The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

RGLP Recap: "Intercultural Communication" with Dr. Uju Anya '98

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This is a session recap of the Rockefeller Global Leadership Program (RGLP) from a participant's perspective.

Dr. Uju Anya '98 describes the role of language in intercultural communication. Photo by Hung Nguyen '18.

This Monday, the Rockefeller Global Leadership Program had a session with Dr. Uju Anya '98, a professor at the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education on intercultural communication.
Before the discussion began, we were given a TedTalk by acclaimed writer and activist Chimamande Ngozi Adichie to watch, where she explained the concept of a single story. A single story refers to how a culture may be represented as a single story through media, books, and other sources of information. However that story does not fully capture the diversity in the said culture and offers an extremely narrow viewpoint.

RGLP participants discuss how they may use the nuances of language for intercultural communication. Hung Nguyen '18.

Single stories and stereotypes tied into the overall theme of the lecture, which was about how language is a huge component in how people of the same, and of different, cultures interact. Language is typically considered the spoken method in which humans communicate, but it actually covers an umbrella of actions, such as speaking, bodily movements, and how we convey ourselves.

Through language, we have learned to describe others of different cultures with our words, yet despite the abundance of our vocabulary, single stories are often formed of cultures where the stereotype may differ greatly from the actual way of life in the culture. Even as we focus on language in one culture, there are may different interpretations of words which becomes problematic. 
During the lecture, we mentioned the word "thug" and its different connotations in American culture: meaning criminal, an individual of a certain race, or someone who is simply breaking the rules. The fact that one word could bring harm to one group of people, yet used lightly as a joke by another in the same culture was useful in illustrating the idea that language is a complex subject used to describe, and hopefully integrate cultures.

-Written by Kimberlee John '18, Fall 2015 RGLP Participant
This ongoing series explores sessions of the Rockefeller Global Leadership Program (RGLP) through participant narratives. RGLP engages Dartmouth students who have demonstrated leadership skills and would like to extend these skills on a globally conscious level. In this program, students focus on and further develop international leadership competencies, which have become increasingly crucial in corporate, public and non-profit sectors today.

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences