Luận văn Criticism in American and Vietnamese e-Newspapers

Language and culture are interdependent and interactional. Culture affects the way language is used and language may reflect many factors of culture in turn. In addition, what is right in one culture may not be accepted in another culture. As people move from one country to another, cultural differences become apparent to them. For instance, American society values simple and direct communication.

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Chapter 1: INTRODUCTION Rationale Language and culture are interdependent and interactional. Culture affects the way language is used and language may reflect many factors of culture in turn. In addition, what is right in one culture may not be accepted in another culture. As people move from one country to another, cultural differences become apparent to them. For instance, American society values simple and direct communication. Being open and direct in expressing desires, preferences, and feelings or in discussing issues is highly appreciated in the United States. Americans are likely to be, to various degrees, honest in delivering negative evaluations. However, in Vietnamese culture, where positive face saving is important, directness may be perceived as being blunt, rude and impolite, especially when complaining and criticizing someone or something (face-damaging acts). Therefore, most Vietnamese are at first shocked at the American direct way of communicating in general and criticizing in particular. In addition, with the popularity of Internet and online magazines in English language, people have more chances to interact and know more about other countries. As a reporter of a Vietnamese e-newspaper, the thesis author would like to find out the differences in article-writing style among countries and how culture affects it. For the limitation of time and resources, she only focuses on expressions of criticizing in American and Vietnamese e-newspapers in the light of Directness/Indirectness to see if they cause culture shock. Such is her hope that this paper will have some contributions to the study of cross-cultural communication between America and Vietnam. Aims of the study The aims of this paper are: + To study cultural aspects which affect criticism in American and Vietnamese online newspapers + To compare the use of directness and indirectness in criticism between American and Vietnamese online newspapers + To study ways to express criticism in American and Vietnamese online newspapers Scope of the study This research only analyzes the degree of directness and indirectness in criticism of some selected American and Vietnamese newspapers. Methods of the study The analysis uses inductive and deductive methods with the following techniques: + Selecting some online newspapers with great readership and popularity + Collecting and analyzing articles with criticism + Consulting reference books + Discussing with teachers and friends + Conducting surveying Designs of the study Chapter 1: Introduction Chapter 2: Literature Review Chapter 3: Criticism in American and Vietnamese e-newspapers Chapter 4: Data analysis Chapter 5: Conclusion Chapter 2: LITERATURE REVIEW Culture Definition of culture Culture is one of the most complicated concepts to define. This is partly because of its long historical development, but mainly because it now has been used in important background for a lot of distinct intellectual systems. The word “culture” comes from the Latin root - “colere” which means “to inhabit, cultivate, or honor”. In other words, it refers to human activities. In 1952, Kroeber and Kluckhohn compiled a list of over 200 different definitions of culture in their book “Culture: A critical review of Concepts and Definitions”. One of these is: “Culture consists of pattern, explicit and implicit, of and for, behavior acquired and transmitted by symbols, constituting the distinctive achievements of human groups, including their embodiments in artifacts; the essential core of culture consists of traditional ideas and especially their attached values; culture systems may, on the other hand, be considered as products of action, on the other hand as conditioning elements of further actions” (1952:181) Because the thesis focuses on the communication aspect of culture, the definition by Levine and Adelman (cited in Nguyen Quang, 1998) is believed to be the most relevant: “Culture is a shared background (for example, national, ethnic, religious) resulting from a common language and communication style, customs, beliefs, attitudes and values. Culture refers to the informal and often hidden interactions, expressions and viewpoints that people in one culture share. The hidden nature of culture has been compared to an iceberg, most of which is hidden under water. Like the iceberg, much of the influence of culture on an individual cannot be seen. The part of culture that is exposed is not always that which creates cross-cultural difficulties: the hidden aspects of culture have significant effects on behaviors and on interactions with other.” Culture shock Culture shock can be described as the physical and emotional discomfort one suffers when coming to another country or a place different from the place of origin. Often, the way that one lived before is not accepted or considered as normal in the new place. Everything is different, for example, not speaking the language, not knowing how to use some mechanical systems and so forth. The symptoms of culture shock can appear at different times. Although one can experience real pain from culture shock, it is also an opportunity for redefining one’s life objectives. It is a great opportunity for learning to acquire new perspectives. In these days, due to the development of technology, people can update information through media system such as television, newspapers, internet, etc. Another expression of culture shock occurs when one cannot explain what he/she is viewing. In this case, “culture shock” may be equivalent to the term “confusion”. For instance, when a foreigner reads this sentence in a Vietnamese newspaper: He is considered a Chi in the Vietnamese Literature. (Ông được coi là anh Chí của nền văn học Việt Nam) The foreigner is sure to be confused if he does not know Chi and his personality. In general, culture shock can be described as below: “A mismatch between the neuro - perceptual - cognitive map and the physical and socio-cultural environments can cause considerable uncertainty, confusion, insecurity and anxiety. The complex of thought, emotion and behavior caused by this mismatch is called culture shock.” (freedictionary.com/encycopedia/culture-shock) Criticism Definition of criticism First the definition of critic should be taken into