I moved to Argentina. No, really. It’s true. I just graduated with my MFA in May (woot!), packed everything into boxes, sold what I could, and took a flight to Buenos Aires. Of course, here is your obligatory picture of French buildings in latin america:
Anyway, while in Buenos Aires, it has become incredibly apparent how culture plays a major factor in rhetoric. Of course, we all think about communication in different, individual ways, but the culture that surrounds us has a large impact on the framing of that communication. As a foreigner, coming into contact with that different use of rhetoric reveals the kind of audience and culture that rhetoric is geared toward. Argentines are known for being very forward, a little ego-centric, and, really, all up in yo’ business. Por ejemplo, I had a friend get some money out of a wire transfer and the teller proceeded to ask what the money was for. In Argentina, this guy is just making small talk. In the US, he’s rude. Herein, we can see the cultural differences of customer service. What might be rapport-building in one culture is offensive in another.
I think this might be an interesting discussion when applied to teaching. In my own classes, I would tell my students that it’s important to avoid colloquial phrases because academic writing is intended to be a global endeavor; therefore, what may make sense to us and our culture may not be translatable to other academics in other countries. Similarly, this issue of what is cultural accepted or appropriate also speaks to audience. In one culture, being very direct and pointed may be persuasive and in another it would actually work against you. It’d be interesting to see a rhetoric class framed around that–the rhetorical awareness of cultural appropriacy. Has a ring to it, no?