Uncovering and negotiating barriers to intercultural communication at Greenmarket Square, Cape Town’s ‘world in miniature’: An insider’s perspective

  • Charlyn Dyers
  • Foncha J Wankah


Intercultural communication (ICC) is one of the most relevant fields for investigation in post-colonial Africa and post-apartheid South Africa, given the freedom of movement between African countries and the wide range of attractions, both economic and social, that South Africa holds for people from other African countries. This article is based on research conducted at Greenmarket Square in the heart of Cape Town, well-known as a hub for informal traders (mainly from other parts of Africa), local people and tourists from all over the world. It discusses three of the major barriers to ICC in this space which emerged from our research. These three major ‘intercultural fault-lines’ (Olahan, 2000) are identified as non-verbal communication, ethnocentrism/xenophobia and the contrasting communication styles of people from High Context Cultures and Low Context Cultures (Katan, 2004). The paper concludes with some suggestions on how such barriers can be overcome if people in this space learn to become more ‘interculturally competent’ (Jandt, 2004).

Author Biographies

Charlyn Dyers
Charlyn Dyers is an Associate Professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of the Western Cape and Director of the university’s Iilwimi Centre for Multilingualism. Email:  cdyers@uwc.ac.za
Foncha J Wankah
Foncha John Wankah is from Cameroon and completed his MA in Linguistics under Prof Dyers' supervision in 2009.