account. A critic (derived from the ancient Greek word krites meaning a judge) is a person who offers a value judgment or an interpretation. The term is used in particular for a professional who regularly judges or interprets performances or other work of other people and publishes these judgments or interpretations in a periodical (often a newspaper, a magazine, or an academic journal). Critics often specialize in one field and are usually well educated in that field. According to Wikipedia online dictionary, “Criticism is the activity of judgment or informed interpretation and, in many cases, can be synonymous with “analysis”. There are constructive and destructive criticisms. Constructive criticism is the process of offering valid and well-reasoned opinions about someone or something, usually involving both positive and negative comments, in a friendly manner rather than an opposite one. In collaborative work, this kind of criticism is often a valuable tool in raising and maintaining performance standards. Destructive criticism is intended to harm someone, derogate and destroy someone’s creation, prestige, reputation and self-esteem”. Although there can be both positive and negative aspects to criticism, one sense of the term emphasizes negative comments. A phrase such as "critics of Einstein argue that..." generally refers to people who are skeptical of the value of Einstein's position. In a different context, though, the use of critics in a similar phrase like "critics of Romantic poetry argue that..." simply means the neutral activity of interpretation. Written criticism is called a critique - an article or essay that gives a critical evaluation, serious examination and judgment of something. Criticism helps to clarify and define the theoretical basis of public address. It also contributes to setting up a standard of society. In particular, criticism interprets the function of communication and indicates the limits of present knowledge in society. Types of criticism Practice of analyzing and evaluating literary or other artistic works This type of criticism is based on the rules and principles that regulate the practice of the critic, the art of judging with knowledge and propriety of the beauties and faults of a literature performance, or of a production in the fine art. As Brande & C. (1913) says the elements of criticism depend on the two principles of Beauty and Truth, one of which is the final end or object of study it pursuits: Beauty - in letters and the arts; Truth – in history and sciences. Unfavorable judgment of other social aspects Unfavorable judgment is called fault - finding or disposal expressed by pointing out faults or shortcomings. Anyone who does not follow the standard way of doing will be criticized. This type of criticism covers all aspects of life ranging from politics, economy to social behaviors. E.g. The senator received severe criticism from his opponent. Most people attach a negative connotation to the word criticism because it brings to mind of something uncomfortable. However, criticism comes into two flavors: constructive and destructive. Destructive criticism aims to hurt an individual’s self-esteem by causing psychological damage. In contrast, constructive one is handled with positive attitude that will receive improved results and give feeling of satisfaction. Literature criticism requires a certain ability of evaluating literary or artistic works. Also, it has limited and selected number of readers. Hence, literature criticism is not popular among people. In contrast, the second type of criticism reflects all the aspects of life and has direct impact on readers. Thus, the second is the type of criticism the author will focus on in the next parts. Directness vs. Indirectness An overview of Directness vs. Indirectness Directness and Indirectness is one of the major categorical dimensions of cross-cultural communication. This dimension has been seriously studied by many pragmatists, socio-linguist, etc. G. Yule (1996) states “whenever there is a direct relationship between a structure and a function, we have a direct speech act; whenever there is an indirect relationship between a structure and a function, we have an indirect speech act.” This statement shows that in direct speech, the speaker/writer says what he means while in indirect speech, he means more than what he says. In other words, it is easy and clear to understand a direct speech; in contrast, there remain some hints in indirect speech and one has to know the rules to interpret the meaning. Americans generally consider themselves to be frank, open and direct in dealing with each other. They often exhibit strong emotional response to something. However, according to Althen (2003:18), Americans are often less direct than they realize. Latins and Arabs are generally inclined to display their emotions more openly than Americans do and to view Americans as unemotional and cold. Meanwhile, it is believed that Americans are much more direct than Asians, particularly Vietnamese. As a result, Vietnamese who appreciate and consider indirectness as politeness will see Americans insensitive, rude, forceful and sometimes aggressive. Directness and Indirectness in criticism A good example of direct criticism would be if the boss told his employee something like: “How could you make such a stupid mistake? What are you thinking? I don’t know why I hire you in the first place.” An American boss tends to criticize this way because it may motivate his employee to work harder and smarter. This is because being open and direct in expressing opinions, desires, preferences, and feelings, or in discussing issues, events, and most ideas is considered proper in the United States. However, to a Vietnamese worker, it will make him resent and want to quit. It is more acceptable to say something like: “Thank you for the report. I can see you put a lot of effort into it. However, I was hoping you could touch it up a little by summarizing it more carefully and adding some graphs. This content is solid, but if you could make those small changes, I would really appreciate it.” The Vietnamese often use hedges before informing bad news or criticizing. Giving some compliments before showing weak points of others is preferable among them. Newspapers Definition of newspapers According to Oxford English Dictionary (1990): A newspaper is a sheet of paper printed and distributed, at stated intervals for conveying intelligence of passing events, advocating opinions, etc.; a public print that circulates news, advertisements, proceeding of legislative bodies, public announcements, etc. Another definition that the Levi E. Coe Library presented in their website should be taken into consideration: A newspaper is a lightweight and