Intercultural communication is a critical aspect when it comes to differentiating the two cultures of different countries. In this case, we shall look at the barriers that affect the communication between Nigerian culture and the Chinese culture. However, there is a need to understand what intercultural communication is. So what is intercultural communication? This is a form of relaying information between the different cultures with the intent of creating better social environments and continued association (Phipps, 2013). Also, certain concepts shall assist in the further understanding of intercultural communication, for example, cultural competence. This refers to the ability to pass information between different groups effectively while creating more friends than enemies.
Nigeria as a country has hundreds of thousands of different cultures. It is the same similar case in China since there are about 56 ethnic groups (Phipps, 2013). For these two groups to communicate, they need to embrace peace and understand each other through the use of a common language. The Chinese embrace their traditions and language making it much harder to communicate with Nigeria since Nigerians speak English at times as a national language. That is why the linguistic factor proves challenging. Trade, economic relations, as well as negotiations, always dictate that the two countries use a primary language in pointing down their woes. To solve the problem of miscommunication or rather misunderstanding, the use of an interpreter is highly accepted, but it also comes with challenges like a time consuming.
The two countries that are Nigeria and China exhibit ethnocentrism (“Research on Chinese University Students Intercultural Communication Competence”, 2013). What does this mean? When a country is ethnocentric, it means that it embraces its culture whereas it tries to compare the same with that of another country. This is the belief in the centrality of an individuals personal culture. It further involves judging the aspects of other peoples culture by the standards of ones culture, thus creating a barrier to communication. This barrier is created by individuals themselves and can resolve it by them. Assuming that ones perception of the cultural values being central than the other cultures is not worth an effective communication. The Chinese view the Nigerian people as belonging to old culture whereas the Nigerians, on the other hand, consider the Chinese as having a sophisticated culture. Individuals go through certain phases of ethnocentrism, and this involves minimization, denial, and defense. The three stages bring individuals down to their knees making the communication process even much difficult to assess.
Through cross-cultural communication and by understanding the different theories and concepts, individuals from Nigeria and China will find it easier to understand the cultural aspects in these two communities and respect them. Cultural relativism should be acknowledged and recognized by the two communities to come out with effective communication. The concept of cultural relativism should be taught at the Universities in China as well as Nigeria so that the students develop an understanding of the other cultures and respect them as well. At times, individuals experience culture shock in the cultures of others, and this prevents them further from intermingling and carrying out associations. However, by teaching Nigeria and China of the differences in their culture people will be able to collaborate and respect each others culture. Although culture shock is inevitable, with the acquired knowledge people can associate peacefully.
The factor of prejudice is also another aspect that hinders communication between China and Nigeria. Individuals usually prefer relating to those that they understand best. There is an ethical bias among the different countries themselves, and this creates even a much difficult barrier to intercultural communication and cross-cultural communication. For instance, if a foreigner visits Nigeria from China, he or she will look for individuals from China to communicate with them. This is very common among people who visit the foreign countries. What they do not realize is that when they look for their colleagues, they are biased which leads to prejudice. Thus, biases will hinder communication between the two different cultures. Whether an individual is a foreigner he or she should understand that socializing with the individuals of various races and backgrounds creates unity and is essential to the ties between different countries.
In the two communities, both experience behavioral constraints since each culture is invariable and possesses its principals as well as characteristics. These principals either directly or indirectly affect non-verbal or verbal communication among the different cultures. To some, the rules of communication differ considerably. For instance, some cultures embrace etiquette and politeness in communication whereas others do not observe either of this. This behavior constraints are exhibited both in China and Nigeria, thus, they create a complicated scenario when dealing with communication. One side of a culture will view the communication as being insults whereas the other culture might find it quite uninteresting. Bearing these aspects in mind, it is good to look for solutions by seeking cross-cultural theories to understand on how to associate with people from different cultures and how to assimilate the behavioral constraints (Reynolds & Falola, 2001).
