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english teachers’ cultural dimension of collectivism and its impact to teachers’ oral interaction in english classes in ho chi minh city

MINISTRY OF EDUCATION AND TRAINING
HO CHI MINH CITY OPEN UNIVERSITY

ENGLISH TEACHERS’ CULTURAL DIMENSION OF COLLECTIVISM
AND ITS IMPACT TO TEACHERS’ ORAL INTERACTION IN ENGLISH
CLASSES IN HO CHI MINH CITY

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master
of Arts in TESOL

Submitted by: NGUYEN THI THANH HIEN
Supervisor: Dr. LE HOANG DUNG

HO CHI MINH City, June 2017


MINISTRY OF EDUCATION AND TRAINING
HO CHI MINH CITY OPEN UNIVERSITY

NGUYEN THI THANH HIEN
ENGLISH TEACHERS’ CULTURAL DIMENSION OF COLLECTIVISM

AND ITS IMPACT TO TEACHERS’ ORAL INTERACTION IN ENGLISH
CLASSES IN HO CHI MINH CITY

Major:
Code:

Master of Arts (TESOL)
60140111

A THESIS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS (TESOL)

Supervisor:
LE HOANG DUNG, PhD

HO CHI MINH City, June 2017


i

STATEMENT OF AUTHORSHIP
I certify that this thesis entitled “English Teachers' cultural dimension of
collectivism and its implication to teacher oral interaction in English speaking
classes in Ho Chi Minh City Open University” is my own work.
Except where reference is made in the text of the thesis, no other person‟s work has
been used without due acknowledgement in the main text of the thesis.
This thesis has not been submitted for the award of any degree or diploma in any
other tertiary institution.
Ho Chi Minh City, 2017

Nguyen Thi Thanh Hien


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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

First and foremost, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to my supervisor,
Dr. Le Hoang Dung for his continuous support of my thesis. His patience,
suggestion, and guidance are valuable to my thesis. Without his insightful
comments as well as his coaching and mentoring sessions, I could not successfully


complete this thesis.
My deepest thanks also go to all the teacher participants in the study. Without their
precious help, I could not have such a rich data to finish the research as planned.
I would also like to express my thanks to my family for the great spiritual support.
Without their encouragement and love, I could not have courage to finish this
journey.


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ABSTRACT

The cultural dimension of individualism-collectivism is one popular cultural trait
that has been considered in the educational setting across cultures. It significantly
influences the oral interaction between teachers and students in class. Individualism
helps

shape

directness,

person-orientation,

verbal-based

style,

and

self-

enhancement. Collectivism promotes indirectness, status-orientation, context-based
style, and self-effacement. In the Vietnamese context where collectivism is
dominant, it is argued that there is a negotiation process of individual EFL teachers
on the polar of collectivism when they orally communicate with students. This
study includes five EFL teachers who are identified as collectivistic on the cultural
continuum. This study applied questionnaire and observation as the tools for data
analysis. The study shows that there is a positive correlation between collectivism
and indirectness in the teachers‟ responses in class, between collectivism and selfeffacement through the practice of praises in class.

Also, there is a negative

correlation between collectivism and person-orientation and between collectivism
and context-base style. The study also draws out some unexpected but significant
matters in the classroom oral interaction of these EFL teachers.


iv

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Page
STATEMENT OF AUTHORSHIP ............................................................................ i
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ....................................................................................... ii
ABSTRACT .............................................................................................................. iii
TABLE OF CONTENTS .......................................................................................... iv
Page ........................................................................................................................... iv
LIST OF FIGURES.................................................................................................. vii
LIST OF TABLES .................................................................................................. viii
ABBREVIATIONS.....................................................................................................1
CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION ...............................................................................1
1.1.

Background to the study ................................................................................1

1.2.

