21G.019 | Spring 2005 | Undergraduate, Graduate

Communicating Across Cultures


Class Activities

These documents support various in-class activities:

Some Questions to Ask About Culture (PDF)

Intercultural Communication Simulation (PDF)

What Should Walther Do? (PDF)

Language Exercise (PDF)

Cross Cultural Negotiations (PDF)

Cross Cultural Persuasion (PDF)

Cultural Self-Assessment

This first assignment asks you to examine your own cultural identity - to describe how you define yourself as a cultural being - and to show how that affects your communication style. The following questions are to help you construct that definition. You don’t need to answer every question, and there may be points you include in your paper that aren’t addressed by the questions, but use the questions as a jumping off point.

  • What are my racial, ethnic, national origins?
  • How do my gender and class define me?
  • Are there particular myths or stories I remember from childhood that have helped to define me?
  • Are there particular rituals I remember from childhood that have helped to define me?
  • How does my personal cultural profile affect my relationship to American culture?
  • How does my personal cultural profile affect the rituals I participate in now or the stories I tell?
  • How does my personal cultural profile affect how I communicate both informally with friends and family, and in more formal settings as, for example, an internship, the classroom, or a club? Some aspects of communication style you could comment on are:
    • topics you frequently find yourself talking about
    • use of nonverbal communication
    • use of interruption
    • use of silence
    • affinity for or dislike of argumentation
    • channels of communication you rely on

The paper should also reflect some of the key ideas you have read about and we have discussed so far in class. It should be between two and three typed pages.

Due: Session 3

Book Essay

For this assignment, you may choose a nonfiction work that examines the themes of the course in more detail, or a work of literature in which the author looks at how he/she or others come to know another culture and its peoples. (We will give you a list of books we like and former students have recommended, but you can choose a book not on the list. We would like you to clear the book with one of us, however, before using it for the assignment.)


Please write a three- to four-page essay connecting the book to the ideas and practices you have learned in the course. The essay could:

  • Develop a theme or an idea you have learned.
  • Connect your own experiences living in another culture to the experiences of the author or a character in the book.
  • Expand upon the discussion of a particular culture or country we have had in class.
  • Offer evidence that contradicts or provides another perspective to something we have discussed.
  • Link an idea or a description to another work (book, film, piece of music) that pertains to intercultural communication.

The goal of this assignment is to go beyond the material presented in class to think more deeply about some aspect of intercultural communication, and to share that knowledge with us. In order to help you develop your ideas, we will give you a set of questions we would like answered in writing. We’ll give you feedback on those answers before you write the final draft of the review.


Please give us a full bibliographic citation (author, title, edition number [if applicable], publisher, date of publication) for the book you have read at the beginning of your paper.

List page numbers of any direct quotes you include.

If you quote material from another work (book, article, film), provide bibliographic information for that work as well as in a footnote or endnote.

Grammar, punctuation, and spelling count.

Due: Session 11 (answers to questions); Session 15 (final draft)

Questions for Book Essay

The following sets of questions are designed to help guide your thinking about your book, and make writing the essay easier.

If you have read a book of fiction:

  1. What is the story about? (Please tell us in no more than three or four sentences.)
  2. How would you describe the style of the novel? From which perspective is the novel written? Is the style or perspective at all reflective of the author’s cultural background?
  3. What opportunities/challenges for intercultural communication does the main character or characters have?
  4. Can you link the intercultural interactions depicted in the book to explicit beliefs or values or deeply held, harder-to-recognize beliefs of the cultures from which the main character(s) come?
  5. What factors contribute to the success of the characters in communicating across cultures? What factors contribute to intercultural communication misunderstandings?
  6. What links are there between this story and ideas we have discussed in class? In what way has reading this book helped you to better understand the complexities of intercultural communication?

If you have read a nonfiction or academic book:

  1. What is the main thesis or argument of the book?
  2. What evidence does the author cite to support his/her argument?
  3. Do you agree or disagree (or some of each) with the thesis?
  4. What evidence can you offer either to further support the author’s thesis or to refute it?
  5. What links are there between this book and ideas we have discussed in class? In what way has reading this book helped you to better understand the complexities of inter-cultural communication?
  6. Was this book written for a larger audience, or did it contain a lot of discipline specific scholarly/scientific language?

Team Paper and Presentation

This final assignment will give you the opportunity to synthesize what you have learned this semester, as well as add to your knowledge of how intercultural communication operates in a specific professional setting. Examples of professional settings include:

  • business
  • health care
  • the arts
  • education
  • science and engineering
  • politics or diplomacy

Working together in (ideally, intercultural) teams of three or four, you will explore how intercultural communication impacts some facet of one of these professions.

The Products

You may chose any topic or question that intrigues the team. Your team could consider such projects as:

  • a case study of the acquisition of one company by a company from a different country
  • the challenges of providing mental health services when the service providers are from a different culture than their clients
  • an historical study that describes differences in the acceptance and use of a particular technology in different cultures
  • an examination of issues involving diversity in the classroom or the workplace
  • how political negotiations are impacted by differences in cultural communication styles
  • how the content of a country’s media is influenced by that country’s communication norms

The suggestions above are very broad; the team’s first job will be to narrow down a topic that can be reasonably developed into a 10-page paper and a 15- to 20-minute presentation.

The Process

Writing the paper and creating the presentation will be a multi-step process that will take place throughout the semester. It will begin with a short discussion of teamwork, group report writing and group presentations in session 9. On that day, we will also ask you to identify the topics you are interested in. Based on that exercise, we will help you put together your teams, which we will announce on session 10. We will give you some time during that class to meet with each other to get to know one another and begin to settle on a specific topic.

The remaining parts of the process include the following

Proposal I (session 12)
You will write a one-page memo in which you describe concisely the topic of the paper/presentation and an initial list of resources you will use.

Proposal II (session 15)
Resubmit your original proposal based on feedback you were given. Add research sources that you have found in the interim.

First Draft (2 days after session 19)
The draft of the report that you submit should be as close to completion as possible. The more polished this draft is, the better feedback we can give you. We reserve the right to return any draft we don’t feel is far enough along to warrant our reading it.

Outline of Presentation (session 20)
We would like a brief outline of the presentation you will be giving. Again, the more complete you can make the outline, the more guidance we can give you on creating a successful presentation. This outline should include what role each team member will take during the presentation.

Presentations (In class session 22, session 23, 2 days after session 16, and session 18)
Give a 15- to 20-minute presentation (every team member must speak, so the length of time will depend on the number of people on the team) based upon your research report. Your presentation should describe your most innovative, interesting, or unique finding and use evidence to further our understanding of that point. Use appropriate visual aids. Allow time for questions and discussion at the end of the presentation.

Final Report (2 days after session 24)
The final report should include footnotes and a bibliography.


The entire report is worth 30 points with each step worth the following:

Proposal I and Proposal II 5 1 day after session 12 and session 15
First Draft 10 3 days after session 19
Final Report 15 3 days after session 24
Oral Presentation 25  

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2005
Learning Resource Types
Activity Assignments
Written Assignments
Presentation Assignments