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Intercultural communication refers to communication across different cultures using the same language but observing different underlying cultural perceptions that inform the perceptions and conduct of the communicating agents (Carey 1989). It underscores the capacity two individuals from different cultures can communicate views, ideas and opinions in a socially acceptable manner relative to their respective cultures without negatively affecting the other’s perception of the former’s cultural views, beliefs or practices thereby facilitating the exchange of ideas and expanding the body of human knowledge shared. As Carey (1989: 32) affectionately argued, without the mind, there cannot be a society or community of human beings. However, communication is constantly evolving and shaping human reality within every culture and the changes often fail to reflect those occurring in other cultures. As such, the traditional understanding of communication under the transmission view of communication no longer sufficiently explains every facet of the communication process. It states communication is the transfer of knowledge, information or instructions from one mind to another to influence the recipient’s behaviour (Carey 1989: 15). Instead, the ritual view of communication better explains intercultural communication as it refers to the representation of common beliefs held by the people of a society (Carey 1989: 18). The presentation of perceptions and ideals that sustain human reality also sustain emergent human behaviour to the extent communication not only explains reality but also creates it (Carey 1989: 18).
The challenge in intercultural communication rests in the extent the common beliefs held by the communicating agents differ and the extent each agent can effectively negotiate the differences to develop a better understanding of the underlying communication patterns, both verbal and non-verbal, that inform the other’s communication behaviour (Carey 1989). In this case, the cross-cultural differences between Hong Kong students and International students determine the degree of apprehension in their communication interactions. For the most part, the Hong Kong students practice collectivist ideologies in individual and community relations while International students (mostly Western and Arabic culture practitioners) observe individualistic ideologies. Consequently, they practice conversely dissimilar communities of practice in various socio-cultural setting within and outside of the school’s learning environment. Wenger (1998) defines a community of practice as a social learning system defined by developing structures, multifaceted interpersonal and collective relationships, personal organization, complex boundaries, and a constant identity negotiation that informs cultural meaning.
Coupled with the reality of the emerging World Englishes, the significance of the constant identity negotiation that underlies cultural meaning cannot be understated, particularly because of the resulting effect it has on intercultural communication apprehension. World Englishes are the defining variations of English that emerge from non-native speakers’ accents that are based on their respective cultures (Kachru 2005). The significance of these variations is to accommodate different cultures by allowing users to identify with their native language cultures while speaking the foreign language-English. As the lingua franca of the modern world, English is applied in three concentric circles: the inner, the outer and the expanding circles (Kachru 2005). The inner circle refers to the native speaking countries including England, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Each countries migratory history underscores the transfer of the English culture from Britain to be assimilated into the resulting modern culture that distinguishes them from their English ancestry but continues to tie them together through a common language with few variations in spellings such as between Australian, American and the Queen’s English (Kachru 2005). The outer circle refers to countries that use the standard version of English predominantly due to the colonial history shared with the once great British Empire which exposed them as spheres of influence where the language gradually became the language of administration but not necessarily the main language spoke such as in India, Hong Kong, most former British colonies in Africa such as Kenya and Nigeria (Kachru 2005). On the other hand, the expanding circle refers to countries where Western culture has significantly influenced the local cultures to the extent English has become the second dominant language in politics, academia and socioeconomic discussions such as in Asia and Latin America (Kachru 2005).
Hong Kong has special consideration as being both part of the outer circle and expanding circle in the sense that it is a former British colony with a history of English language education through mission schools but did not absorb Western culture within its sphere of influence to the same degree as most outer circle nations. This is evident in the disdain among first generation Hong Kong residents towards assuming an identity through Hong Kong English but continued to use Cantonese (Zhang 2006: 5). In fact, majority of people in Hong Kong, most of who were from Canton, spoke Cantonese during the late colonial period (mid-1960s) as the economy began to boom. Even though the official or administrative language remained English, the unofficial use of Cantonese took precedence in unofficial settings. Nonetheless, the emergence and development of Hong Kong English illustrates the extent anxiety over the declining standard of English in Hong Kong prompted residents to embrace the derivative the best reflects their cultural identities, particularly among the upper middleclass, educated and socially affluent members of Hong Kong Society.
Hong Kong English and Intercultural Communication Apprehension
Hong Kong English is a source of cultural identity to second and third generation Hong Kong natives (Brown 2000). First generation Hong Kong residents originated from various parts of China speaking different dialects respective to their regions of origin. Hence, the mainly functioned in regional enclaves in terms of neighbourhoods and the social circles they kept. However, second and third generation residents were raised and educated largely in Hong Kong. As such, they interacted with other Chinese people whose ancestral origins differed from theirs but currently lived in Hong Kong. Consequently, the development of Hong Kong English became an instrument of affirming their Hong Kong identity to both the rest of China and the international community (Brown 2000). Nonetheless, the development or ascension of Hong Kong English occurred through various challenges and changes between the Hong Kong community’s relationship with Standard English and the role Hong Kong English gradually assumed within society.
With the increased economic success of China, the upper-middle class continued to expand consequently instigating the social use of Hong Kong English even in unofficial settings. Moreover, the presence of several British institutions, particularly missionary schools, sustained English language education for middle and upper class residents, effectively promoting the development and use of Hong Kong English. Joseph (1996: 168) identified three areas of transformation that elevated the role of Hong Kong English in Hong Kong society: linguistic form, status and function. In terms of linguistic form, the comparative linguistic differences between Standard English and Cantonese underscored the difficulty in learning English for most Hong Kong residents keen on preserving their colonial history in terms of acknowledging the role and importance of English as the lingua franca for further economic growth and development. Ideally, the perceived challenges in Cantonese language in terms of distinct syntax and phonology also emerged in English language acquisition because of the differences between the two languages (Zhang 2006: 9). As such, Hong Kong English initially received low social status because of its perceive corruptive effects on Queen’s English. Even though Hong Kong English pronunciation was initially received negatively, its expanded use in more domains elevated its status within Hong Kong society to become a source of cultural identity, particularly in terms of distinguishing it from a simple Chinese identity after losing its British identity (Zhang 2006:10). Hence, the decline in Standard English actually provided the opportunity for Hong Kong English to emerge as a dominant variation of the language in use in Hong Kong (Joseph 1996: 174).
