A Creeping Problem -Kazi Eshita
People, whose native language is something other than English, might face certain barriers while carrying a label of an international student in the USA. One such barrier can be Cultural Shock. Prior knowledge about these barriers combined with adequate preparation, aid international students and others, adapt in a better way, here in the USA.
“In the field of education, the term second language speakers [stand for] students who speak a language other than a society’s dominant language at home and are therefore learners of the dominant language. Second language learners must often overcome significant educational barriers, and, consequently, linguistic diversity in schools is an important area of research in the field of contemporary education”.
Therefore, good English language proficiency seems like the number one eligibility for an international student. Of course, being a second language speaker, international students might not be able to communicate in the same way that their native speaker peers can; because no matter how fluent in English a Bengali might be, he/she still thinks in his/her native language first, then translate those thoughts in English.
It is not mandatory to be excellent in English, but at least during a conversation, one should be able to get the message across clearly. Grammar doesn’t have to be taken into account much while speaking, but comprehending is important while having a conversation.
“Cultural Shock is the mental state of confusion and dilemma that can be caused by being in a completely different culture and language… Psychological reactions include physiological, emotional, interpersonal, cognitive, and social components, as well as the effects resulting from changes in sociocultural relations, cognitive fatigue, role stress, and identity loss”.
There are four stages of the cultural shock:
The honeymoon or tourist phase
The crises or cultural shock phase
The adjustment, reorientation, and gradual recovery phase
The adaptation, resolution, or acculturation phase
“The phases are both sequential and cyclical. The shift from crises to adjustment and adaptation can repeat as one encounters new crises, requiring additional adjustments. One may become effectively bicultural, and then the adaptation phase is a permanent stage.”
The honeymoon or tourist phase: This is the first stage of being in a new country. Everyone or everything seems noticeable, nice and attractive.
The crises phase: For example, people of Bangladesh are not really accustomed to see women in public, wearing shorts or extremely revealing clothes. Yes, revealing clothes might be there in the extreme high -class people, but not in the other classes. Even the food servings seem way too huge. People can become over conscious about their words and actions.
The adjustment and reorientation phase: It takes a bit of time to adjust. It takes some time to actually know what to expect or how to act in the new environment. One can then adjust their words and actions accordingly.
The adaptation, resolution, or acculturation stage: This is the phase when people can actually blend in their own way. Here, people already master the skills required to survive in the new country. “Cultural adaptation requires understanding and manifesting behaviors that are understood in the host culture. One must accept the fact that cultures and the behavior of their members make sense and are logical, although the rules of logic differ from one’s own culture.”
Even the English pronunciation has to be taken into account. One should not turn himself/herself into a laughing stock just because of the way of talking. “The students frowned, they looked confused,” recalled Kimura, then a teaching assistant at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “They could not understand my accent, and in many cases, I cannot understand them, either,” said Kimura, who is from Japan.”
Maybe clear, slow pronunciation might be the key to proper communication.
Another type of cultural shock people might face is the reverse cultural shock. This can happen between people employed in other countries. If they return back to the USA after a long time, they might face certain obstacles in their path:
“One problem experienced by the returning executive is that of salary… He may be paid a higher salary and may be paid overseas premium, housing and cost of living allowances.”
The returning executive might also find that his skills have become obsolete and his employer doesn’t want him any more. “The American overseas executive often finds himself involved with high level government officials such as ministers of finance, labor, and becomes accustomed to moving in prestigious circles in host country. Back in the [USA] however, he often finds that he has moved to a lower, middle class level.”
A returning one sometimes can find previous peers repulsive. If he has family members studying in a foreign system, it might be a difficult job adjusting to the new education system now. So, maybe what was home before; might become an alien land for the returning executive.
“By teaching Americans to understand and respect cultural differences in on-the-job communication, negotiation styles, social relations, and family lifestyles, [many training firms] helps companies reduce the potential for costly expatriate failures… 99.9% of all expatriate failures are caused by cultural problems, not job skills.”
Depending on the country an executive is going to, cross-cultural training firms can help with a number of issues: “Spouses, for example, will learn about the stresses of “raw-culture”-how and where to buy groceries, how to decode the public transportation system, and how to communicate with vendors, teachers, and neighbors. [A training firm owner] says, “These are usually the straws that break the camel’s back. After all, who wants to spend three days looking for a light bulb in a country that doesn’t have hardware stores?.”
There can be other aspects too, which might seem trivial for someone, but major for someone else. For example, here in the USA, volunteering is a very common thing. Volunteers can help clean up a school, or maybe work at an old age home without payment. In contrast, people in Bangladesh might seldom do such things. There volunteering means running blood donation camps, or even collecting food for underprivileged people, but they will think thrice before doing things like school or beach cleaning. For the middle or upper middle class people, such works might seem insulting.
Cultural shock might be something very natural and obvious, but can’t it be turned into a blessing instead of a curse? People from various cultures can come into the USA, and blend in their own way, without sacrificing their true identity.