When two cultural communities collide regarding stereotypes, it poses an even greater challenge in bringing them together. This is the case with China and Nigeria. The two communities are stereotypical and do not consider individuals from the two cultures as worth. This loophole will always bring enmity and misunderstanding among the people from the various communities. This is true because certain aspects are neglected. In Nigeria, for instance, there are many Muslims whereas in China we have atheists being the majority. This deferring aspect in religion already creates misunderstanding. Any stereotyping of a culture never rewards anyone and, therefore, it should be done away with. The best way to cut off this vice is by organizing cross-cultural trips on a yearly basis by the students studying in colleges for them to realize that stereotypes are not the best way to go. When the students intermingle, they form associations that end up as long-term friendships. It is difficult for them to engage in stereotypes in future when they already know the effects.
Cross-cultural tours should be meant to bring cohesion and protest against prejudice and stereotypes. It is for this reason that both Nigeria and China have begun to embrace each others culture. There is a need to offer continual education to our children at school for them to understand the fruits of adopting other peoples culture. Vices such as ethnicity should be done away with. Education is the ultimate price for cohesiveness and tranquility. The young children and the youth are the ones that can quickly bring change in society. Thus, they should be given an upper hand when it comes to teaching them about other peoples culture and values.
It is the mandate of the two societies to seek a bridge to understanding peoples culture. The feeling of being imperfect when it comes to speaking should be erased. There is no perfect language in the world since anyone can learn a new language. The only difference is that it will take the time to learn and understand it. The language barrier can be solved when the syllabus is revised, and the teaching of foreign languages is implemented. Today, many countries teach foreign languages. For instance, French, Germany, Chinese and Spanish are some of the main foreign languages that are taught in schools. In Nigeria, the Chinese language is being taught in colleges, and this is creating room for the welcoming of the Chinese culture in Nigeria.
The existence of cultural differences in the culture of Nigeria and China are key factors that bring about communication barriers when it comes to interactions between the two nations. The manner in which Nigerians and Chinese culturally think, understand the world and all that is in it, definitely affects their style of communication between the people of the two nations. According to the cross-cultural theory of communication, some of the barriers that exist in the exchange between people of different nationalities; in this case, Nigeria and China include;
The assumptions made by the Nigerians about their manner of behaving and acting are universally accepted as the sole rule of behavior. Since, in Nigeria, many tribes have different ways of life it is challenging to have a common pattern of behaving and acting (Phipps, 2013). On the contrary, China has many cultural languages but with nearly similar cultural values that make it easy for its citizens to communicate and interact easily. Based on the theory the idea of affiliation and identity arises to be the most dominant in Nigeria, with the country having different cultures regarding linguistics and ethnicity, it is evident that the interaction between the Chinese will be limited if the two decided to interact whether on business matters or socially. As identified from research, the Chinese have 56 ethnic groups as well as 292 languages that are used amongst them. What makes it an easy task to mingle among them is the consistency regarding their unique culture. This culture has been in existence for thousands of years and the history of the cultural beliefs, activities, and the practices were written in one language; that is the Hanzi (Phipps, 2013). Therefore, they can identify themselves with the same culture despite the different ethnic groups and languages that exist within their nation. On the other hand, the language differences among the Nigerians leave alone their ways of life; cultures fact their way of communicating. The tribal lines that have been in existence have been noted to act as barriers to communication and sometimes to agree on some important matters. Being a multicultural and multiethnic nation comprised of three ethnic groups namely the Yoruba, Hausa and the Igbo; the country is divided into three regions. Therefore, every person identifies himself or herself as coming from a certain part of the country; North, East, and the West. These people have different affiliations and therefore, their styles of communicating differ.
According to the theory of cross-cultural communication, the different languages that are identifiable in the West African nation, Nigeria will always prove to be a challenge when the two communities in the country try to communicate with each other. The languages tend to create individualism during the interaction with other people from other ethnic groups. The uniformity of cultural values, and practices of the Chinese people gives them an added advantage when communicating to each other. Since they share, artifacts, symbols, food, the writing style that is characterized by character writing, festivals as well as religion, they stand a chance to have few communication barriers as compared to these that are within the Nigerians(Reynolds & Falola, 2001). As the Nigerians practice individualism, the Chinese on the other hand concentrate of collectivism. Collectivism allows the different ethnic tribes to adopt a uniform manner of behavior regardless of the differences that exist in their languages. Therefore, the interaction between a person who hails from China and that one that hails from Nigeria is a very difficult task.
