Preface to the 3rd Edition
The third edition of Cultural Portraits, A Synoptic Guide, generates positive feedback about the usefulness of its content for teachers, guidance counselors and school administrators who work with students who hail from foreign countries. Cultural Portraits is a user-friendly resource for educators as well as non-educators. A wealth of information presented in each country's portrait prepares colleagues, employees, students and parents to work together productively without prejudice or misunderstanding. Cultural Portraits in no way stereotypes any particular culture. It provides broad brush strokes of the signature of a country, known as its culture.
Cultural Portraits, A Synoptic Guide, 3rd Edition
Cultural Portraits has been written for those who work with persons whose cultures differ from ours; it provides a framework for developing cultural proficiency, thus bridging the culture gap that exists today which often results in miscommunication and ineffective productivity.
Would you know that Chang Wu Jiang’s last name is Chang, not Jiang? Or that handing some-thing to an Arab with your left hand is an insult? Or that, at birth, a Korean is one year old? Cultural Portraits answers hundreds of such questions and empowers you with valuable information not only about cultural practices but with explanations about terms we hear daily (i.e., “jihad,” “Sunni”).
Cultural Portraits, a research-based reference and teaching tool, meets and exceeds expectations as it presents both overt and hidden aspects of culture that often create difficulties and misunderstandings among citizens of the world. It is an easy to use, easy to read, instant access reference and source of information. It encourages the reader to sharpen cultural skills in understanding interpersonal and intercultural relationships. It empowers the reader with the skills needed to succeed in a multicultural workplace by turning challenges into opportunities.
Robert Marzano’s research for his publication of, What Works in Schools, links academic achievement to effective teachers who are able to relate to the students’ backgrounds in order to make connections with instruction. A Culturally Responsive curriculum also requires teachers to validate the cultural backgrounds of the students and their families, thus motivating students to share with other classmates as all students develop cultural proficiency.
A review of the ratio of foreign-born to native-born students in the United States makes evident the need to heed Marzano’s conclusions:
• In 1994, 1 in 20 foreign-students grades K-12 were attending US schools;
• In 2004, 1 in 10 foreign-born were attending our schools;
• In 2015, 1 in 5 are attending US schools;
• It is projected that in 2026, 1 in 3.5 students will be foreign-born; and
• by 2050, the number of native vs. foreign-born students will be 1 in 2!
Cultural Portraits is helping teachers to recognize the caveats and cultural patterns that shape perceptions that serve as relatively stable indicators of how students perceive (cognitive domain), interact with (affective domain) and respond to (physiologically) to their environment.
Cultural differences cover a wide range of values and behaviors. If we wish to get through conflicts or recognize possible misunderstandings and miscommunication, we must first seek to identify the differences that are causing the conflict and then decide the best solution for the situation.
Consider these two examples of the lack of cultural knowledge, reflective of diametrically opposed perceptions, that resulted in diplomatic embarrassment: during a meeting of the Big Eight a few years ago, President Carter addressed then German Chancellor, Helmut Schmidt, by his given name: “Helmut" (friendly or rude?), and at an encounter with the King of Saudi Arabia, President Obama, head of state, bowed (respectful or weak?) to King Abdullah.
Cultural Portraits is a valuable resource for resolving challenging issues and addressing cultural questions to help you do your job with renewed confidence. Although population figures may experience gradual changes from year to year, culture requires many generations to change ever so slowly. The information contained in this publication will continue to be valid for years to come.
…a tremendous asset to a wide range of professionals: expertly written, user friendly, and comprehensive in scope; I urge you to add this excellent book to your shelves.
B. F., Woodbridge, CN.
Cultural Portraits is divided into four parts:
Each Portrait presents succinct information on 25 categories:
The country’s Flag; Maps of the Country and of the World; Official Name of the Country; Location; Size; Capital; Population; Political System; Race/Ethnicity; Language(s); Religion(s); Challenges; Family; Gender Gap; Proxemics; Caveats; Education; Dates; Numbers; Time; Name Structure; Diet; Body Language; Punctuality; and Cultural Patterns.
Each country’s Educational Profile indicates the ages of compulsory education; gives the beginning and end of the academic year; gives a schematic sequence of levels of learning (from Pre-K and Primary to Secondary and Post-Secondary Education) and the certificates / diplomas earned at that level, if any; and it provides brief explanations on the country’s system which will help the evaluator interpret an academic record. Each Profile also includes a valuable section on Secondary Education grading (often two or three different systems), with suggested US equivalents; and includes a convenient Transcript Vocabulary section (from Spanish, Portuguese, French, French Creole, German, Russian, Italian and Vietnamese to English) to help understand most course entries on a student transcript.
The Glossary reflects brief explanations of words or terms used in the text that may be foreign to the reader (i.e., Farsi, Portuñol) or confusing (i.e., Ethnicity, Sharia law) to facilitate the reader’s understanding of the entries. The extensive Glossary includes all words, that appear throughout the text in Italic script.
The sample text below has been printed in most language entries, in the glossary (i.e., Все люди рождаются свободными и равными в своем достоинстве и правах).
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
The Appendix section at the end of the book contains information on a number of topics, with most being tangentially related to culture. A sample follows: A synoptic glance at world cultures; alphabets of the world; world literacy; ranking the world’s universities; diets around the world; gender gap map; the numbers 1–100 in different numeric systems; numeric words and symbols; good luck and bad luck numbers; understanding Arabic names; a time zone map of the world; weights and measures, et al.