Linguistik online 10, 1/02

'Verstehen' heißt nicht 'mögen'




The discussion in the entire area of "intercultural communication" revolves around the issue of facilitating mutual understanding between members of ethnic and cultural communities. The basic assumption is that once this has been achieved, the fundamental problems have been addressed, thereby removing the obstacles for sympathetic interaction. The conclusion that understanding is a necessary condition for liking, is, however, faulty. Empathy and sympathy are - even though related - not identical. In this contribution I will argue that getting to know the "other" better will not automatically result in liking him/her more. The history of exotism from Marco Polo via Columbus to even such sober characters as James Cooke shows that phenomena which are not understood may create very strong positive feelings whereas in an intracultural setting which is certainly not ridden by difficulties encountered in intercultural exchange, we do find clearly marked antipathies. A further topic to be addressed is the issue of whether the matters in question are intrinsically accessible and capable of being mediated in formal instruction.


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