KISSing and other strategies for successful communication : A case study on communication between Nordic and Chinese business people using English as a lingua franca

University essay from Karlstads universitet/Institutionen för språk, litteratur och interkultur


This is a case study on the communication between Nordic and Chinese business people using English as a lingua franca in their business communication. The aim of this paper is to establish if misunderstandings in communication occur between Chinese and Nordic language speakers (Finnish and Swedish) in a business environment and, if they do, what the nature of these misunderstandings is. In this paper, recorded conversations are analysed to establish if there are misunderstandings between the parties. The recordings were made at a global industrial company in Sweden and in China. Interviews with the participants were also carried out in order to establish their own ideas concerning the communication flow and to find out if the participants are themselves aware of using any particular communication strategies when interacting with one another. The results of the case study show that there were some misunderstandings in the communication between Nordic and Chinese business people; however, there were not any particularly serious misunderstandings with respect to the company’s business aims and objectives. The results indicate that the parties use communication strategies to enhance their messages and to determine if a message has been conveyed successfully. The strategies that were commonly used were confirmations in the form of follow-up questions and speaking slowly. Written or non-verbal communication were found to be used as a supplement to verbal communication. A strategy that the participants themselves noted as successful was keeping their messages short and simple. This is also known as the KISS-principle. The result of the study indicates potential misunderstandings caused by the Chinese using Yes as an act of active listening rather than agreement and it is suggested that an awareness of this cultural difference may help improve the intercultural communication between the parties. 

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