In one of his posts today, McIlheran posts his views on an article that appeared in the morning's daily local. Said article had to deal with a woman who filed a discrimination lawsuit against her former employer. The woman claimed that she was harassed at work, and eventually suspended, for speaking Spanish to her mother on the phone, and to a coworker about personal issues.
As one would have guessed, McIlheran was not sympathetic to the woman. Amazingly, for someone who makes in living working for a newspaper, as a columnist, he shows a remarkable lack of understanding of the basics of communication. McIlheran writes (emphasis mine):
But that wasn't the issue. Ethnicity wasn't the issue. Language was. Ethnicity is immutable and doesn't have anything to do with how people interact. Language is learned and has everything to do with how people interact.
What in the world is he thinking, saying that ethnicity has nothing to do with how people interact? That is one of the very basic premises of communications. A person's ethnicity goes into forming their culture and their cultural norms. A person's culture determines what is and isn't significant to a person and how much weight they give to any given word or principle.
Just about every major school and university in the world has a series of courses dedicated to intercultural communication. Problems in this area has been known to start wars and hostilities that last for generations.
And McIlheran cluelessly claims that ethnicity has nothing to do with communications. Unbelievable. And I thought McBride was bad.
Sigh. Oh, well, since we know that McIlheran reads Whallah!, I will try to help to steer the man towards something he should have already known. We'll start out simple. From Wikipedia, here are some tips that McIlheran might want to bone up on before he tries to communicate with anyone outside of his very small circle:
When language skills are unequal, clarifying one’s meaning in four ways will improve communication (emphasis theirs):
- avoid using slang and idioms, choosing words that will convey only the most specific denotative meaning;
- listen carefully and, if in doubt, ask for confirmation of understanding (particularly important if local accents and pronunciation are a problem);
- recognise that accenting and intonation can cause meaning to vary significantly; and
- respect the local communication formalities and styles, and watch for any changes in body language.
- Investigate their culture's perception of your culture by reading literature about your culture through their eyes before entering into communication with them. This will allow you to prepare yourself for projected views of your culture you will be bearing as a visitor in their culture.