Through the evolutionary development of Hong Kong English, it has the capacity to enhance the quality of intercultural communication apprehension of users because its ability to represent two cultures: Western and Asian cultures. Since World Englishes represent variations of the English language that take regional cultures into consideration then Hong Kong English is learnt within a quality teaching pedagogical framework. The quality teaching pedagogical framework affirms that second language acquisition requires cultural sensitization of learning environment and the intellectual quality shared (Brown 2007). McArthur (2000: 9) affirms this view with the argument that language acquisition is higher in pedagogical frameworks sensitive to the learners’ culture.
Second Language Acquisition Theories and Intercultural Communication Apprehension
Two theories that highlight the relationship between second language acquisition and intercultural communication apprehension are the monitor and environmentalist theories. The monitor theory refers to the belief that second language acquisition relies on four hypotheses: input, natural order, affective filter and acquisition vs. learning hypotheses. The input hypothesis proposes that language acquisition is more effective in situations where the learning input is comprehensible to the learner in terms of written and oral learning devices (Escamilla & Grassi 2000). It underscores the intellectual quality of the material as it relates to the learners’ cultural identities. Natural order refers to the sequence of understanding for a learner where some concepts are easier to comprehend than others due to socio-cultural perspectives (Escamilla & Grassi 2000). Natural order underscores sequential apprehension in intercultural communication through culturally sensitized discussions as the learner contextualizes concepts discussed using his or her native language (Lightbown & Spada 2013). Affective filter complements the sequence of natural order by introducing the role of language filters in forming selective language understanding and learning. Language filters determine the extent language acquisition devices (LADs) operate optimally relative to the nature of the learning or communication environment. On the other hand, the acquisition vs. learning hypothesis proposes that the presence of quality input and low affective filters determine the extent a learner becomes conscious of the rules that govern a language thereby making it possible to use effectively in intercultural communication (Brown 2007).
Contrastingly, the environmentalist theory argues that language acquisition and use depends on eight socio-cultural factors: size, enclosure, social dominance, cohesiveness, attitude, integration patterns, length of residence and cultural congruence (Escamilla & Grassi 2000). The degree of social dominance between the two cultures affects the learner or speaker’s receptiveness to the information shared towards language acquisition and use while enclosure determines the extent the dominant culture precludes ideological and practical independence for the receiving culture (Pienemann 2002: 190). In this case, Hong Kong, being the receiving culture has low sense of enclosure from English that facilitated the emergence of Hong Kong English and free language practice within the Hong Kong society. Moreover, the greater the social distance between the two cultures, the more receptive the dominated culture functions towards developing independent functioning that is informed but not limited by the dominant culture (Brown 2007). On the other hand, cohesiveness refers to the level of congruence between the two linguistic cultures where individuals from similar cultural ideologies such as collectivism would communicate more effectively than those from different ideologies as it informs the speaker’s attitude towards the other’s culture thereby enhancing or delaying language acquisition and intercultural communication apprehension. Cultural cohesiveness is necessary for intercultural communication apprehension. Integration patterns refer to the extent the learner’s cultural identity remains intact throughout the language acquisition and use processes (Pienemann 2002: 190). Hong Kong English is an illustration of positive integration patterns. Size refers to the population of fellow users of the language a learner or speaker has that motivates and sustains continued use while cultural congruence reflects cultural cohesiveness but includes the need for cross-cultural understanding devoid of ethnocentric perceptions regarding the other speaker during intercultural communication (Pienemann 2002: 190). Length of residence refers to the amount of time the learner has had to practice cross-cultural interactions and communication. The more frequent cross-cultural interactions, the quicker the language acquisition process (Clark 2002).
Nonverbal Communication in Intercultural Communication Apprehension
Effective intercultural communication apprehension relies significantly on the language aptitude of the speakers involved towards using a common language to exchange ideas, views and opinions. Language aptitude refers to an individual’s natural ability to acquire a foreign language and effectively use it (Ellis 2005). However, 93% of communication is non-verbal even in intercultural communication patterns (Archer 1997: 80). This comprises of facial expression, eye contact, hand and body gestures as well as physical contact which are all culturally informed (Dupraw & Axner 2006). For the most part, the challenges in interpreting nonverbal cues rests on the extent the communicating agents impose ethnocentric perceptions whenever interacting within intercultural communication settings. For instance, high-context language cultures and low-context language cultures use very different nonverbal cues. According to Zaidman (2001: 417), high-context language users find low-context language users to be rude, aggressive, annoying or impatient due to their zeal towards communicating while high-context language users share very little in terms of the details verbally shared and rely on paralinguistic factors to communicate the aspect not spoken or considered unbecoming social behaviour.
Moreover, high-context language users such as most Asian cultures including Hong Kong observe different cultural codes of conduct that convey polar opposite meanings in low-context languages. For instance, the Chinese use and interpretation of silence is extremely different from its use in most Western cultures. Silence has been institutionalized to convey expected social behaviours such as respect towards elders, respect for other people’s wisdom and expertise, underlying discontent or disagreement with others without escalating the situation to a confrontation and a break for reflection akin to meditation (Xiao-le 2004). Hence, reticence is a common feature among Hong Kong students in classroom and out of classroom settings even when interacting with international students. The frequency of reticence escalates as the social hierarchy dimensions that distinguish the communicating agents such as age, gender and socioeconomic status escalate.
Communication Apprehension between Hong Kong Students and International Students
Language aptitude significantly determines the level of apprehension within intercultural communication interactions. Unfortunately, it relies on four aspects that adversely affect the extent Hong Kong students can effectively interact with international students when considered in collaboration with the nonverbal dimension of communication discussed above. The dimensions are phonemic coding ability, inductive learning ability, grammatical sensitivity and rote learning ability (Ellis 2005). Phonemic coding refers to the speaker’s ability to code the pronunciation of foreign (English) words, inductive learning refers to the ability recognize form and meaning in the language while grammatical sensitivity refers to the capacity to recognize grammatical functions in sentences and rote learning refers to form and recall associations between stimuli (Ellis 2005). Without sufficient understanding of these features, nonverbal cues take precedence over spoken language thereby undermining communication apprehension in intercultural interactions. Coupled with the perceived appropriate dimensions of participation, Hong Kong students can be significantly disadvantaged whenever they revert to the low participation practices observed in most social interactions within learning environments, especially because they are normalized practices (Ping 2010: 210). Nonetheless, the impetus to convey professional skill in being able to communicate on a global level motivates them to engage international students. Tananuraksakul (2009) argues learning English enhances bargaining skills and provides greater employment opportunities. As such, sharpening intercultural communication apprehension is a highly desirable outcome for many Hong Kong English speakers.
