Essay on Differences and Similarities Between the Chinese and Australian Cultures and Languages

Published: 2021/11/09
Number of words: 1817


This is a report highlighting the differences and similarities between the Chinese and Australian cultures and languages. The report will briefly describe the use of verbal and nonverbal communication in both countries and then compare the similarities and the differences between the two. Finally, the report will highlight examples of these differences as portrayed in the given case example, and proceed to give recommendations on how to improve the intercultural communication between the two countries.

Verbal Communication

Verbal communication in China

The Chinese population uses one of the oldest and complex languages in the world with a history of more than 6000 years. As reported by Wang (2015) the Chinese languages make use of over 40000 alphabetical characters and there are three main dialects that are spoken in China with the most commonly used one being Mandarin, followed in second by Cantonese which is more prevalent in Hong Kong and Guangdong regions. The third most common dialect is Toisanese but very few people use this dialect.

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Written Chinese on the other hand is universal to the Chinese population and it is understandable for every Chinese regardless of their verbal dialect. The written language and characters are slightly different from traditional ones as they are altered to simplify them and reduce pen strokes. The Chinese language does not support plural forms of words and instead, a number is used to indicate pluralism and additionally their language does not have definitive forms of indicating tense (Xu, 2012). The complexity of the Chinese language makes it hard to translate and it is easy to lose meaning during the exercise

Verbal communication in Australia

Australia does not have an official language but English is considered the default language that that is spoken by most Australian nations. Surprisingly mandarin from China is the most spoken non-English language in Australia and the English spoken is similar to British English but it is incorporated with a slang known as Strine (Dixon & Dixon, 2011). However, a lot of words used in Australian English have a different meaning when used in other countries. For instance, a globe means a light bulb, while a tube means a can of beer and game means in brave in Australia which is different from other countries’ English. Additionally, English in Australia is often abbreviated with words being changed in ways that only locals can understand. some of these words include Aussie for Australian, cossie for costume, Chrissy for Christmas, and footy for football.

Australians use nonverbal cues to facilitate their verbal communication with eye contact being especially prevalent as it is associate with trustworthiness (Sheets, 2011). People generally do not engage in a lot of physical contacts when talking unless they are very close but an occasional pat on the shoulder or back is common. Australians normally use the index finger to point at something but pointing directly at someone is considered rude.

Differences between Australian and Chinese language

There are vast differences between the Chinese and the Australian language both in terms of structuring and how they are spoken. The interpretations, perceptions, and delivery also vary with different degrees depending on the context. Australian English supports the plural form of words while in Chinese languages there is no distinction between plural and singular and the same words are used with a number added in the sentence to quantify the object (Xu, 2012).

Furthermore, the Chinese language is considered a tone-based language, and the use of different tones affects the meaning of a phrase. For instance, using a high pith on some words means a world of difference to when a high pitch is used on the same word. For example, the word “wen” when used with a falling pitch means “ask” but when used with a rising pitch is means to “kiss”. Pitch in Australian English is used to put emphasis on words in sentences.

Australian English is founded on structure, with the correct sentence formatting and punctuation key to ensuring that a sentence delivers its intended meaning and is understandable. Chinese language, on the other hand, is focused on meaning rather than its structure (Shei, 2014). The Chinese language doesn’t emphasize the structural presentation of sentences with most sentences kept short enough presentation to pass the message.

Similarities between Chinese and Australian English.

The sentence structure between the two languages is similar to a sentence comprising of the basic subject-verb-object structure where there is action, the one who does it, and the object onto which the action is being performed. This makes it relatively easier for a person from either side of the culture to learn the basics of the other’s language.

Both languages use the same basic communication process model which entails a sender encoding a message, and sending it through the preferred medium to the recipient. The recipient then decodes the message and sends feedback to the sender. The intercultural communication between China and Australia will follow the same communication model but with the added factors of perception, interpretation, and translations.

Non-verbal Communication

Non-verbal communication in China and Australia

Both countries make use of the seven nonverbal cues albeit to varying degrees. Chinese nonverbal communication is based on a culture that does not accommodate a lot of contact unlike in the western world, therefore touch is usually not common in Chinese society. Eye contact expression is more prevalent in China and Asian countries where emotions are mostly expressed through the eyes, unlike Europeans who tend to use their mouth region more when expressing their emotions (Di, 2013). Basically, in China nonverbal cues are expressed through eye contact and rarely smiles or frown as is the case in countries from the west. In both cultures, there is the use of paralanguage with the tone being especially useful in China as different tones alter the meaning of words. In Australia tone is mostly used to put emphasis on words to enhance their meaning.

