October 18, 2018
Writer: Bryanna Willis

Oh, the joys of being misunderstood by someone from a different culture! In your personal life, this might create an awkward situation you can both get over later, but what about in a professional environment? A forum at the Taylor chapel today hopes to help with that.

“Where we get in trouble with international business is not the business side of things,” Kelm said. “It’s in the dealing with people side of things.” Orlando Kelm is an Associate Professor of Hispanic Linguistics and Associate Director of Business language Education.

Kelm says he is presenting a model that identifies seven key things where cultural problems happen. It's called LESCANT. Which stands for, Language, environment, social organization, context, authority, non-verbal and time.

These seven areas allow people to categorize and understand the culture they are currently in. But only if they are aware of these areas.

As an example of how we could be easily misunderstood Orlando pointed out how people in the American West are very blunt with how they speak and use their voice to put emphasis on words to mean different things.

Other languages don’t do that.

“North Americans, that is kind of the way we talk. We are a culture that comes out and says things in the way most of the world will give a hint to but don’t actually come out and say it.” Kelm said.

For example if a North American is selling a product and someone from another country says, “We will think about it.” That is the hint that they do not want the product. It means no.

If the North American keeps pushing the sale that could create an embarrassing situation for the person from the other country.

Other misunderstandings can be a result of simply, the tone of voice someone is using when they speak.

“What happens is even though you are using another language if you are still imposing your native intonation and patterns on top of that you are giving the wrong message to people.” Kelm said.

When going to Latin countries especially if those intonations are used many Latin’s tend to think that English speakers are excited when they are not, or bored when they are not.

In all learning to notice certain things about the culture around you, can make you better understood no matter what country you are in.

Plus you can avoid those awkward misunderstandings."