In Bolden (2014), the researcher analyzes everyday conversations in a Russian-American family. Through these conversations, the researcher is able to observe how speakers respond to asymmetries in cultural and/or linguistic expertise while conversing. The conversations utilized in the study demonstrates that speakers react to asymmetries in various ways. For instance, a speaker may assume that a listener does not understand a word that they utilized, causing them to check for the listener’s understanding before continuing the conversation. Another reaction may be to assume that a listener is not linguistically or culturally competent and “repairs” their talk for the sake of the listener. Lastly, a speaker may assume that a listener is linguistically/culturally competent and does not repair their talk until the listener asks for clarification (Bolden, 2014).
What struck me the most about this study is that I could really relate to the younger generation in the study, especially Lena. While Lena speaks and understands Russian, she is clearly better in English, having been raised in the United States. Additionally, her grandmother’s comment in Excerpt 9 (Bolden, 2014, pp. 229) claiming that Lena has become an “English lady” caught my attention because it was a very familiar situation for me. Bolden (2014) notes that this situation is due to one’s linguistic competency being related to one’s identity. Although we do not have much insight on Lena’s reaction to this identification, I felt shame for her, perhaps due to my own experience with trying to maintain my parent’s language/culture despite living in a completely different one.
Of course, this is not how Bolden (2014) depicts the findings. In fact, Bolden (2014) shines a positive light on the interactions within the families observed. Bolden (2014) states that such repairs during intercultural conversations not only allows for clarification but also serves as teachable moments. For instance, Lena was able to understand more about Russian culture when the elders’ took the time to explain parts of words and/or cultural references such as “going for potatoes” (Bolden, 2014, pp. 231). I believe the researcher’s purpose here is to convince others to take the time to explain parts of dialogue, especially when there is an intercultural interaction, in order to improve cross-cultural communication.
Bolden, G.B. (2014). Negotiating understanding in “intercultural moments” in immigrant family interactions. Communication Monographs, 81(2), 208-238. doi: 10.1080/03637751.2014.902983
#2: Angela Bishop
1- This study evaluates the communication between members of an immigrant family. There are scripted conversations between Russian grandparents and their American-born granddaughter. The family members come face to face with miscommunication due to lack of cultural and linguistic literacy. The members of the family practice the repair sequence to carry on with a meaningful conversation.
2- What strikes me the most about this study is how well the family members communicated with one another. The grandparents brought up cultural and linguistic topics that their granddaughter did not understand, having been born in a different country and being from a different generation. The grandparents worked together with their granddaughter to build understanding. The granddaughter experienced cultural illiteracy when she did not understand that the war her grandmother was referring to was WWII. She also experienced linguistic incompetency when she didn’t know the Russian words her grandparents were using. What struck me the most, was how they never seemed to get frustrated with one another. Nor did they ever just give up in the middle of the conversation and move on to a new topic. Instead, the grandparents worked together to help iron out any issue they had while communicating with their granddaughter. They took this as a time to teach. The granddaughter, as well, was able to teach her grandmother the word for fractions in English. This family also seemed to be able to sense when there was miscommunication by reading body language and reading into pauses or straight faces. If only everyone could be as responsive and aware of the people around them.
3- My biggest take away from this article comes from a section of the conclusion. It states, “Kitzinger and Mandelbaum have demonstrated that in designing their talk for particular others, interlocutors would rather over-assume than under-assume competency in their addressees since under-assuming competency has negative identity implications” (Bolden, 234). In order to respect the person with whom we are speaking, we must anticipate that they are both culturally and linguistically literate. If we set the bar too low, the “other” will feel disrespected by our negative assumptions. That being said, we must not be shocked if the person with whom we are speaking suddenly shows cultural or linguistic illiteracy. We must not get mad, jump to the conclusion that they don’t understand anything that we’re saying, or begin to make negative judgements of that person. Instead, we should remember that we are engaging in a cross-cultural communication and use the moment as a time to teach one another or simply rephrase what we are saying in a way that is easier to understand. It seems to me that we should always assume competency, but revise our communication methods if we see continual misunderstandings. After all, as Bolden alluded, the more we teach one another and do things together, the more inter-culturally connected we will become.
Galina B. Bolden (2014) Negotiating Understanding in “Intercultural Moments” in Immigrant Family Interactions, Communication Monographs, 81:2, 208-238, DOI: 10.1080/03637751.2014.902983