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TELEPHONING ACROSS CULTURES
UNIT 1. MAKING CONTACTS
I. Before reading the text learn the following words.
TELEPHONING ACROSS CULTURES
Many people are not very confident about using the telephone in English. However, good preparation can make telephoning much easier and more effective. Then, once the call begins, speak slowly and clearly and use simple language.
Check that you understand what has been said. Repeat the most important information, look for confirmation. Ask for repetition if you think it is necessary.
Remember too that different cultures have different ways of using language. Some speak in a very literal way so it is always quite clear what they mean. Others are more indirect, using hints, suggestions and understatement (for example 'not very good results' = 'absolutely disastrous') to put over their message. North America, Scandinavia, Germany and France are 'explicit' countries, while the British have a reputation for not making clear exactly what they mean. One reason for this seems to be that the British use language in a more abstract way than most Americans and continental Europeans. In Britain there are also conventions of politeness and a tendency to avoid showing one's true feelings. For example if a Dutchman says an idea is 'interesting’ he means that it is interesting. If an Englishman says that an idea is 'interesting' you have to deduce from the way he says it whether he means it is a good idea or a bad idea.
Meanwhile, for similar reasons Japanese, Russians and Arabs - 'subtle' countries -sometimes seem vague and devious to the British. If they say an idea is interesting it may be out of politeness.
The opposite of this is that plain speakers can seem rude and dominating to subtle speakers, as Americans can sound to the British - or the British to the Japanese. The British have a tendency to engage in small talk at the beginning and end of a telephone conversation. Questions about the weather, health, business in general and what one has been doing recently are all part of telephoning, laying a foundation for the true purpose of the call. At the end of the call there may well be various pleasantries: Nice talking to you, Say hello to the family (if you have met them) and Looking forward to seeing you again soon. A sharp, brief style of talking on the phone may appear unfriendly to a British partner. Not all nationalities are as keen on small talk as the British!
Being aware of these differences can help in understanding people with different cultural traditions. The difficulty on the telephone is that you cannot see the body language to help you.
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