DBS Helps Cross-cultural Communications

Cross-cultural communication is a challenge at best! Just ask wives and husbands how many times they realized their spouse did not hear what they intended to communicate.

In every cross-cultural conversation there is a sender and a receiver. The sender uploads what she/he intends to communicate, but their message is always encoded from within their cultural context (yes, this more closely approximates that of the receiver the more fluent their language skills are). Then the receiver downloads the message and filters it through his/her ethno-linguistic cultural grid. But the process is also impacted by “noise.”

The only way to assess what is understood is to ask for feedback. “What did you understand me to just say?” is a great way to seek clarity. When this person shares what they heard, then you can attempt to overcome the effects of noise and the differences in the ways we utilize words/phrases cross-culturally.

One of the great beauties of Discovery Bible Studies (when the stories are being heard in the heart tongue) is the passage is not being explored cross-culturally. Yes, I know that Scriptures were written from within and for other cultures (e.g., pre-exilic Hebrew, post-exilic Hebrew, 1st century Judeo-Christian, 1st century Gentile Christian, etc.) but it is not going through the additional cultural grid of the cross-cultural missionary.

The Word of God illuminated by the Spirit of God is enough to produce the people of God!


  1. John, could you recommend a bible translation/paraphrase that works well for under-educated US English speaking adults? That is, an English language version that is written in the “heart tongue” of the poverty culture in the mid-western USA?


      1. Cindy, here a link to some information on the Christian Book Distributors web site about the reading level of different translations:

        I am doing my own devotional reading in the New Living Translation (NLT) version of the One Year Bible. I like it and think it would be fairly easy for someone to understand. This article wisely raises the question of whether or not English is the first language of your friends. If not, there is a list of suggested translations that especially take this into account.

  2. Hi, John. I’ll have a look at the NLT. Thanks. 🙂

    I have yet to broach the idea of a bible study — we’re just at the making friends stage, but we’ll all be taking a class together next term (a local Christian charity offers classes in life skills to anyone who feels the need for them, and another friend and I are volunteer mentors — we only started last term, so we’re still new to this). We took a class in nutrition last term and one of the sisters really got into it. So I asked her if she’d like me to come over sometime and teach her and her sister how to bake bread. She was excited about that, and we’re planning to do it after Christmas. It’s early days yet. But I wanted to have some idea of a good translation so as not to be caught without resources. I know neither of them have a bible except the little Gideon ones from school.

    They can read and English is their first language, but school isn’t a high priority in the local NA community. They’re more into worrying how to survive. Families are mostly fractured and confusing and people have to figure everything out for themselves from how to cook for their kids to what’s needed to keep a job to how to save a little money for unexpected needs — everything. They haven’t had any spiritual training beyond maybe an occasional visit to a reservation church. So yes, a new experience for them. Pray for us, if God brings it to mind. And any advice would be great. Feel free to e-mail me privately if you’d prefer.

    Thanks for your help and any suggestions. 😀



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