theoretical considerations: Training was the main issue. The first target audience comprised American diplomats and development personnel whose intercultural skills had to be improved.
From the Foreign Service Institute, Intercultural Communication teaching and training spread to the universities and other organizations. University courses were given and academic textbooks in Intercultural Communication started to appear in the USA in a larger scale in the 1970s. In Europe, the first university courses in Intercultural Communication took place in the 1980s. The University of Jyväskylä has been one of the pioneers in the field.
From the earlier more applied focus on teaching and training, Intercultural Communication has in the recent decades developed and matured also as an academic field with its own theory building.
Blackwell Handbooks in Linguistics : Handbook of Intercultural Discourse and Communication. "Intercultural Communication An Overview" (pages 3-14)