Statement of the problem ...............................................................................5

1.3 Significance of the study ...................................................................................6
1.4 Organization of the thesis ..................................................................................7
CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW ....................................................................8
2.1 Individualism and collectivism at the cultural level ..........................................8
2.2. The negotiation process of individuals in the individualism-collectivism
dimension in social settings .....................................................................................9
2.3 Individualistic and collectivistic oral interaction styles ..................................10
2.3.1 Components of oral communication .........................................................10
2.3.2 The framework of individualistic and collectivistic oral interaction styles
............................................................................................................................11
2.3.2.1. Direct versus indirect style and its logic ............................................13
2.3.2.2. Person- versus status-oriented style and the verbal or context-based
language use ....................................................................................................14
2.3.2.3. Self-enhancement versus self-effacement style .................................15
2.3 The framework of collectivistic interaction style in the Vietnamese context .15
2.4. The discourse in the English communicative classroom ................................17
2.4.1. The interaction pattern..............................................................................17


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2.4.2. EFL teachers‟ instruction, questions and feedback ..................................18
2.4.2.1. Teachers‟ instruction ..........................................................................18
2.4.2.2. Teachers‟ questions ............................................................................19
2.4.2.3. Teachers‟ feedback ............................................................................20
2.5 The challenges of EFL teachers‟ talk in the communicative English classroom
...............................................................................................................................21
2.6 The impact of Vietnamese EFL teachers‟ cultural dimensions on the teachers‟
oral interaction in the English classes ....................................................................23
2.7 Hypotheses of EFL teachers‟ cultural dimensions on their oral interaction
styles in their class .................................................................................................24
CHAPTER 3: METHODOLOGY ............................................................................28
3.1 Research design ...............................................................................................28
3.2 Sampling ..........................................................................................................30
3.2.1 Population ..................................................................................................30
3.2.2 Sample .......................................................................................................30
3.2.2.1. The sampling process .........................................................................31
3.2.2.2. The classroom context of the research ...............................................32
3.3 Data collection .................................................................................................34
3.3.1. Questionnaire............................................................................................34
3.3.2. Classroom Observation ............................................................................37
3.4 Data collection process ....................................................................................40
3.5 Data analysis approaches .................................................................................42
CHAPTER 4: FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION ......................................................44
4.1. Results .............................................................................................................44
4.1.1. Results from the questionnaire .................................................................44
4.1.1.1. Data from the questionnaire ...............................................................44
4.1.1.2. Data from the open-ended questions .................................................48
Students as Ingroup .....................................................................................48
The role of verbal and vocal cues in the oral interaction in class ..............49
4.1.2 Results from the classroom observation....................................................50


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4.1.2.1. Indirectness-directness .......................................................................50
4.1.2.2. Self-effacement ..................................................................................52
4.1.2.3. Status-oriented style ...........................................................................53
4.1.2.4. Context-based style ............................................................................55
4.1.2.2. The field notes ....................................................................................60
Observation for the frequencies of teacher talk ..............................................60
4.1.3 Results from the voice analysis data .........................................................67
4.1.4. Summary of the data analysis ...................................................................78
4.2 Discussion ........................................................................................................79
CHAPTER 5: CONCLUSION ..................................................................................85
5.1 Conclusion .......................................................................................................85
5.2 Recommendations ............................................................................................86
5.3. Limitations and recommendations for further research ..................................87
5.3.1. Limitations ................................................................................................87
5.3.2. Recommendations for further research ....................................................88
REFERENCES ..........................................................................................................89
APPENDIX 1 ............................................................................................................95
APPENDIX 2 ..........................................................................................................102


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LIST OF FIGURES
Page
Figure 4.1a – Distribution of the cultural dimension of the respondents............. 45
Figure 4.1b – Distribution of the cultural dimension of the participants ............. 45
Figure 4.2 – Individual frames of oral interaction style ....................................... 58
Figure 4.3 - Distribution of the participants on the four domains of verbal
communication ..................................................................................................... 60


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LIST OF TABLES
Page
Table 2.1 The framework of the low-context communication and high-context
communication (Adapted from Ting-Toomey (1999)) ........................................ 13
Table 2.2 Framework of verbal interaction of EFL teacher individualists and
collectivists ........................................................................................................... 24
Table 3.1 Participant Profile ................................................................................ 32
Table 4.1 Summary of the questionnaire result of the five participants .............. 47
Table 4.2 Scores of Directness ............................................................................. 51
Table 4.3 Scores of Self-enhancement ................................................................. 53
Table 4.4 Scores of Person-orientation ................................................................ 54
Table 4.5 Scores of Verbal-based style ................................................................ 56
Table 4.6 Participants‟ scores for the four indicators .......................................... 57
Table 4.7 Frequencies of teacher instruction, questions and feedback ................ 62
Table 4.8a Teacher 1‟s voice analysis .................................................................. 68
Table 4.8b Teacher 2‟s voice analysis ................................................................. 70
Table 4.8c Teacher 3‟s voice analysis .................................................................. 72
Table 4.8d Teacher 4‟s voice analysis ................................................................. 74
Table 4.8e Teacher 5‟s voice analysis .................................................................. 76


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ABBREVIATIONS

EFL :

English as Foreign Language

HCC :

High-context Communication

LCC :

Low-context Communication

IRF

:

Initiate – Response – Feedback

IRE

:

Initiate – Response – Evaluation


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CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION

The chapter provides the study background and the research gap from the literature
and the aims of the research. Then, the research questions, and the significance of
the research were addressed.

