Apologies Across Cultures: An Analysis of Intercultural Communication Problems Raised in the Ehime Maru Incident

| March 28, 2006
Title
Apologies Across Cultures: An Analysis of Intercultural Communication Problems Raised in the Ehime Maru Incident

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Authors
Darren Lingley
Kochi University, Japan

Bio Data
Darren Lingley has worked in a variety of teaching contexts in Japan for 13 years. He is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of International Studies at Kochi University in southern Japan where he teaches Intercultural Communication and Comparative Culture. His research interests include content-based language teaching, Intercultural Communication and curriculum design.

Abstract
This paper describes in detail an example of a failed intercultural communication and offers a teaching procedure to help students cope with culture’s impact on language. Using the 2001 accident involving the sinking of the Ehime Maru, a Japanese fisheries high school training boat, the paper employs a “critical incidents” approach to suggest how differing cultural norms and values surrounding apologies in America and Japan caused serious intercultural communication problems. A pedagogical background demonstrating the importance of emphasizing culture and awareness-raising activities in language teaching is provided along with intercultural communication background specifically situating differing cultural apology values as a potentially huge area for intercultural miscommunication. Using a critical incidents approach, a teaching procedure and supplemental materials are then offered as a possible method for helping students understand differing expectations that might occur when apologizing across cultures. The procedure is linked to Bennett’s (1993) Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity and encourages students to deal with cultural difference in a way that best represents the spirit of ethnorelativity as described in the “acceptance” stage of Bennett’s model.

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Category: Quarterly Journal, Volume 8 Issue 1