I live in a world of confusion.

An article about the differences in thought process between Easterners and Westerners.  This part, in particularly *makes so much sense*.

4. Receiver vs. Transmitter

L2 listening can be one of the most frustrating and stressful parts of language learning. Though normally considered a passive language skill, explaining to students: that they may possess a different way of listening than the language they are learning requires; could do much to affect student study methods.

The relative degree of sensitivity to others’ emotions is reflected in tacit assumptions about the nature of communication. Westerners teach their children to communicate their ideas clearly and to adopt a “transmitter” orientation, that is, the speaker is responsible for uttering sentences that can be clearly understood by the hearer—and understood, in fact, more or less independently of the context. It’s the speaker’s fault if there is a miscommunication. Asians, in contrast, teach their children a “receiver” orientation, meaning that it is the hearer’s responsibility to understand what is being said. If a child’s singing annoys an American parent, the parent would likely just tell the kid to pipe down. No ambiguity there. The Asian parent would be more likely to say, “How well you sing a song.” At first the child might feel pleased, but it would likely dawn on the child that something else might have been meant and the child would try being quieter or not singing at all. (Nisbett, 2003, p.61)

Having explained to my students this transmitter/ receiver role difference in our ways of seeing the world I have observed a far greater sense of relaxation in my students during listening activities. Similarly, I have noticed far greater production in pair work when the speaker is given greater responsibility in making themselves understood The transmitter/ receiver role may also be seen in writing styles of Easterners and Westerns for Duncan has found that “East-Asian compositions may comprise a “reader-responsible” organizational style of writing, while English composition constitutes a “writer-responsible” organizational style.” (Duncan, 2003).

It’s also notable that where we would usually say “What?” Koreans will say “Why?”  We want to know the fact, they want to know the reason.  I can’t fully articulate it, but if I look at my interaction with sonsengnim this way –that it’s my responsibility to understand what he means, our interaction makes a lot more sense.  Because neither one of us ever seems to react to a statement the way that the other person wants or expects.  Which is so frustrating.

It would also explain why the lady at the yarn store seemed so stressed out by my inability to choose a pattern or yarn.  In her mind, maybe she thought she had to give me what I wanted.  In my mind, I wanted her to offer suggestions, but the responsibility for the decision was ultimately mine and the inability to decide, my fault not hers.


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