Course Spotlight: PRC 320E, 45479, Cultural Aspects of Doing Business in Brazil
By: Grace Xu
As increasing emphasis is placed on global communication and interaction in the business world, understanding one another and resolving cultural differences is a skill that is undeniably useful. The question is: How are we supposed to identify these cultural issues and develop ways to resolve them? I recently had the pleasure of visiting Professor Orlando Kelm and learning more about his course, Portuguese Civilization (PRC) 320E “Cultural Aspects of Doing Business in Brazil,” which aims to answer all these questions and more.
Walking into Professor Kelm’s office is like walking into a miniature museum, complete with artifacts from a variety of international cultures. On his wall are glittering Chinese New Year cards and traditional paper cutouts, and his bookshelves are filled with trinkets of all kinds from various countries he’s traveled to, such as Brazil, China, Japan, Germany, and many others. As an Associate Professor of Hispanic Linguistics at UT, Professor Kelm speaks an impressive number of languages, including Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan, German, Italian, Chinese, and some Japanese. He currently serves as the Associate Director of Business Language Education for CIBER, or the Center for International Business Education and Research. Highly tech-savvy, he also incorporates all types of technology and social platforms to reach out and engage with his target audiences through blogs and other media. His current podcast project, “Lingua da gente,” aims to provide free Portuguese lessons and can be found on iTunes.
Professor Kelm opened by showing me a gallery of pictures taken in Brazil: Fatty Man, a boutique shoe store, Snob, a napkin brand. There were floss dispensers in public bathrooms, and specific bus seats for not just the elderly and pregnant, but the obese as well. These cultural images are encapsulated in the LESCANT model that Professor Kelm teaches. The model is an acronym that represents seven areas in which cultural issues arise when dealing with business communication: Language, Environment, Social Organization, Context, Authority, Non-verbal, and Time. By applying the LESCANT model to various cases, students will learn how to identify various cultural issues within Brazil and the rest of the world, such as misunderstandings in language, variations in clothing, distinct temporal schedules, different social values and religion, and high context/low context signs and situations.
The next step, Professor Kelm notes, is to learn how to diplomatically resolve these problems through Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions and Trompenaars & Hampden-Turner’s dilemma theory. Having the ability to recognize cultural differences is imperative, but being able to identify strengths from another culture and incorporate them, (for instance, combining American efficiency with Brazilian flexibility), would greatly enhance productivity. Students will be assigned work such as blog entries and comments, presentations of case studies, and executive summaries relating to cultural issues found within Brazilian/ North American practices.
If you are interested in doing business in Brazil in the future, or simply want to know how to identify and incorporate cultural issues and differences, PRC 320E “Cultural Aspects of Doing Business in Brazil” is the perfect course to take. Not only is the information relevant, interesting, and engaging, but also Professor Kelm’s dynamic charisma and energetic presence should make you put this course at the top of your list for next semester.
Check out Professor Kelm’s blog, or find out more about the LESCANT model.
This course carries a Global Cultures flag.