1.1. Background to the study

In the English language teaching in several Asian countries, there are beliefs that
teachers are the only ones who mainly negotiate the learning activities in class while
students tend to passively involve in the teaching and learning process (Liu, 1998).
The author argues that traditions and authority are maintained consciously and
unconsciously in the classroom and being a teacher is being a “fount of
knowledge”. However, all teachers and students come to class with their own
expectation and needs. Littlewood‟s (2000) research addresses that students are
actually not that passive but rather independent and proactive in their learning
journey. They expect their teacher to guide and provide useful advice to meet their
learning expectation. Nowadays, the perception of teachers as the sole source of
knowledge is no longer appropriate. In Vietnam, given the globalization, the role of
the English language teachers has changed. They are not only the model for
students to mirror but also the guide to language knowledge. Phan (2004) provides
evidence that Vietnamese teachers are truly facilitators, friends, and instructors who
support the growth of their students. No matter how different the beliefs toward the
second language teaching and learning are, there is one shared important fact that
the teachers‟ interaction in class, which includes instruction and different types of
responses, plays a primary role in class in order to engage and encourage student
learning.


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In fact, how a teacher interacts in class depends a lot on their cultural background. It
is because teachers, as human beings, bring to class their own cultural values and
beliefs toward teaching and learning that they cherish. They have their own belief
on how instruction and responses should be made to help their students learn.
Hinkel (2014) states the socio-culturally determined beliefs, assumptions, and
expectations of a teacher can impact their views on how students learn and behave.
From which, they opt to communicate in terms of the explicitness (directness) or
implicitness (indirectness) in verbal communication (Jandt, 2007). Such a way of
relation to students in this particular social setting is reflected through instruction
and responses. This somehow proves that the strong impact of “non-teaching”
factors to the classroom interaction in general and in giving instruction and
responses in particular. Thus, the teachers‟ beliefs toward how oral interaction
should happen become a critical role. Their beliefs are formed and shaped by sociocultural factors which they have experienced in their personal and professional life.
Thus such cultural beliefs, assumptions, and expectations are reflected through the
way they instruct and respond to their students in class.

The cultural factors are various but the spectrum of individualism-collectivism is
one popular trait that has been investigated in the teaching and learning context.
Cross-cultural studies have been done focusing on the dissimilarities in the
classroom teaching between individualism and collectivism (Hofstede, 1986;
Nguyen, Terlouw and Pilot, 2006; Vo, 2014). Hofstede (1986) investigates
classroom interaction between teachers and students from different societies under
the umbrella of the individualism-collectivism dimension. It shows that different
expectations on student learning process lead to different interaction styles of
teachers in class. In EFL teaching, Nguyen et al. (2006) examines the cultural
dimension and its influence on the teaching/learning style and expectation. From
which, the mismatching of applying the “individualistic” pedagogy in the
“collectivistic” classroom is addressed. Further to this issue, Vo‟s (2014) study


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addresses the difficulties native English teachers may face when conducting the
English language teaching in three Asian countries - Vietnam, China and Japan.
Differences in the cultural dimensions may cause different expectations and practice
toward English teaching and learning in terms of pedagogical choice and teacher
interaction style.

The matter of classroom interaction with the influence of cultural factors in
particular has also been covered. Hofstede (1986) argues that in individualistic
societies, students freely and publicly express their opinion and argument and the
teacher consider confrontation and competition as benefits for the sake of learning.
In the collectivistic cultures, the author highlights the authority of the teacher and
states that student talk in front of class, confrontation and competition are less
observed. In EFL classroom interaction, such different features significantly impact
on teachers‟ communication style have been recorded across cultures (Khan, 2014).
The study raises awareness toward different communication styles among teachers
and students across cultures, who in some way involve in the same classroom of
EFL teaching and learning. It reveals that individualistic cultures have a direct and
informal style of communication while an indirect and formal style is applied in
collectivistic cultures. Such findings indicate a direct link between the cultural
dimension and the EFL classroom oral interaction in general and between a typical
set of cultural values and a set of consequent acts in oral interaction of EFL teachers
across cultures.