disposable periodical usually printed on low-cost paper called newsprint containing a journal of current news in a variety of topics. These topics can include political events, crime, sports, opinion, and weather. Newspapers are also developed around very narrow topic areas, such as news for merchants in a specific industry, fans of particular sports, fans of the arts or of specific artists, and participants in the same sorts of activities or lifestyles. Most nations have at least one newspaper that circulates throughout the whole country, but in the United States there are few truly national newspapers, with the exception of USA Today and The Wall Street Journal; large metropolitan newspapers with expanded distribution networks such as The New York Times. Nowadays, newspapers are not only printed on sheets of paper. With the development of Internet, another kind of newspaper that, in recent years, has been popular to everyone has appeared: e-newspaper (newspaper in Internet). E-newspapers Of all the changes of newspapers, the most significant recent development is obviously the emergence of the Internet as a second national and global stage for news and entertainment that can challenge the dominant television. Among other things, it is giving us a growing industry of journalism and a new tradition of media criticism. This change is taking place because Internet is the television for print, in the sense that it is allowing writing from many sources to appear together in the same virtual “space”. That means all the journalism and media criticism that print makes possible is now available to anyone who can access a computer, vastly expanding choice and creating all kinds of opportunities, for role modeling, competition, dialogue, and mutual critique of writers. Now, when there is something wrong, many of the severe stories and the subsequent critiques are immediately available to millions of readers, and not merely to a limited audience. Reading e-newspapers obviously has many advantages. First, it is becoming easier and easier to approach because Internet is so popular today. Second, information is updated everyday, even every hour. For example, process of football matches is uploaded each minute in Internet. In addition, people have more chances to choose any kind of newspapers to read due to their interest and their needs. Furthermore, with the appliance of World Wide Web (www), people have great opportunities to know and read foreign newspapers. Therefore, the number of e-newspaper readers has been increasing with high speed. Language of newspapers Accuracy Accuracy is required in any written style of language. However, it is particularly important and significant to newspaper language because newspaper has the function of directing public opinion. Just a trivial mistake of using wrong words or expressions can make it hard for readers to understand; and misunderstanding may cause unpredictable serious consequences. Specification Another typical feature of newspaper language is specification. Newspapers’ articles provide specific, concrete details to make readers feel as if they were the insiders, witnessing the event. As a matter of fact, each event must be fixed at certain time, in certain place, relating to certain people. This is the basic persuasion because it helps readers check the information easily. Publicity Newspaper is a kind of mass media. Every one, regardless of education level, is objectively served by newspapers where they can both get the information and express their opinion. Therefore newspapers should use the general standard language to meet the needs of various readers, so that a scientist with wide knowledge does not feel bored, and a child with low qualification can easily understand. Conciseness Language in newspapers should be short and brief. Long expression can make the information dilute, which causes bad effect on the reception of information. Moreover, it wastes time for both the writers and readers because in this era of information explosion, it is better to get as much information as possible in the shortest time. Chapter 3: CRITICISM IN AMERICAN AND VIETNAMESE NEWSPAPERS Major factors affecting direct/indirect criticism Communication styles It has been proved that American society values simple, direct verbal and written communication while the Vietnamese consider directness as lack of subtlety and sophistication. Gary M. Wederspahn, a leader in the field of intercultural relations and communications, has characterized the American style of communication as strongly oriented towards content (facts, numbers, dates, and precise, explicit meanings). Their speech reflects the high value they place on words and the need for clarity. Wederspahn (2000) states: “Americans focus may be compared to a spotlight intensively illuminating a narrow band of the communication spectrum. In contrast, the communication style in Asia is more like a floodlight that takes in the context in which the communications occur.” This means the situation and the relationship of the people involved plus the time and place all carry a large part of the meaning in the conversation of the Vietnamese. The actual words tend to be less important and need to be understood in terms of the contextual factors. Individualism vs. Collectivism One of the most distinctive characteristics of the American is their devotion to individualism. They have been trained since very early in their lives to consider themselves as separate individuals who are responsible for their own situations in life and their own destinies. They are not socially obliged to see themselves as members of a close-knit, toughly interdependent family, religious group, tribe, and nation. They have strong belief that all people are of equal value according to some philosophical or spiritual standard. Their tendencies to use their boss’s first name, to challenge authority easily, and to expect equal treatment reveal a low power distance value. However, such cultures with high power distance as Vietnam frequently take American individualism and egalitarianism as an unwillingness to show proper deference and respect to those who deserve it. The Vietnamese always consider themselves as a member of community. They think that people not only live with nature but also live with each other to establish a society. They are sunk in the relationship with family, morals, laws, politics, etc. While the American appreciate role of individuals, the Vietnamese value role of community. The Vietnamese are observed treating people around as kin, as those who come from the same source, the same origin. This, for thousand years, has been an immutable principle - individuals are dissolved in communit
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