Film extract to illustrate international communication

A quick post describing an activity that uses an extract from an independent light-hearted comedy movie called Big Dreams Little Tokyo.

The extract is from 1:01:19 –>1:12:08. It shows a business meeting between a Mexican business man and his Japanese counterparts mediated by two young translators (one of whom is the films’ hero).

Need to point out to students that since extract is from a comedy film some behaviour is exaggerated for comic value. Total extract length is about  11 mins and you can stop the video after the Mexican guy toasts everyone and drinks the sake.

Earlier in the lesson I had boarded the stages of a typical meeting (see photo below). Before playing the video I asked students to note down any communication issues/behaviour corresponding to the different stages – these are indicated in green in the photo)

  • Greetings/Introductions – [update *Cantinflas (what Mexican man says to Spanish interpreter)], Dress of Mexican man, not wearing a sombre suit, red shoes; Time – Mexican man annoyed to have arrived early; Japanese wearing dark suits; there are 4 of them; they make a small bow; they present business cards very formally; Mexican does not have business card
  • Small Talk – there is no small talk outside restaurant but there is in restaurant – Japanese guy asks Mexican guy about eating Japanese food, Mexican guy ask the same about Mexican food; Mexican guy ignorant of Japanese custom of removing shoes; Japanese guy uses humour; length of response to joke; hierarchy demonstrated when 4th Japanese man is prodded to laugh by one of the three main Japanese characters: the small talk extends into the eating of the meal, Mexican guy glad when Japanese guy indicates start of meeting
  • Meeting behaviour – Mexican guy is very direct, the Japanese interpreter wisely turns comments into indirect comments; Mexican guy shows a contract, which is a big no-no in Japanese business etiquette;
  • Closing meeting – indicated by drinking sake and saying kampai, use of alcohol in business meetings

There may be other relevant observations as well.

The two groups tended to show strong interest in the extract and it seemed to clarify the aspects of business communication covered earlier in the class.

The activity lasted about 30 mins – can be longer if you get students into groups to write down ideas instead of whole class feedback as I did.

meetings stages and film extract
meeting stages and film extract

(photo: meeting stages and film extract)

* Thanks to one of my colleagues for finding out that Cantinflas is the name of a famous Mexican comedien. A great example of a word I had no idea the significance of until now due to lack of cultural knowledge.

See this related post on cultural English.

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