3.1 Suitability of Method
Research on aspects of society involves several details critical for establishing results hence recommendations for a study. The study on Hong Kong students’ interaction sensitivity to intercultural interaction and apprehension in communication between colleagues of different origin entails various factors that affect individual students. There exist various credible methods of data collection including interviews and observations by professionals in the research. The questionnaire, however, came up as the most suitable method of collecting data basing on the fact that the study intends to obtain a variety of results on different nature of students in Hong Kong. Observation alone could not provide information on how the individual students feel, although the origin of a person can be visible from their outward appearance, the research objectives sought to achieve more than making assumptions out of observation. Interview, on the other hand, would consume more time because of the details necessary for making deductions in responses from these individuals. Some of the research questions to be answered by respondents that were critical for the study involved personal opinion that a student may feel vulnerable to give an honest view on a face to face interview. Therefore, a questionnaire was the most suitable method of data collection because it offered the respondents adequate time for evaluating their position and giving an honest opinion on the same. Choice of data collection method is critical for obtaining reliable and definite results in research. The target subjects as respondents and contributors to results of the study being students placed the questionnaire method as the most appropriate technique to approach the students considering their schedules are indefinite schedules in college. However, interview and observation method came in handy at the inception of the study where it was evident from the student sample population that the two were not preferred hence the focus on the use of questionnaires.
The higher learning institutions were the primary objective of the study considering the schools under the Chinese government legislation offer equal opportunity for students across the world. Additionally, just like in any other country and community, high schools are dominated by students of the same origin living around the area because they still live with their parents and guardians (Cheng, 2003). Pursuing graduate and under-graduate programs is usually the first the first time for many teenagers not only in Hong Kong and the whole of China but across the world to venture out on their own in a new cultural setup, a different town. As a result, teenagers use this opportunity to travel far and wide and get exposure through interacting with individuals of a different culture and perception of life (Jandt, 2009). Moreover, China’s growth and development over the years concerning the educational sector have built a reputation around the globe hence students from around the world striving to get a chance in the higher learning institution in the Hong Kong and China as a whole (Tuleja, 2005). Evidently, there are many nationalities in these institutions in Hong Kong thus offering a favorable and perfect environment for researching inter-cultural sensitivity and intercultural communication apprehension among Hong Kong students and English-speaking foreigners. According to Tuleja (2008), language is critical in establishing relationships and understanding among people in a community; cohesion and unity are the main elements in growth and development of a community hence the research interest in addressing the social concerns.
3.2 Appropriateness to Objective of Study
The questionnaire focused its research questions on the origin of the town. Usually, the dominant group in a community are the ones with issues on foreigners on their land. The foreigners are sometimes perceived as intruders and illegally existing in the region thus the first question on the questionnaire on whether the respondent is a Hong Kong citizen or not; if not the respondent was asked to stop at this stage. This was necessary to obtain a clear picture on the perception of Hong Kong citizens on their interaction with the rest of the world cultures considering language is one of the identifying characteristics of culture. The assumption of the method was on honesty and credibility of all the respondents and that a non-Hong Kong citizen would stop at the first stage and not proceed to answer based on their outside cultural setup.
Apart from this, gender, age, mother tongue among other details were required of the respondent; the questions were in three groups; demographic questions, intercultural sensitivity, and level of personal inter-cultural apprehension. The purpose of asking the details from the respondent was to create a comprehensive view of the considering students in first grade might have differences of opinion from their counter parts in grade four because of age. Additionally, gender might also be a factor in an individual’s sensitivity to inter-cultural interactions and communication; for instance, Hong Kong boys might have a liking for English speaking ladies in high school while this might not be the same for their Hong Kong ladies in relation with the English-speaking boys. Moreover, considering Hong Kong is a major city in China, it hosts various Chinese origins with different mother tongue; major ones are Cantonese and Mandarin (Bao, 2014). The questionnaire also took care of this aspect considering students speak different mother tongue have different cultural setup might have a different perception of their English counterparts hence varying levels of apprehension in communication. Questions on personal inter-cultural communication provided the respondents with a broad view of choices both on the positive and negative side. In this section, a respondent had to be honest with their feedback because the questions addressed personal experiences and feelings about their communication with English speaking counterparts in university.
Respondents had the option to agree strongly or strongly disagree with the statements provided. The technique was employed to ensure the results are not biased where respondents are directed to give their feedback in such a manner that favors the hypothesis. Although most of the questions on the questionnaire are closed ended where the respondents are required to provides short and concise answers, there was also an opportunity for the respondents to explain themselves through open ended questions thus any additional information that they feel pertains to the research questions. The study observed standards on maintaining the anonymity of the respondents if they wish through the consent form. There were several parts where respondents were required to either mark or leave it blank basing on their preference to concerning the use of the information they submit to the researchers. This technique was to ensure the respondents are comfortable in participating in the research and do not feel coerced to give information. Questionnaires were distributed randomly to college students in different faculties as this was not a concern in the research subject matter, the origin of the respondent was the primary concern.
According to Nakane (2007), use of questionnaires can sometimes be challenging hence leading to incorrect results. Before any study, usually, the researcher has a perceived notion and hypothesis on the outcome of the study. Hence, developing the questionnaire there is a high chance that the researcher would be biased in presenting the questions to respondents thus missing out critical information necessary for establishing conclusions and recommendations of a study. This was one of the perceived problems when questionnaire came up as the most suitable method of collecting data on Hong Kong students’ inter-cultural aspects. Knowledge of assumption and missing out critical information as one of the limitations of the data collection tool, a mitigation technique was developed in addressing this concern (Neuliep, 2014).