It is further argued that when people act and communicate in different ways, it is difficult to appreciate the culture of the other people because they already have formed what we call, stereotypes. These stereotypes as per the information above are prevalent in the West African nation, Nigeria. Having stereotypes within the ethnic tribes of a country definitely, will not be an advantage to people from other nations. With the existence of different religions mainly the Muslims and the Christians, it is a challenge to have the people behave and act in a more similar manner than it is observable in the Asian country, China. The Muslims are dominant to the Northern region of the country while the Christians who make up a slightly lower percentage from the 50% mark inhabit to the South of the nation(Reynolds & Falola, 2001). Despite the people identifying themselves with their communities, it is worth noting that the safety of the individuals is guaranteed when people divide themselves into their ethnic and groups of religion within Nigeria. Therefore, when the Chinese and the Nigerian interact, their way of understanding the world might be misguided because of the already formed stereotypes in the West African nation. For instance Carrying out business transactions with a Yoruba with a Chinese is different when the same Chinese decides to work with an individual from Igbo. However, if the a Yoruba and an Igbo went to China or conducted or interacted with a Chinese in their country, they will find it difficult to believe the Chinese people have a more similar understanding of the world culturally. As outlined by the theory, stereotyping has proved one of the major aspects that act as a communication barrier among people of different nations, in this case, Nigeria and China.
Strategies for overcoming cross-cultural communication Barriers
In the theory of cross-cultural communication, some strategies have been suggested on how to overcome cross-cultural communication barriers. One of the most recommended techniques is to encourage people from a different culture to have knowledge of the other partys culture. This information is in written forms (Reynolds & Falola, 2001). There is a necessity for the Nigerian systems of governance and education to allow room for people to learn about the culture of the Chinese. One appreciates and anticipates observing how other people from different cultures behave because it is interesting. Therefore, having prior knowledge to the interaction between the two nationalities will be a sure way of expecting certain acts and behaviors to manifest in either the Nigerians or the Chinese. Therefore, evaluating what the Chinese citizen and the Nigeria counterpart means by certain actions cannot turn to be offensive or weird. Therefore, equipping the citizens with an education system that provides the history and ways of other cultures serves to eliminate the communication barriers that might arise during the interaction.
Apart from learning and appreciating the norms and values of the Chinese and the Nigerian cultures, citizens from both nations need to understand the potential problems that might arise from cross-cultural communication. Understanding puts the people from the two nations of anticipating some aspects rather than getting surprises. In understanding, it is recommended that possible ways of handling the situations of the misinterpretations and misunderstandings to avoid conflict (Reynolds & Falola, 2001). When the conscious of an individual is fully aware of the possible problems and possible solutions to solving the problems of cultural interaction, it is easy to foster successful communication. In this way, patience, forgiveness and be slow in providing responses during cross-cultural exchanges. Hostility and aggression arise from a misunderstanding of people from different backgrounds regarding cultures. To avert such kind of situations, people from different cultures need to learn how to listen and seek to understand rather than being judgmental; jumping into conclusions.
Requesting for translation services helps a lot when professionalism is needed. Translations of the meanings of some statements and words that might be portraying a different meaning when used in another culture provide the required understanding, and the interactions become a success. When the interaction of one party from a China becomes a success, the other Chinese people will have a positive attitude when interacting with the Nigerians. Success is primarily guided by attitude as highlighted in the cross-cultural communication theory.
Phipps, A. (2013). Intercultural Ethics: questions of methods in language and intercultural communication. Language And Intercultural Communication, 13(1), 10-26.
Reynolds, J., & Falola, T. (2001). Culture and Customs of Nigeria. African Studies Review, 44(3), 92. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/525602
Research on Chinese University Students Intercultural Communication Competence. (2013). UCFL, 11(11).