In China, for instance, the common act of placing a finger on one’s lip is used to imply silences in Australia or to signal a person to keep quiet (Chui, 2011). In China, however, the gestures combined with the “shh” sound are used to express disapproval of something. Similarly, the gesture of asking someone to come towards oneself or approach. in Australia, the fingers are moved back and for with the palm facing upward while in China the palm faces downwards which may be confusing to Australians as it appears as if it is a wave of goodbye or a person urging another to move away.

In addition, while it may be commonplace to point at somebody with a finger in Australia, it is not in China where pointing at someone with one finger is considered very offensive. Additionally, Zhang (2021) the Chinese culture does not use proxemics or personal space and therefore, does not encourage a lot of contacts, and therefore it is less likely to see people hugging or holding hands and other forms of public display of affection in China. This is however quite common in Australia which is a high-contact culture

Application to the case example

The case example brings to light the differences in communication styles between the two cultures. As a result, there is a misrepresentation of needs by the Australian company to the Chinese manufacturer. Additionally, differences in communication style led to miscommunication with the regional manager unintentionally failing to give adequate information on what was needed for the equipment. Therefore, there is a lack of clear communication owing to the cultural differences which define perception and interpretation

The case also highlights the concept of unconscious incompetence on the part of the Chinese manufacture as they misunderstand the communication message of the Australian company unconsciously without being aware that there was a misinterpretation. Additionally, the Chinese manufacturer exhibits conscious incompetence later on by declining to offer the specification after it was made clear that there was a miscommunication in the first place.

In addition, the Chinese manufacturer portrayed ethnocentrism where he gave the impression that the equipment provider knowing what is provided in the specification was the preferred and the right way. There was an assumption that that was how Australians operated as well which was false and hence contributed to miscommunication and a corresponding incompetence


In order to ensure there is effective intercultural communication between the two groups, there is a need to educate the two sets of people who will be at the center of this interaction on the basic nonverbal dos and don’ts of each other. It is recommended that only basic and universally allowed nonverbal communication cues such as making casual eye contact, smiling, and shaking hands before meetings used to be used. Both parties should be informed on nonverbal cues that are considered offensive by the other party so they can be avoided at all costs.

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The stark differences between the two languages would mean that it will take a lot of time for the interacting parties to teach each other language. Therefore, in order in order to facilitate clear communication, it would be necessary to acquire the services of a professional translator during in-person meetings. Written forms of communication can be translated using translation tools

Based on Hofstede’s culture model China is regarded as a masculine society while Australia is more feminine. This means that in China there is a larger gap between men’s and women’s values with women being less competitive and assertive (Xiumei & Jinying, 2011). Therefore having women work as a manager in the Chinese branch may not be received well by the Chinese workforce to reduce the potential tension and negative energy towards the management, interactive management strategy should be applied to ensure the there is a healthy relationship between the female-led management and the subordinates


Chui, K. (2011). Do gestures compensate for the omission of motion expression in speech?. Chinese Language and Discourse2(2), 153-167.

Di, Y. A. O. (2013). Chinese and Western Communication Nonverbal Communication in this Paper. Theory Research5.

Dixon, R. M., & Dixon, R. M. W. (2011). The languages of Australia. Cambridge University Press.

Sheets, C. L. (2011). Nonverbal communication in Australia: an ethnography.

Shei, C. (2014). Understanding the Chinese language: A comprehensive linguistic introduction. Routledge.

Wang, W. S. (2015). The peoples and languages of China. In The Oxford Handbook of Chinese linguistics.

Xiumei, S. H. I., & Jinying, W. A. N. G. (2011). Cultural distance between China and US across GLOBE model and Hofstede model. International Business and Management2(1), 11-17.

Xu, D. (Ed.). (2012). Plurality and classifiers across languages in China (Vol. 255). Walter de Gruyter.

Zhang, M. (2021, August). Research on Cross-Cultural Differences in Nonverbal Communication Between America and China. In 2021 5th International Seminar on Education, Management and Social Sciences (ISEMSS 2021) (pp. 954-957). Atlantis Press.

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