The research team arrived in Hong Kong and started working before the scheduled date of beginning the data collection process that involved issuing questionnaires. Interviews and observation came in instrumental at this point to get a picture and structure of interaction between citizens in Hong Kong and the foreigners; this was necessary for establishing concerns that the questionnaire would address. Additionally, respondents tend to misinterpret statements on the questionnaire and give inappropriate answers that do not contribute to results of the study. Clarity in language is critical for any communication; considering this as one of the limitations of the questionnaire in data collection; simple and direct statements were used on the questionnaire. Even though the study was focused on Hong Kong citizens that mainly spoke Mandarin and Cantonese, English was the most suitable language to use. English is a universal language, as well as not all of the citizens in Hong Kong, speak the two languages; other minority groups were considered in selecting English as a universal language in the research.
The data collection process was done in three phases considering Hong Kong is a wide town with several learning institutions as the focus of the study; these learning institutions have independent structures with regards to time hence access time to the students was varied (Scwieter, 2013). 33% of the questionnaires given out in the first batch were not sent back, the respondents either forget about the activity or chose to distance themselves from the research. This was discouraging for the team considering it was the first engagement with the public; although it had a significant impact on the research process considering the number of respondents determine the reliability of the results, the impact was minimized. The remaining two batches of questionnaires had reduced response time which helped in ensuring the respondents commit to filling the questionnaire and submitting within the shortest time possible. Most of them agreed to fill in the questionnaires at the first meeting and leave after completing the process; the method was effective in delivering within the set deadlines for data collection.
3.4 Data Analysis Method
After the data collection process, analysis of the responses from the Hong Kong students was next to establish the research objectives and make conclusions and any possible recommendations. SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Science) was the used in interpreting the data. According to Scollon, et al., (2012), SPSS is one of the recognized standards of manipulating and analyzing both simple and complex data packages. The major advantage of the method is that it reduces the researcher bias on the interpretation of the data to influence results hence forcing proof of the existing hypothesis.
4. Data Analysis
For the collected samples, this study was mainly analyzed by SPSS20.0 software in the following methods:
(1) Reliability analysis
Reliability refers to the reliability or stability of the measurement results, refers to the same method for the same object to repeat the measurement results obtained when the degree of consistency. The measurement of reliability in the present study is generally analyzed using the Cronbach ‘s coefficient (also known as the internal consistency a coefficient). A coefficient between 0-1, the greater the coefficient, indicating the higher the reliability of the questionnaire. According to Nunnally, the coefficient is acceptable when it is more than 0. 7.
(2) Correlation Analysis:
It is intended to determine whether there is a correlation between the variables by the Pearson correlation coefficient in-between the variables. If there are multiple variables that have effect on a variable, then the correlation analysis can be used to identify the variables from which variables are significant. If the Pearson correlation coefficient is positive, it means that there is a positive correlation between the two variables; if negative, then the two variables are negative correlation.
(3) Regression Analysis
The correlation analysis only analyzes the relationship between the variables and the relationship between the degree of close relationship, in order to further clarify the direction of the relationship between the variables, need to use regression analysis to verify the causal relationship between the variables in the model. Firstly, the F-test is used to judge whether there is a significant influence between the linear relationship between the independent variable and the dependent variable. Then, the degree of fitting of the model is judged by R2. Then, the control variables are stratified and the relevant variables are forced to proceed. Analysis; finally through the Beta regression coefficient to determine the extent of the impact of the size. The analysis of mediating effects is also done by regression analysis.
4.1 Demography of research respondent
Fig. 4.1 Summary of individual cases of research samples
Demography of research respondent Category N Percent
Hong Kong citizen Yes 115 100％
Gender Male 40 34.8％
Cantonese 105 91.3％
Mother tongue Mandarin 3 2.6％
English 6 5.2％
English as Medium 39 33.9％
Secondary School Chinese as Medium 35 30.4％
Never 24 20.9％
Infrequently 24 20.9％
English Speaking Frequency Sometimes 21 18.3％
Frequently 25 21.7％
Always 21 18.3％
A total of 115 valid questionnaires were collected from the questionnaire. All were Hong Kong residents aged between 18 and 25 years. Table 4.1 shows that there were 40 males in the surveyed subjects, accounting for 34.8% of the total respondents, Female 75 people, accounting for 65.2%, women were significantly more than men. On Mother tongue, Cantonese was accounted for up to 91.3%, Mandarin, English and Others were less, accounting for 2.6,5.2% and 0.9% respectively.
In the category of Secondary School, respondents who study at International School schools, accounting for 35.7%. were the majority among all respondents; followed by English as Medium of Instruction School, accounting for 33.9%; respondents who study Chinese as Medium of Instruction School slightly less, accounting for 30.4%. It can be seen, the distribution in the category of secondary school was balanced, the distribution of the number in three types of schools only have little difference.
In English speaking frequency, the option ‘Frequently’ were the largest number, accounting for 21.7%; followed by ‘Never’ and ‘Infrequently’, the proportion is 20.9%; Respondents who chose the option ‘Always’ and ‘Sometimes’ were slightly less, accounting for 18.3%. It can be seen, the distribution of English Speaking Frequency is balanced, there is no huge difference in the distribution.
4.2 Reliability Analysis
Before conducting a formal analysis, the reliability of the questionnaire needs to be analyzed first. The reliability analysis is to examine the reliability of the questionnaire, which refers to the degree of internal consistency of the measured results. In this paper, the Cronbach’s alpha method is used to detect whether the data reliability is up to standard, and the consistency of the subjects in the scale and subscale is checked. Reliability analysis is mainly test through the coefficient, the greater the coefficient that the higher the reliability of the scale.
In this study, the reliability analysis of the questionnaire was analyzed by using SPSS. The Cronbach’s α index was expressed, if the value of Cronbach’s α was greater than 0.7, the reliability of the questionnaire was satisfactory; if the value of Cronbach’s α is greater than 0.8, the reliability of the questionnaire is good; if the value of Cronbach’s α is greater than 0.9, the reliability of the questionnaire is excellent.
The result of reliability analysis of the study was 0.954> 0.90, which was excellent in the overall internal consistency of the scale, and the reliability of each subscale was greater than 0.8, indicating that the subscales had good reliability.
