The Dialogue

The Dialogue

“The Dialogue” follows four American and four Chinese university students as they travel together through Hong Kong and Southwest China. On their journey together, the students deepen their understanding of one another and their abilities to bridge cultural differences.


7 - 12+


Anthropology, Sociology

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Crosssing Borders Films

The relations between the United States and China are often described as complex and multi-faceted, as the two countries are competitors in some areas and partners in others. The variety of cultural differences between Eastern and Western cultures adds additionally to the fascinating task and imperative need to explore intercultural communication skills in the context of U.S.-China relations. These video clips from the sixty-six minute documentary The Dialogue provide a glimpse into the barriers that make cross-cultural communication difficult and often non-productive. They also highlight skills of open, honest communication that help break down those barriers.

The Dialogue, created by Crossing Borders Films and co-produced by Michigan State University, follows four American and four Chinese university students as they travel together through Hong Kong and Southwest China. In these clips, we see these students practice skills of cross-cultural communication. Their honest confrontations and discoveries about one another become doorways to deepen their understanding of the world, of themselves, and of styles of communication that are able to bridge cultural differences.

Clip Summaries:

“Challenges of Communicating Across Differences”: The students talk openly about how their different communication styles, personalities, and cultural backgrounds create barriers to communication and understanding. They discuss the insights that facilitate dialogue even when these barriers and tensions exist.

“On Speaking a Second Language”: The students take turns speaking in their own languages in order to experience the power and security that comes when one is comfortable in the language that is spoken. They come to recognize how language insecurity impacts communication.

“On Non-Verbal Communication”: The students discuss the power of non-verbal communication. They gain insight into how people employ different types of non-verbal communication to express themselves and interact with others—and how these types of non-verbal communication may differ from one culture to another.

Fast Fact

  • An Emory University psychologist has developed a set of tests to access subtle cues to emotional expressions. This test is called the Diagnostic Analysis of Non-verbal Accuracy (DANVA). According to DANVA, non-verbal communication skill is associated with personal and social adjustment, and the ability to read non-verbal emotions can be improved.

Fast Fact

  • We listen to people at a rate of 125-250 words per minute, but think at 1,000-3,000 words per minute. Less than 2 percent of people have had any formal education on how to listen. We derive 55 percent of a message's meaning from the speaker's facial expressions, 38 percent from how he or she says the message, and 7 percent from the actual words spoken

Fast Fact

  • Non-verbal communication studies show that children tend to learn to read a happy expression first, followed by sad, angry, and then fearful expressions.

Fast Fact

  • The world's most widely spoken languages by number of native speakers and as a second language, according to figures from The United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), are: Mandarin Chinese, English, Spanish, Hindi, Arabic, Bengali, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese, German, and French.

Fast Fact

  • China is the world’s most populous country with 1.39 billion people in 2013, one-fifth of the world’s total. This figure does not include the 31 million Chinese people living in the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions and the Taiwan Province.
Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Elaine Larson, National Geographic Society
Arnd Wächter, Crossing Borders Films, Crossing Borders Films
Christina Riska Simmons
Elaine Larson, National Geographic Society
Samantha Zuhlke, National Geographic Society
Last Updated

April 29, 2024

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