Intercultural Studies

Class Identity

Many scholars have paid a lot of attention to class identity recently. Apparently, class identity plays a very important role in every individual’s life. It considerably shapes people’s behavior. Admittedly, people pertaining to different classes differ in their habits, preferences and opportunities.

Thus, class can shape (and does shape) the way people eat, speak, etc. Of course, class is a less apparent characteristic feature than race or ethnicity. However, it is still manifested in many details. Thus, it is possible to define the class when paying attention to the way an individual speaks, the clothes he/she wears, etc. It is also important to note that people pertaining to working class often experience certain kind of alienation. For instance, the way these people talk is considered to be abnormal.

Therefore, people of this class often work out different behavioral patterns when they become a part of another class (e.g. middle- class). Interestingly, many researchers deal with such notion as mobility which is regarded as a myth. Admittedly, even in the American society, which largely relied on the American Dream, people can hardly penetrate another class.

Thus, it is really hard to shift upwards in any society. All these factors show that class identity can be placed in the one row with ethnical identity, national identity or gender identity. It is also important to note that people’s behavior is shaped by multiple identities.

Racial Identity

Racial identity is considered to be a phenomenon largely discussed in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Interestingly, people started talking about differences concerning race in the 16th century when the era of discoveries started. In the 18th century Europeans tried to decide whether Blacks could be regarded as animals.

Notably, the development of technology has enabled people to find the answer to this question as it is proved that only fifty-five genes (out of three million) distinguish different groups of people. In fact, many people now are more concerned with cultural differences. For instance, Brazilians do not differentiate people in terms of their skin color.

However, in the USA people still differentiate whites from nonwhites. In this country racial identity plays an important role and it shapes intercultural communication to great extent. It is important to note that whites tend to acknowledge their whiteness. They often report that they feel uncomfortable as they are often prejudged as racists only because of their skin color.

Remarkably, whites feel uneasy when they find themselves in the minority. Therefore, race, being one of the most salient features, shapes people’s behavior. It is also important to note that racial identity influences people’s perception. Thus, the American society is overwhelmed with various prejudices based on the issues concerning race.

The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis

The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis was developed by Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf. The two researchers argue that language shapes people’s perception of the world around them. According to Sapir and Benjamin language depicts people’s experience. Thus, the linguists studied peculiarities of Native Americans’ languages and compared different European languages.

The researchers supported their hypothesis by many instances. For example, it is possible to think of the way the Dine define colors. Thus, these people have the same word for green and blue, and at the same time, have two words for black. Admittedly, this illustrates the way people perceive the world.

However, the hypothesis has been criticized. Some researchers have argued that the hypothesis is two formalistic. Thus, some have tried to prove that language does not influence people’s perception. Some argue that not knowing some language or some particular words does not prevent people from understanding some phenomena. Nonetheless, it is verified that language helps to understand these phenomena more quickly.

Admittedly, language does shape the way people see the world. One of the best examples to support this assumption is a person learning several languages. Thus, when learning another language, people understand other people’s culture. In other words, they obtain other people’s experience. Thus, it is possible to conclude that the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis reveals one of peculiarities of languages, i.e. people are able not only to communicate some ideas with the help of language but to understand the world better.

“Power Effect” of Labels

Admittedly, labels play an important role in human societies. In fact, people tend to describe people using some sort of labels. These labels usually reveal racial and ethnical identity, gender, job, physical characteristics, etc. Some people argue that it is unfair to put labels. Of course, it is necessary to note that labels are often based on prejudice and misconceptions. Nonetheless, people are not ready to abandon labels as labels help people differentiate others.

It is also necessary to note that labels can shape people’s behavior. Thus, those in power can use labels to pursue certain goals. One of the brightest examples of such power is Hitler’s demagogy. He used labels to evoke negative feelings in German people. Notably, not only politicians should be regarded as those in power.

This phenomenon can be manifested in interpersonal communication as well. Thus, parents or educators (intentionally or unintentionally) can influence children’s perception of the world. Fortunately, many people have acknowledged the power of labels and try to use them in a thoughtful way. In fact, it is important to teach young people to understand the power of labels as this can help them to accommodate in different settings.

Code Switching

Code switching is the phenomenon of changing language, accent or dialect during communication. Code switching may happen due to different reasons. Thus, people who want to accommodate others can switch language (dialect, etc.).

On the contrary, if a person wants to emphasize that he/she is different, code switching can happen. Sometimes people switch language to exclude other people from the conversation. However, sometimes code switching can happen unintentionally. For instance, bilingual people may find it easier to speak certain language and switch to it unintentionally.

Of course, irrespective of the reasons for code switching, this phenomenon plays a very important role in intercultural communication. Thus, people can feel comfortable or uncomfortable in different situations. Some people have the power to decide whether they want to accommodate others, or whether it is unnecessary.

At the same time, others do not have such an opportunity and have to rely on their interlocutors. Such kind of dependence does not contribute to the effective communication. It is necessary to point out that the role of the phenomenon has already been acknowledged and now it is much more important to understand when it is appropriate to switch codes. This knowledge will help people to effectively communicate with each other avoiding any misunderstanding and any negative emotions.