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Academic Year: Fall/Winter 2013/2014

Term: 1

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Magda Stroinska


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 501

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 27067


Office Hours: Wednesday, 2:30-3:30

Course Objectives:

In this course students will explore the links between language and culture and learn skills necessary to be intermediaries between cultures. On completion of the course students should be aware of the role of their own cultural filters, i.e. how their own culture affects the way they perceive the world and they should become better equipped to interpret other cultures. They will learn to analyse how linguistic behaviour reflects complex cultural values and how to deconstruct culture-specific rituals in order to represent them in terms of another culture. 

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Suderman, Jane (2007) Understanding Intercultural Communication. Toronto: Thomson/Nelson; 

One assignmeent may involve a meal at an ethnic restaurant of student's choice but alternative arrangements could be made if necessary.

Method of Assessment:

Students will carry out a number of weekly assignments, present their findings in class, write two minor essays, and complete two rounds of self-evaluation. The final project will be a small-scale investigation of specific issues in cross-cultural communication. Proposals will be due in the second-last week of October. Final projects will be due on November 27. Penalty for late assignments will be 5% per day.

Students who wish to work with human subjects for some of the class projects (through interviews, surveys or focus groups) will be instructed about principles of ethical research and will need to familiarize themselves with the guidelines prepared by the Ethics Board of the Office of Research Services which are available on-line at: (see “recommended tutorials”). 

  10% - Regular attendance and class participation (including presentation of small


  10% - Self-assessments 2 x 5% (Oct 9 & Nov 6) 

  40% - 2 mini written research projects (Oct 16 & Nov 13)

    5% - Final project proposal (Oct 23)                         

  35% - Final project          (Nov 27)                                 

100% - Total                      

The late penalty is 5% of the final mark per day.

For graduate students taking the course, the final project will be worth 45% (instead of 10% attendance). The requirements for the graduate students' written work will also be more rigorous (including a comprehensive literature review for the topic selected).

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

This is a self-reporting tool for undergraduate students to report absences DUE TO MINOR MEDICAL SITUATIONS that last up to 5 days and provides the ability to request accommodation for any missed academic work. Please note, this tool cannot be used during any final examination period. You may submit a maximum of 1 Academic Work Missed request per term. It is YOUR responsibility to follow up with your Instructor immediately (NORMALLY WITHIN TWO WORKING DAYS) regarding the nature of the accommodation. If you are absent for reasons other than medical reasons, for more than 5 days, or exceed 1 request per term, you MUST visit your Associate Dean's Office/Faculty Office). You may be required to provide supporting documentation. This form should be filled out immediately when you are about to return to class after your absence.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Topics include communication within family, communication between genders, cognitive role of metaphors, language and perception (using colour terms as an example), emotions across cultures, the role of culture in advertising, significance of personal space and body language, the importance of language in identity construction, and cultural stereotyping.