(up to 100 points)
The purpose of this assignment is for you to interview a person who must regularly engage in intercultural communication in his/her personal or work life. You will write up a paper about the interview, presenting your findings.
- Must be in a situation where he/she has to communicate interculturally on a regular basis. This might involve communication across language, race, or defined social groups (remember how we define “culture” in this class).
- The person must be a member of a culture you are *not* a member of.
- The person cannot be someone to whom you are related, or someone that you live with
(Why these stipulations? Because you “know too much” and would make assumptions).
How to find someone to interview:
- Start thinking about this early.
- Make a list of possibilities, and rank them in order of preference.
- If person #1 says no, proceed down your list.
- Tell them you’re a WMU student, doing this for a class project, and why you chose them. Be honest about the amount of time you might require (approximately 1 hour). In my experience, people are very generous in helping students.
- If you’re not sure if a person is suitable, ask me.
When you conduct the interview:
- A list of suggested questions follows. You may change them or add to this list as appropriate for your interviewee.
- Do not explain course vocabulary to the interviewee – let them answer in their own words. (In other words, don’t say “Here’s what code-switching is. Do you do that?”)
- Recording the interview is ideal (ask them first, and don’t do it if they object). You’ll need to take very comprehensive notes, as you will transcribe it all word-for-word. Write your transcript immediately after the interview while everything’s fresh in your mind.
The notes in italics are for you, the student, to help you in shaping the interview. You must have at least 8-10 questions prepared beforehand. You may use some or all of these, and you may add/subtract/modify according to your interviewee.
1. How would you describe yourself?
A person’s self-description is called their “avowal.” If they give you a list of traits, consider the order in which they list them. We tend to list these in order of importance, or “salience,” to ourselves.
2. How would others describe you?
We “ascribe” traits and motives to others. If a person is self-aware, they usually have some knowledge of how others see them. For example, your interviewee might describe themselves as “a great leader,” but say that others would describe them as “bossy.”
3. What are some stereotypes about your culture?
This question will highlight the prejudices, both positive and negative, that outsiders have about the culture. Also, think about how “pop culture” depicts this particular group – for instance, how are they portrayed in television and movies?
4. In general, how do members of your culture view outsiders?
You have discussed the “ascriptions” that others make of your interviewee, now let’s turn the tables – how does the interviewee see those “others?” For example, the interviewee might think outsiders see members of the culture as inferior, while he/she sees THEM as snobs.
5. What are some of the challenges of communicating with outsiders to your culture?
This gets to the idea of “code switching” – how does your interviewee have to change their communication methods with people outside the culture? Different word choices? Different emotional displays?
6. Can you describe the vocabulary/language of this culture?
Here I don’t mean “language” as in English or Spanish, but rather, the key words (slang, vernacular) that distinguish this culture, and how these words and phrases are used within the culture by those who “belong.” For example, think of the language of the medical profession and how it is used.
7. What are some rites and rituals within your culture?
Every culture has its routines. These could be formal ceremonies, periodic meetings, or other habitual behaviors. Consider Comic-Con culture. Rites and rituals would be having conventions, dressing up, buying and selling cultural items, etc.
8. How are newcomers socialized within your culture?
What does the assimilation process look like for somebody who’s new to the culture? For example, this newcomer could be a new family member (someone marrying into a family of a different culture), someone who just joined a social group (a college student rushing a fraternity), etc. How does this newcomer learn the language, rites, and rituals? Are they mentored and specifically taught? Expected to just “pick it up?”
Again, you need to prepare 8-10 open-ended questions beforehand, and DO NOT explain course terms to your interviewee. See me if you’re unsure about anything.
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