According to Barna (1997), there are at least six stumbling blocks in intercultural communication. First, assumption of similarities. Many people assume that there are many similarities around the world that make communication easier. In fact, while there may be many similarities (or superficial similarities) the values, beliefs or attitudes surrounding the communication process are different from one culture to another. Second, language differences in vocabulary, syntax, idioms, slang, dialects or the connotation and denotation meaning. They require enough understanding of the language so that they can be used appropriately and in their variations in communication. Third, nonverbal misinterpretations. It requires understanding of signs and symbols that are used in communication. Intercultural communication needs a good understanding of context and references of the language that be used by the speaker so the meaning can be distinguished. Fourth, preconceptions and stereotypes. People tend to assume that they know about the other reel of feeling, behaviour, and other circumstances. They predictions likely are prejudice based on the myth of truisms. Fifth, tendency of evaluate, which mean the approval or disapproval of others’ statements and actions instead of searching information of the realities. The last one is high anxiety or tension. It appear when communication occur when the one cannot maintain the normal flow of verbal nonverbal interaction.

I had an experience related to these stumbling blocks. When earthquake occurred in Jakarta 2 years ago, everyone fled out of our three-floor office building. One of my colleagues from Queensland complained that there is no appropriate exit when a fire or other disasters happen in Jakarta and there are many workers in office buildings. For the Indonesians, the complaint is funny since there is no safety standard in many building offices in Jakarta. When the others laughed, the Australian colleague was very shocked with the response that  she thought it was not funny at all.

When having communication with Australian people or with other international students in Canberra, I had to be careful with the way I deliver an idea or to argue with others on discussing topic. This anxiety, however, makes me reluctant to become fluent in speaking and have good communication with others. But later the anxiety gradually decreased when I realised that many international students do not speak perfectly and it is common to do some mistakes in speaking. The  more we realise that we make mistakes the more lessons we have and then improve it.

Some stereotypes about students from particular countries sometimes generate the uncertainty to have a study groups with them. As a result, many students prefer to shape a group with the same country fellow students. In order to improve English skill and intercultural relationship, it is better to have study group with fellows from different countries, since it will build mutual understanding and have network in the future. Therefore, put the stereotypes away will enable the communication to occur appropriately and with more natural learning.  

Barna, L. (1997). Stumbling blocks in L. Samovar & Porter (eds) Intercultural communication: A Reader. Belmort: Wadsworth, pp. 370 – 378

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