Reliability Analysis Statistics
Survey Scale Cronbach’s Alpha N of Items
Differences in Identity 0.871 7
Communicative Confidence 0.808 6
Communicative engagement 0.865 6
Communicative Focus 0.804 5
Cross-cultural Anxiety 0.920 14
Total Scale 0.954 48
4.3 Analysis of variance
4.3.1 Analysis of variance in gender
Taking the gender as the grouping variable, the independent sample T test was conducted with the difference of identity, communicative confidence, communicative engagement, communicative focus and cross-cultural anxiety as the dependent variable, the results are as follow：
Independent sample t test of Gender
Q2Gender Mean SD t p
Difference in identity
Male 3.589 0.457 -2.184 .031
Female 3.829 0.714
Male 3.821 0.442 -2.430 .017
Female 4.060 0.599
Male 3.300 0.599 -2.396 .018
Female 3.627 0.742
Male 3.575 0.647 -1.764 .080
Female 3.813 0.712
Cross-cultural anxiety Male 2.300 0.422 2.150 .034
Female 2.089 0.626
The results of independent sample T test showed that there were significant differences among different sexes (p <0.05), and there are differences in scores of different subjects between male and female. Female has higher scores in differences in identity, communicative confidence, communicative engagement than men. There were significant differences in scores, and the scores were significantly higher than those of males. In cross-cultural anxiety, scores of males were significantly higher than females in terms of differences in identity, communicative confidence and communicative participation. There was no significant difference between gender in communicative focus (p> 0.05), that is, indicating that gender did not affect communicative focus.
4.3.2Analysis of variance in type of secondary school
Taking the school type as the grouping variable, the single factor analysis of variance was analyzed by the difference of identity, communicative confidence, communicative engagement, communicative focus and cross-cultural anxiety as the dependent variable. The results are as follows:
One-way ANOVA of secondary school type
N Mean S D df F P
Difference in identity
English as Medium 39 3.843 0.641
Chinese as Medium 35 3.576 0.653 2,112 1.821 .167
41 3.798 0.627
English as Medium 39 4.158 0.627
Chinese as Medium 35 3.867 0.527 2,112 3.250 .042
41 3.898 0.484
English as Medium 39 3.658 0.633
Chinese as Medium 35 3.314 0.728 2,112 2.272 .108
41 3.545 0.743
English as Medium 39 3.856 0.697
Chinese as Medium 35 3.554 0.725 2,112 1.823 .166
41 3.761 0.656
Cross-cultural anxiety English as Medium 39 2.009 0.530
Chinese as Medium 35 2.359 0.639 2,112 3.686 .028
International School 41 2.139 0.507
The results of one-way ANOVA of secondary school type showed that there was significant difference between communicative confidence and cross-cultural anxiety (p <0.05), indicating that there were significant differences in the scores of respondents in different secondary school types. There is a need for further comparison afterwards to know which variables have significant differences.
There was no significant difference in difference in identity, communicative engagement and communicative focus between different secondary school types (p> 0.05), indicating that the secondary school type that respondents studied before did not affect the differences of identity, communicative engagement as well as communicative focus.
Dependent Variable (I) Q5school (J) Q5school Mean Difference Std. Error Sig. 95% Confidence Interval
Cross cultural anxiety English as Medium of Instruction School Chinese as Medium of Instruction School -.35003* .12985 .008 -.6073 -.0927
International School -.13022 .12474 .299 -.3774 .1169
Communicative confidence English as Medium of Instruction School Chinese as Medium of Instruction School .29145* .12783 .024 .0382 .5447
International School .25975* .12280 .037 .0164 .5031
*. The mean difference is significant at the 0.05 level.
On the comparison in cross-cultural anxiety, respondents studied English as Medium of Instruction School is significantly lower than those who studied at Chinese as Medium of Instruction School；In communicative confidence, English as Medium of Instruction School is significantly higher than Chinese as Medium of Instruction School as well as International School.
4.3.3Analysis of variance in English Speaking Frequency
Taking the English speaking frequency as the grouping variable, the single factor analysis of variance was analyzed by the differences of identity, communicative confidence, communicative participation, communicative focus and cross-cultural anxiety. The results are as follows:
One-way ANOVA of Speak English Frequency
N Mean SD df F p
Difference in identity Never 24 3.494 0.811
Infrequently 24 3.738 0.638
Sometimes 21 3.905 0.579 1.721 .150
Frequently 25 3.909 0.536
21 3.687 0.567
Communicative confidence Never 24 3.806 0.625
Infrequently 24 3.854 0.516
Sometimes 21 4.000 0.483 1.852 .124
Frequently 25 4.053 0.585
21 4.198 0.523
Communicative engagement Infrequently 24 3.708 0.590
Sometimes 21 3.698 0.728 3.308 .013
Frequently 25 3.580 0.484
21 3.516 0.675
Communicative Focus Never 24 3.333 0.894
Infrequently 24 3.733 0.661
Sometimes 21 3.800 0.555 3.008 .021
Frequently 25 3.848 0.572
21 3.971 0.608
Cross-cultural anxiety Never 24 2.476 0.840
Infrequently 24 2.217 0.563
Sometimes 21 2.061 0.504 3.078 .019
Frequently 25 2.057 0.375
Always 21 1.966 0.266
Total 115 3.977 0.560
The results of the one-way ANOVA showed, communicative engagement, communicative focus and cross-cultural anxiety have significantly difference in English speaking frequency（p＜0.05），indicating that respondents of questionnaire have obvious differences in English speaking frequency. There is a need for further comparison afterwards to know which variables have significant differences.
On differences in identity and communicative confidence, there is no obvious difference（p＞0.05）, indicated that English speaking frequency would not affect differences in identity and communicative confidence. In other words, the identity differences and confidence in communication of respondents would not vary depending on their English speaking frequency.
Dependent Variable (I) Q6Frequency (J) Q6Frequency Mean Difference Std. Error Sig. 95% Confidence Interval
Cross-cultural anxiety Never Infrequently .25893 .15904 .106 -.0563 .5741
Sometimes .41497* .16462 .013 .0887 .7412
Frequently .41905* .15744 .009 .1070 .7311
Always .51020* .16462 .002 .1840 .8364
Communicative engagement Never Infrequently -.62500* .19730 .002 -1.0160 -.2340
Sometimes -.61508* .20422 .003 -1.0198 -.2104
Frequently -.49667* .19532 .012 -.8837 -.1096
Always -.43254* .20422 .036 -.8373 -.0278
Communicative focus Never Infrequently -.40000* .19430 .042 -.7851 -.0149
Sometimes -.46667* .20112 .022 -.8652 -.0681
Frequently -.51467* .19234 .009 -.8958 -.1335
Always -.63810* .20112 .002 -1.0367 -.2395
*. The mean difference is significant at the 0.05 level.
