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Presentation on theme: "This speech/presentation is authorized by the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center and the Department of Defense. Contents of this presentation."— Presentation transcript:

1 This speech/presentation is authorized by the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center and the Department of Defense. Contents of this presentation are not necessarily the official views of, or endorsed by, the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, Department of the Army, or the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center. Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center

2 Language, culture, and Communication in Afghanistan Farooq Babrakzai, PhD Multi Language School Defense Language Institute Monterey, CA AFPAK Hands Conference

3 What is Culture? Shared knowledge stored in the minds of community members Ideal model remains stable Overt practices change with time and occasion

4 Understanding Culture: Models Personal space and body touch Being and Doing Ear – Oral and Eye – Textual

5 Models High and Low Contexts Face / self and others Oral and Literate minds

6 Literate Mind Consciousness is re- structured in a literate / educated mind Linear thinking develops with reading / writing Out-of-the-box thinking has to be taught

7 Pre-1980 Americans Readers Longer attention span More person-to-person contacts Social skills

8 Post-2000 Americans Digital/CD, DVD, iPod, iPhone, Computer Language: short, simple, abbreviated Read Bullet Points / Power-Point Read for exam only Short attention span / Patience

9 Oral Mind Knowledge transmitted orally from one generation to the next Redundant – repetitions to convey and absorb the message

10 Memory Memory is of paramount importance History, major events, battles, religious quotes, poetry, proverbs

11 Pick & choose Oral cultures store information in mind Pragmatic – issues that need immediate attention Pick and choose (the good & positive) what is relevant to the present

12 Village / community Leaders Spin giray / Rish safed = Gray Beards Accumulated experiences / knowledge of the area / history Walking encyclopedias How many leaders in Afghanistan?

13 Aggregate vs. Analytic Afghans won’t analyze themselves Use of adjectives, titles, honorifics Concrete vs. abstract Memory vs. lists Anecdotal vs. analytic statements

14 Non-verbal Context Afghans read physical setup, body language, movement How you sit, stand, keep distance, move, shake hands

15 Communication Use of anecdotes: the answer is hidden in the story Analogy: from know to unknown Metaphor, Proverbs Quotes from history, events

16 Self, Face and Others Self and Face are important Ranks, Titles, Honor, Prestige are important Honorifics with names Lie / mislead to save face Never admit fault / shortcomings

17 The Smart Ones Know everything and can do everything Blame others for personal failures What is in it for me? Self  family  tribe  ethnic group  region

18 Culture & Religion Culture takes precedence in pragmatic matters Lesser Muslim or Lesser Pashtun? Religion is a psychological/ ideological construct – it enhances and supports one’s view in arguments / self-image / prestige…

19 Bi-Polar Culture + Dignity, pride, character, self- image - Shame, blame, insults, contradictions Us vs. Them Family, Clan, Tribe, …Afghans vs. Americans

20 Bi-polar mind + Wise, brave, kind, honest, generous, moral, pious, good Muslim, Mujahid… Therefore, he is equal if not better than you - Victim, oppressed, poor, needy… Therefore, he needs your help right now

21 Concept of SELF Descent & Genealogy Personal merit & achievements Descent over generations Religious / spiritual standing Wealth, hospitality, generosity

22 Context and Business Create context in which to talk business Have a few cups of tea Share a meal Talk about the area, agriculture, education, jobs, …young men

23 Stop and think Have patience Do not rush to analysis and conclusion Let events drive time Build trust, friendship, relationship that will last Not the matter at hand

24 Wisdom vs. Intellect Events drive time, NOT Time drives events Get to know the key persons Read faces, body language Understand the nuances, subtleties, messages

25 Public and Private Gender differences are crucial Men’s world is public Women’s world is private Women should talk to women Same rules of communication apply

26 Charismatic Leaders Different from government bureaucrats Lineage, Descent, Family Intelligence, Articulate, Good Memory Age, Experiences, Witness to life events Tragedies, Hardships

27 Questions? Handout on background reading Short Video titled: Lost in Translation


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