This, however, does not mean the individualism and collectivism only exist in
different societies and cultures. In fact, they both can exist in every culture and in
every individual person with the domination of one over the other depending on
social settings. Depending on a certain social situation, one of the dimensions is
more emphasized (Triandis, 1993; Triandis, McCusker, and Hui, 1990). At an
individual level within a culture, they are on a continuum (Green, Deschamps and


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Páez, 2005; Triandis and Gelfand, 2012) with the unequal distribution of the two
tendencies. This tends to reveal that there could be differences among collectivists
in collectivistic cultures and individualists in individualistic cultures and the
communication style of those individuals within a specific culture may vary on the
continuum of individualism-collectivism. This variation is determined by the
contexts where their social interactions happen (Triandis, Bontempo, Villareal,
Asai, and Lucca, 1988). When a specific social context regulates the individualism
and collectivism tendencies of a person in a specific social setting, it is possible that
there are individualistic teachers who interact with their students in a more direct
style in collectivistic cultures. Conversely, there is a possibility of collectivistic
teachers who give instruction to their students in a more indirect way in
individualistic cultures. Thus, although Vietnam is seen as a collectivistic society,
there is also a probability of having both styles of oral interaction of individualistic
and collectivistic teachers in the EFL teaching context in Vietnam.

Additionally, given the globalization all around the world, the cultural dimensions
are surely influenced. Beliefs, attitudes and behaviors of individuals may change
when cultures meet cultures. As a result, such beliefs, attitudes and practice in
connection with the spectrum of individualism and collectivism are changeable. It is
true as there exists “a shifting nature of individualism and collectivism” (TingToomey, 2010, p. 175), in which the tendency of individualism has been increased
recently (Greenfield, 2009; Triandis et al., 2012) and therefore, it tends to dominate
collectivism. In Vietnam, where collectivism is considered as the dominant
orientation (Do and Phan, 2002), the current trend may create some impact when
the country exposes to the current flow. This poses a question of how a Vietnamese
EFL teachers negotiate their own cultural dimension to interact with students in
class and a further question of how the individual EFL teachers‟ individualistic or
collectivistic factors impact on their classroom oral interaction in the current time.
Thus, an investigation to the current situation of cultural dimensions of individual


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Vietnamese teachers of English and its relation to the teachers‟ oral interaction in
EFL classroom will be relevant in order to gain more understanding regarding the
phenomenon in Vietnam.

1.2. Statement of the problem

In the context of language teaching and learning in Vietnam particularly and in
some Asian countries in general, traditions, obedience and authority are
overwhelmingly maintained in classrooms (Liu, 1998; Le, 2011). The classroom
interaction tends to be more on power distance between the teacher and students.
The expectation from the teacher to students regarding the correct decoding of
spoken message is quite high. Being in collectivistic cultures, teachers in these
Asian cultures may apply collectivistic approach to their communication. As such,
the language of instruction of the teacher tends to contain implied meaning that
requires students correctly interpret to take action. This likely causes
misinterpretation, misunderstanding, and/or confusion in classroom communication.
This leads to the less success of students in the learning process as research shows
that unclear instruction in class is a factor leading to lack of effectiveness in English
teaching and learning in higher education (Nguyen, Warren, and Fehring, 2014).
Giving instruction based on the superior-inferior relationship may create negative
effects on students‟ task implementation as the instruction providers tend to require
information receivers to understand the implied message.

Vietnam is collectivistic-oriented and its style of communication tends to link with
high-context communication where spiral logic and indirect style are used (TingToomey, 1999). Vietnamese teachers when using English to instruct their students
on classroom activities may face difficulties on how to use English to provide
proper instruction that is properly interpreted by students. Thus, in the Vietnamese
context of EFL teaching where English is used as the language of interaction in


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classroom, the matter of how to use English to give instruction and responses in
English may become problematic.