On the comparison found，respondents who ’Never Speak English’ scores higher in cross-cultural anxiety than who ‘Sometimes Speak English’, ’Frequently Speak English’ and who ‘Always Speak English’; respondents who ‘Never Speak English’ significantly scores lower in communicative engagement than those who ‘Infrequently Speak English’ ,’Sometimes Speak English’, ‘Frequently Speak English’ and ‘Always Speak English’；on communicative focus, respondents who ‘Never Speak English’ scores lower in communicative focus than those respondents who ‘Infrequently Speak English’ , ‘Sometimes Speak English’, ‘Frequently Speak English’ and ‘Always Speak English’.
4.4 Correlation Analysis
The correlation coefficient is a statistical indicator used to reflect the degree of correlation between variables. The correlation coefficient is calculated by the product difference method. Based on the difference between the two variables and the mean value, the degree of correlation between the two variables is reflected by the two divisions. In this study, the Pearson product-moment correlation (bilateral test) was used to explore whether there was a correlation between the factors that affect organizational performance.
Correlation Analysis of variables
Mean SD Cross-cultural anxiety Difference in identity Communicative confidence Communicative engagement Communicative focus
2.16 0.57 1
Difference in identity
3.75 0.64 -.677** 1
3.98 0.56 -.520** .404** 1
3.51 0.71 -.656** .737** .341** 1
Communicative focus 3.73 0.70 -.768** .585** .474** .586** 1
**. Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).
Based on the hypothesis of this study, this paper focuses on the relationship between intercultural sensitivity (including four dimensions of difference identity, communicative confidence, communicative engagement, communicative focus) and intercultural communication apprehension. From the results of the correlation analysis in the above table, it could be seen that there was a significant negative correlation between differences in identity, communicative confidence, communicative engagement, communicative focus and intercultural communication apprehension at the significance level of 0.01 (bilateral)，Indicating that the four dimensions of intercultural sensitivity are significantly negatively associated with intercultural communication apprehension. That is, when these variables are higher, the lower the intercultural communication apprehension. The results of correlation analysis showed that there is a correlation between the variables, can conduct the regression analysis of the relevant variables, the specific regression analysis, see the next section.
4.5 Regression Analysis
Through the correlation analysis, it is proved that there is a correlation between the variables, which provides the basis for the subsequent regression analysis. The following is regression analysis of intercultural sensitivity (including four dimensions of difference identity, communicative confidence, communicative engagement, communicative focus) and intercultural communication apprehension，Gender, Secondary School type and English speaking Frequency as a control variable to prove the specific relationship between them. Where the degree of influence between the variables is determined by the coefficient; the significance is determined by examining whether the probability value of the statistic is less than the significance level, and if it is smaller, it indicates that the linear relationship between the explanatory variable and the explanatory variable is significant; if it is greater, the linear relationship is not significant.
P Collinearity Statistics
(Constant) 5.366 19.493 .000
Q2Gender -.003 -.044 .965 .830 1.204
Q5 Secondary school type .016 .416 .678 .888 1.126
Q6English speaking Frequency -.032 -1.378 .171 .860 1.163
Difference in identity -.199 -2.724 .008 .407 2.456
Communicative confidence -.136 -2.123 .036 .697 1.435
Communicative engagement -.133 -2.029 .045 .414 2.418
Communicative focus -.370 -6.210 .000 .524 1.908
Adjusted R2 .684
From the regression analysis results in the above table can be seen，The VIF values of the variables are less than 10, so there is no multicollinearity between variables. Adjusted R2 is 0.684, indicating that the model has been explained by the variance of the total variance of 68.4%, the interpretation is higher. The probability of the model is p <0.01, and the overall regression effect is significant. The significance of the identity difference in the model is p <0.01, indicating that the variable has a significant effect on the intercultural communication apprehension and the cognitive effect of the variable. And the regression coefficient of this variable is negative, indicating that there is a negative impact, that is, when the difference in identity increased or decreased, intercultural communication apprehension will be reduced or increased. Difference in identity has a negative predictive effect on the intercultural communication apprehension.
The significance of the self-variable communicative confidence in the model is p <0. 05, indicating that the variable has a significant effect on the intercultural communication apprehension. And the regression coefficient of this variable is negative, indicating a negative significant effect; when the communicative confidence increases or decreases, intercultural communication apprehension will be reduced or increased. Communicative confidence has a negative predictive effect on intercultural communication apprehension.
The significance of the independent variables, communicative engagement in the model is p <0.05, indicating that this variable has a significant effect on the intercultural communication apprehension. And the regression coefficient of this variable is negative, indicating a negative impact. That is, when the communicative participation increases or decreases, the intercultural communication apprehension will decrease or increase, and the communicative participation plays a negative role in the intercultural communication apprehension.
The significance of the communicative concentration of the independent variables in the model is p <0.01, indicating that the effect of this variable on the intercultural communication apprehension is extremely significant，And the regression coefficient of this variable is negative, indicating a negative impact, That is, when the communicative concentration increases or decreases, the intercultural communication apprehension will be reduced or increased, and the communicative focus will have negative predictive effect on the intercultural communication apprehension.
Through regression analysis, this conclude that the intercultural sensitivity of the four-dimension and intercultural communication apprehension regression equation is: intercultural communication apprehension= -.199*Difference in identity- .136*Communicative confidence-.133*Communicative engagement-.370*Communicative focus+5.366.
The present study investigates Intercultural communication through English by Hong Kong English language users in tertiary education with international students. The role of English in Hong Kong schools is communicating with international students and reaching the world standards required for general American English and standard British English. Individualistic ideologies are widely practiced by international students from the western and Arabic culture while collectivist ideas in individual and community relations are observed by Hong Kong students (Jackson, 2011). The developing structures, mainly the internet and electronic communication informs cultural meaning and has facilitated the addition of new languages in areas that would otherwise do without (Wong, 2015). Albeit the ever increasing popularity of English as a lingua franca, Hong Kong English students identify with their native language culture when speaking foreign language-English.
Importance of intercultural communication apprehension
The lack of information from two communities during initial interaction has been argued by psychologists to inflict ambiguity or situational uncertainty which might lead to apprehension or anxiety between interlocutors. Studies indicate that the risk level can be too high since the unfamiliarity and novelty due to the difference in culture is also high. It is worth noting that intercultural communication apprehension among Hong Kong students is the best conjecture of willingness-to-communicate in a cross-cultural context. The existence of intercultural communication is necessary as it leads to a community which is not only less enthusiastic to reveal in cross-cultural interaction but are also less likely to find interest in the cultural environment. Research findings indicate that intercultural communication apprehension can negatively affect intercultural communication proficiency or efficiency (Hsu, 2017). To adequately explore the effect and relationship between intercultural communication apprehension the following research question proves the importance of communication apprehension:
RQ 2: Is there a significant difference in levels of intercultural communication apprehension among Hong Kong students based on the frequency of which they speak English?
This study was set out to explain the interaction sensitivity among Hong Kong students towards intercultural communication and apprehension with international students. Gaining a clear picture of the Hong Kong students was imperative, and use of questionnaires to collect data was helpful in ensuring just that. The use of questionnaires was necessary and can be explained by the Eurocentrism and Asiacentrism that is evident between Americans and Chinese. A Eurocentric style of communication is primarily based on actions, feelings, and thoughts to relay further information. The American style of communication encourages individuals to express their ideas in a direct, explicit, and precise manner (Gan, 2013). Asiacentrism, on the other hand, is a style of communication that emphasizes the importance of harmonious relationships; silence is valued, and confrontations are discouraged. As a result, willingness to communicate is not considered important by Asian as it is by Europeans. Due to that, Hong Kong students with an Asia-centric style of communication may be less disposed to establish communication than an American who is accustomed to using a Eurocentric style. Another conceivable explanation revolves around face work, an explanation that justifies the unwillingness to communicate may be connected to maintain one’s positive image (Akdemir, 2016). Unwillingness by the Chinese to interact in some public settings can justify their face-protected orientation. General judgment is not easily handled by a Chinese individual and their input in a conversation will not be entirely forthright in a foreign language. Akdemir (2016) argues that a face may be lost when a performance or conduct has not been adequately fulfilled as per the expected standards. Therefore, if the Hong Kong students, who may feel that they are not competent with the English language, are interacting with Americans may perceive the risk of losing face and thus tend to elude communication.
Summary of the results
Cross-cultural willingness to communicate can also be affected by personality traits, case in point introversion. The characteristics of an introverted individual are mainly anxiety in social situations. Due to this, such a person may dislike or find interactions with foreigners to be less enjoyable. Another possible explanation may concern an individual’s identification with a new culture. Communicative confidence in females was higher than in males as was shown in the questionnaire results. The little forthcoming confidence witnessed in men can be explained using individuality collectivism. Also, communicative focus in women was higher than in men, 3.813 compared to 3.575. The results of the independent sample T revealed a significant difference between men and females (P <0.050). International schools prefer the use of more English than Chinese as an instruction language.
English as a medium of communication was preferred as a medium in various school types across Hong Kong. Practicing English as a means of communication was found not to have an effect on communicative focus, communicative engagement, and differences of identity. It becomes difficult to explain a clear picture because respondents have distinct differences in English speaking frequency due to the environment of different international schools. When asked if there is any cross-cultural anxiety, most respondents feel that they are anxious. Respondents who ‘never speak English’ were more than the other groups, which indicated cross-cultural concern when communicating in a foreign language. Communicative engagement has the most significant effect on the intercultural communication apprehension.
Examination of the results relating to existing studies
The developmental model of intercultural sensitivity (DMIS) is a conceptual framework that seeks to explain the acquisition of intercultural competence (Akdemir, 2016). The model theorizes the acquisition of intercultural competence as a process that requires a break from the ethnocentric stages (minimization, defense, and denial) and transcending the relative ethnic stages of development (integration, adoption, and acceptance). The model does not suggest that everyone must follow the steps to realize intercultural competence (Wong, 2015). The study used to formulate the model indicate that acute culture shock or unpleasant cross-cultural experiences may cause people to retreat to a lower level of sensitivity. The same trend is evident in the current study as true. Those who never speak English might be the majority, but all the other independent variables were chosen by a majority of the respondents.
Responses from the respondents indicate a possibility that their negative reactions were connected to an individual’s perceptions and other beliefs towards using English to communicate. The results of the current study show that majority of the students prefer not to use English while those that use minimal English closely follow (Oommen, 2014). Environmentalist and monitor theories best explain the predilection of using what is familiar instead of alien. Intercultural sensitivity is still active and hinders the full interaction of individuals from different cultures. Hong Kong English has been developed due to the weak sense of enclosure from English as Hong Kong values functional independence. There is an evident lack of cohesiveness between the Hong Kong culture and the western culture; the result is Hong Kong English that incorporates cultural ideologies.
Language aptitude determines the effectiveness of intercultural communication apprehension and the use of a single language to exchange opinions, views, and ideas. Language ability provides speakers to use their natural abilities to acquire a foreign language and use it efficiently. Although there is natural willingness to communicate, 93% of communication is purely non-verbal; the case is valid even for intercultural communication patterns (Neuliep, 2014). Non-verbal cues, such as physical contact, eye contact, facial expressions and hand and body signals, are undesirably culturally informed. The greatest challenge when communicating with people from other cultures is interpreting nonverbal cues which are reliant on the communicating agents which are, in turn, predetermined by ethnocentric perceptions within the confines of intercultural communication. It is important to note that low context languages and high context languages employ different nonverbal cues to go with certain situations, moods or feelings (Neuliep, 2014). Previous studies have shown that there is contention between high context and low context language users; low context users are regarded as impatient, aggressive, rude, or annoying due to their zeal to communicate (Akdemir, 2016). Native users of high context language share information verbally and rely on paralinguistic factors to point out unbecoming social behavior and aspects which are habitually not spoken.