The main objectives of this research is to see how the collectivism dimension
impacts a group of Vietnamese teachers of EFL in Ho Chi Minh City, who teach
English speaking/listening classes when these teachers deliver their oral interaction
in the classroom. With the mentioned purpose, the current research aims to answer
the question:

In what way does the collectivistic orientation of Vietnamese teachers of
EFL affect their oral interaction in their English class?

1.3 Significance of the study

Currently, there is little literature about how the cultural dimensions do impact on
the oral interaction of EFL teachers in Vietnam. In this particular English teaching
and learning context, understanding the tendencies of Vietnamese teachers of
English will foster a deeper understanding of how their language of instruction and
responses is partly shaped and/or reshaped and how their oral instruction is
performed. Through this, a more thoughtful process of giving instruction and
responses will be perceived and the interpretation of the teachers‟ oral instruction is
more appropriate. This is particularly important given the modern education focuses
on student-centered learning and teaching where the learner autonomy is more
concentrated and the role of students and teachers has gradually changed in the
society. Teachers are focused on this study because their role has been changing
over time from that of a “sage” or “guru” through to a learning facilitator. This
evolution may lead to struggle between the teacher‟s cultural dimension and the
way they conceive themselves in the student-teacher interaction. Teachers‟ oral
instruction and responses and student interpretation are significant in the classroom


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communication, which then affects student performance and learning outcomes.
Consequently, the teachers‟ oral interaction in relation to the cultural dimensions
may be of question.

1.4 Organization of the thesis

The thesis is formed by five chapters. Chapter One presents the overview of the
current research including the background, the gap, the research aim and questions,
and the significance of the study. Chapter Two is the literature review where the
conceptual framework of oral interaction in EFL classroom under the umbrella of
the individualism-collectivism dimension in the Vietnamese classroom context is
shaped. In details, the chapter focuses on the key aspects of the individualismcollectivism dimension, the verbal communication styles derived from the polar of
individualism and collectivism and its relation to the EFL classroom interaction.
Relevant previous studies are also included in this second chapter. Later in the
chapter, the hypotheses for the impact of collectivism on EFL teachers‟ oral
interaction are provided. Chapter Three follows with the research design, a
description of the population, the sampling, the research tools, and the procedure for
data collection and analysis. Chapter Four describes the data analysis, result
discussion and key findings. Lastly, Chapter Five covers the conclusion for the
findings, research implication and limitations, and also recommendations for further
research.


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CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW

In the section, the argument of the individualism-collectivism dimension at both
cultural level and individual level is provided. The verbal communication styles in
the cultural dimension are also discussed. They are followed by what constitutes
classroom oral interaction and the context of EFL in Vietnam. The hypotheses of
the impact of EFL teachers‟ cultural dimension to their oral interaction in class are
included. The theories are synthesized and a conceptual framework is thus
produced.

2.1 Individualism and collectivism at the cultural level

There are many ways to define the terms individualism and collectivism. At cultural
level, they could be identified as the matter of people‟s self-image, the “I” or “we”
(Hofstede, 1984, p. 83), the centrality on either the autonomous individual or the
collective (Triandis, 1993; Triandis, Chan, Bhawuk, Iwao, and Sinha, 1995), or the
self-perception of either being unique and independent or conforming and being
interdependent (Schmidt et al, 2007, cited in Samovar et al, 2012). In individualistic
cultures, a person tends to focus on their personal needs, goals, beliefs and values of
an autonomous and unique self (Matsumoto, Weissman, Preston, Brown, and
Kupperbusch, 1997), which means their personal rights and responsibilities,
privacy, personal opinion, freedom, innovation, and self-expression are emphasized
(Andersen, Hecht, Hoobler, and Smallwood, 2003). This is a negotiation of
individuals to be more person-oriented. As such, individualism can be linked to the
characteristics of person-orientation, independence, autonomy and uniqueness of
each individual in the individualistic societies.
In contrast, in collectivistic cultures, people tend to adhere to the ingroup‟s norms or
practice as they prioritize collaboration, shared interest, harmony, and tradition


9

(Andersen et al, 2003). The adjustment is needed to make sure individual behaviors
are consistent with that of the ingroup. Thus, interdependence and relationshiporientation are dominant among collectivists‟ thinking and behaviors in daily
interactions in the society (Triandis, 1989). The alignment between personal and
group attitudes and behaviors turns the individuals in the collectivistic societies to
be more harmonious and cooperative in their relation to others. Their identity is
merged with the group‟s identity. By this way, being collectivistic means that one‟s
connection to the ingroup become stronger and prioritized. Their sense of belonging
to an ingroup will drive their thinking and behaviors. Therefore, individuals in the
collectivistic societies place their focus on the relationship-orientation and act on
their ingroup‟s values, beliefs and goals.