Also, cultures that use high context language, in this case, Hong Kong, rely heavily on cultural codes of conduct that express an entirely different meaning in low context languages. The second research question seeks to find out if Hong Kong students frequently speak English and the following level of intercultural apprehension and it has been found that culture affects how English is spoken in Hong Kong (Oommen, 2014). Case in point the use of silence in Chinese culture is applied differently in comparison to their western cultures. Silence is used in the Chinese culture to communicate regular social practices such as showing disapproval without making the situation to end in a confrontation, show of respect to elders, recognizing expertise or wisdom, and signifies deep concentration (Jackson, 2011). For this reason, reticence is observed by Hong Kong students even when interacting with international students. It is possible to establish a connection between this standard feature and the questionnaire results that indicate intercultural sensitivity. This explanation is important because it is careless to assume that Hong Kong students do not associate with international students with the same passion from international students in Hong Kong schools, silence is a common practice that has been observed in Chinese culture and cannot be remedied by using another language. It is also important to note that reticence escalates as social constructs which define gender, age, and status in the society intensify.
Communication apprehension among Hong Kong students is determined by language aptitude in intercultural communication interactions. Language ability is achieved by focusing on the four fundamental aspects that should be incorporated with the nonverbal dimension of communication as aforementioned. The elements include rote learning ability, inductive learning ability, phonemic coding ability, and grammatical sensitivity (Gan, 2013). Rote learning ability encompasses capacity to forge and evoke overtones between stimuli, grammatical sensitivity help to increase the ability to distinguish various functions in sentences. Inductive learning aims at building the ability to identify form and meaning while phonemic coding will highlight the ability of the speaker to code pronunciation of foreign words (Gan, 2013). Limited comprehension of these dimensions, will hinder the precedence of nonverbal cues over spoken language and undermine communication apprehension during social interactions with other cultures. The application of perceived aspects is important for encouraging participation, Hong Kong students can find themselves preferring the low turnout practices evident in most social interactions since they quickly adapt to normalized practices. Nevertheless, the globalization effect demands skilled professionals to communicate on a global level and motivates Hong Kong students to interact with international students. Previous studies that have focused on the importance of English reveal that English is necessary to gain the upper hand and ensures many employment opportunities. Due to these revelations, improving on intercultural communication apprehension is a desired outcome for most Hong Kong English speakers.
Generalizations that can be made from the study
The current study reveals that the confidence level of the respondents should be taken into account and improved. Talking to English native speakers, distress formed due to the assessment exercise, and a feeling of unpreparedness affects confidence levels among the respondents. In Hong Kong, students are not well accustomed to using English in all their dealings (Dimitrov et al., 2014). There is not enough exposure to the English language to encourage Hong Kong students to apply the acquired skills (Choi, 2016; Hsu, 2017). Use of questionnaires is aimed at improving the confidence of the respondents and ensuring honest answers. Also, students who prefer not to use English regularly may face language anxiety and maintain a negative relationship between language learning and stress.
The results from the questionnaires in this study indicate that there is a positive correlation between relationship building and personal attitude. Previous findings have also supported the data and show the positive correlation between forming relationships and attitudes. The language expectancy theory explains the findings by arguing about the message strategy may be found on the assumption that a language is rule-governed and the users of the language should develop expectations about the intended message strategies employed by others in a persuasive way (Gan, 2013). There also exists a negative correlation between the English language and relationship building. Although lack of proficiency in English is due to unwillingness, lack of contact, lack of effort, anxiety and demotivating factors towards the use of English as a communication language, most of the factors are not evident with Hong Kong students.
Additionally, the most common perceptions among students who learn English as a second language are: learning English is impossible without living and communicating in an English speaking community. The Chinese culture of using reticence eats up the ability of the students to learn and communicate in English without limitations. Intercultural communication apprehension is witnessed in Hong Kong because of the difference in language and culture. The only alternative to becoming proficient in English is the use of Hong Kong words that combines English with the most prominent features of the Chinese culture to come up with Hong Kong English (Kormos et al., 2014; Dewaele & Ip, 2013). Not only does the communication apprehension play a significant role in an individual’s will to communicate, but high anxiety people might also find it difficult to talk than low apprehension individuals. Communication apprehension can be regarded to as a personality trait because it is an important feature across different communication scenarios.
The use of English universities in Hong Kong tertiary institutions and the resulting intercultural sensitivity and intercultural communication apprehension matters requires an assessment to gain a better understanding of the issue. Hong Kong students use minimal English to communicate with international students, and it was important for this study to find out if there were communication apprehension during interactions. Most Hong Kong students aged between 18 and 24 participated in the study, and their participation was invaluable to the completion of this project. The difference in language and culture has resulted in communication apprehension and cultural sensitivity during the application of a foreign language. Silence in the Chinese language is valued, and there was an advantage of using questionnaires over other methods of data collection. The Chinese value silence while the English language has a particular use for it. The two languages had to study and be discussed to gain a clear picture of the communication apprehension situation in Hong Kong.
The present study was performed to find if there is communication apprehension and intercultural sensitivity as predicted. Using the Hong Kong students cannot guarantee a final report because there are those that learn Chinese to fit in the community and their experiences have not been considered. More support should be offered to Hong Kong students who wish to learn English more often to reduce intercultural sensitivity towards international students. Hong Kong students should work on their confidence to develop more skills in English and learn about the nonverbal cues involved in a new culture. Students should also be reminded that speaking a foreign language with little room for error is a continuous process that requires more time.
Limitations and suggestions
The major limitation of the study is that there was no observation of interactions between Hong Kong students and international students. The findings are only based on the results of the questionnaires and verification was not possible. Observing the interactions would have provided a more authentic context in which to find the relationship between communication apprehension and speaking activities. Another limitation of this study is that all the responses were predetermined and the respondents had to choose from a list, and therefore the responses of the subjects were constrained. To a certain degree, ideas could have been limited. Nonetheless, questionnaires proved a useful way of encouraging Hong Kong students to respond to the best of their knowledge and their responses were invaluable in forming discussions from their responses. Since English has been found to be a major language, future studies should focus on how intercultural sensitivity and intercultural communication apprehension affects personal relationships. It is imperative for future studies to include all students in Hong Kong to gain a much broader perspective where communication apprehension is affecting the spread of a foreign language and the resulting attitudes. Also, future studies should seek to find out if the Chinese culture has changed due to the widespread use of foreign languages.