2.2. The negotiation process of individuals in the individualism-collectivism
dimension in social settings

The cultural dimension not only exists at cultural level but also at individual level.
Triandis (1993) claims that both individualistic and collective elements are reflected
in most cultures and the two patterns do exist in most individuals‟ cognitive
systems. This means an individual can choose to become individualistic or
collectivistic based on their reasoning. However, this choice is not random. In many
ways, the decision making of either being individualistic or collectivistic relies on
social situations (Triandis & Suh, 2002) and this leads to specific consequences on
individual emotion and motivation (Markus and Kitayama, 1991), which then drive
their specific attitudes and behaviors. To define one‟s cultural orientation, it is
necessary to put that person into a social context where he or she interacts with
other people in that context. The larger degree of one orientation compared to the
other firstly comes from one‟s cognitive system as there is the probability of the
activation of either individualism or collectivism in particular situations (Triandis,
1993). Thus, it is not exaggerated to say that it is the social interaction that


10

determines whether individualism or collectivism will dominate the person‟s
attitudes and behaviors. Within a culture, this is in fact the individuals‟ negotiation
process in order to be more independent or interdependent, and to value and act
based on logic or relationships, on person- or group-orientation. One‟s reasoning
and ways of thinking are changeable depending on the social situations and the
people engaged in such interactions.

2.3 Individualistic and collectivistic oral interaction styles

In face to face interactions, the negotiation process of individualists and collectivists
is either more on “me” or “us” respectively. It is not black-and-white process.
Rather, it is the degree of flexibility in the negotiation process during the interaction
with other interlocutors. Therefore, individualism and collectivism lead to different
ways of verbal communication. At individual level, together with the impact of
other cultural factors and life experience, the cultural dimensions of individualism
and collectivism help create individual uniqueness and differentiate the way
individuals interact in specific social settings. In order to examine the difference of
the verbal interaction between the two communication styles of individualists and
collectivists, components of verbal communication and each interaction style should
be firstly considered.

2.3.1 Components of oral communication

The verbal language includes words, phrases and sentences (Rosengren, 2000). It is
mainly shaped by three factors - what is spoken, how it is spoken, and why it is
spoken in a certain way. These elements can be understood through the expression
of verbal and non-verbal cues. The verbal component of spoken messages is about
the choices of words and the way these words put together to create meaning. That
is the physical appearance of the messages. As it is about wording, verbal


11

component includes words and syntax while voice firmness, tone, pitch (high or
low), and loudness (or softness) belong to the vocal component. Let‟s take an
example. In the sentence “You need to take this matter seriously.”, if the word
“you” is emphasized, that means “you” is the very person that needs to take the
action. But if the word “seriously” is stressed, the level of seriousness should be
taken into consideration. As a result, if words, phrases, and sentences are considered
as the “skeleton” of the verbal communication, the nonlinguistic means including
voice quality, speed, pitch, intonation, and so on, in most cases, can be seen as the
soul of the message as they create different meanings of spoken words.

Accordingly, in order to utter a completely and adequately meaningful utterance in
a certain situational conversation, speakers need to do two jobs – making choices
for words and message structures and selecting the appropriate tone, pitch,
modulation, and volume to encode their messages. As the communication style of
individualists is different from that of collectivists (Samovar, 2007), the selection
process of verbal and vocal cues, which form the oral interaction styles, turns
different.

2.3.2 The framework of individualistic and collectivistic oral interaction styles

The difference between individualistic and collectivistic interaction styles has been
recorded (Nishimura, Nevgi and Tella, 2008). The interaction styles are believed to
be influenced by the characteristics of low-context communication (LCC) and highcontext communication (HCC), which relate to low- and high-context cultures
(Nishimura et al., 2008). In the LCC, the meaning of a spoken message is clearly
expressed through verbal cues while in the HCC, the meaning is context based and
the nonverbal cues are stressed (Nishimura et al., 2008). In order to understand an
HCC‟s message, background knowledge is needed and the verbal communication
style in HCC typically requires the stronger connection between interlocutors rather


12

than that in LCC. Thus, basically, the verbal interaction styles operate in and
influenced by a cultural framework of high- and low-context communication. In this
framework, the styles can be identified through different manifestations of spoken
messages. The messages, which are impacted by the individualistic and
collectivistic cultures, could be direct or indirect, verbal- or context-based, and/or
person- or status-oriented.

The framework of the LCC and HCC become significant in verbal interaction
among individualists and collectivists as it regulates and shapes how a spoken
message is uttered by each individual. In literature, Ting-Toomey‟s framework of
HCC and LCC is worth to mention. In this framework, the LCC promotes the selfenhancement, direct, linear, person-oriented, and verbal-based style and speakers‟
self-perception is influenced by their desire of self-expression. They have a will to
express their emotion, feeling, and opinion explicitly and directly. They have the
tendency to promote the self-esteem of other interlocutors by appreciating one‟s
achievements and abilities. Thus, the conversation is more person-oriented and
achievement-oriented. This is in contrast to the HCC where the focus is on “verbal
restraints, hesitations, modest talk, and self-deprecation toward one‟s effort or
performance” (Ting-Toomey, 1999, p. 107). As such, in LCC, direct talk, personoriented verbal interaction, verbal self-enhancement and talkativeness are
emphasized whereas in HCC, indirect talk, status-oriented verbal interaction, verbal
self-effacement

and

silence

are

dominant

(Ting-Toomey,

characteristics of LCC and HCC are stated in the table 1 below.

1999).

These


13

Table 2.1 The framework of the low-context communication and high-context
communication (Adapted from Ting-Toomey (1999))
LCC characteristics

HCC characteristics

Direct style

Indirect style

Linear logic

Spiral logic

Person-oriented style

Status-oriented style

Self-enhancement style

Self-effacement style

Verbal-based

Context-based

understanding

understanding

2.3.2.1. Direct versus indirect style and its logic

Individualism promotes person-orientation and fact emphasis, which features the
directness in verbal communication whereas collectivism supports group-orientation
and relationship focus, which results the indirectness in oral interaction. By this
way, there are two approaches for message encoding and decoding. They are either
direct and straightforward or indirect and spiral. Jandt (2007) explains that the direct
style in associated with individualism (and LCC) encodes the wants, the needs, and
desires of the speaker through words and that indirect style, which links to
collectivism (and HCC), implicitly encodes the wants, the needs, and goals of the
speaker in utterances. In direct talk of the LCC, the intentions and needs of the
individualistic speaker are straightforward and clearly communicated through
words. This is the “straight to the point” logic where everything should be
transparent and direct. Meanwhile, the indirect style of the HCC employs hidden
meaning and implicit intention, which require the listener‟s internalization and
interpretation. Due to the indirectness, the speakers have no other ways to express
their meaning rather than a spiral way to express their meaning.


14

2.3.2.2. Person- versus status-oriented style and the verbal or context-based
language use

Individualists and collectivists treat the matter of message delivery differently. With
the characteristic of focusing on the self, individualists perceive the process of
encoding a message as a responsibility to clearly communicate their message (TingToomey, 1999). These people place expressive, explicit language on top when
communicating to others. They see the importance to spread out the personal wants
and goals and they expect to have a direct conversation. Hence, their talk in many
situations is informative, detail-oriented, and fast. Given that explicitness, the
language is more verbal-based and words are the basic elements for listeners to
easily decode the message.

In contrast, the collectivists, who set courtesy as the primary element in oral
interaction, value the harmony and subtlety in talking (Liu, 2016). They
communicate with the awareness of the listeners as social beings who have a certain
level of social background and knowledge as well as play a certain role in the
society. With that perception in mind, they tend to appropriate themselves in the
interaction with the listeners. In return, as a social member with a social status, the
listeners will interpret between the lines (Ting-Toomey, 1999) to make themselves
understood. Moreover, as one‟s sense of social connection in general or ingroup
affiliation in particular is also important to enhance an interpersonal relationship
(Roberts and Burleson, 2013), collectivists may heavily depend on the context to
convey meaning between interlocutors. Consequently, the language they use is
normally implicit and meaning is often implied as face saving should be conformed
in social interactions. Using context based approach is believed to be a subtle way
to express one‟s idea and show the social harmony through the sense of belonging.
The listeners have to work hard to make sense of the meaning through context and
thus maintain the conversation properly.


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