Sample Communication Essay Paper on Intercultural Analysis of “Lost in Translation”

Intercultural Analysis of “Lost in Translation”

Culture has the potential to affect the ways in which people behave or relates with one another. It is because culture is a set of interpretations that is shared among people with similar beliefs, norms, social practices, and values which causes them to behave in a certain way. When an individual who does not share the same set of interpretations, beliefs and norms finds themselves among such people, there is a possibility of them experiencing culture shock. There are always feelings of confusion and misunderstanding. The individual may take time to adjust to the new life style before which, they have to look for ways to communicate such as through non-verbal communication to create an understanding with the people around them. “Lost in translation” is an example of a film that clearly depicts intercultural relations through the characters Bob Harris and Charlotte as they relate with each other and the people of Tokyo.

Summary of the film

“Lost in translation” is an American drama and comedy film that Sofia Coppola directed and wrote in the year 2003. The main characters Harris and Charlotte meets in a Tokyo hotel and through their encounters, the audience gets to learn more about intercultural lifestyle. Harris is an American who specializes in films and has come to Tokyo mainly to advertise a film for the Suntory whisky (Lost in Translation (2003) – IMDb, n.d.). On the other hand, Charlotte is a young woman who has recently graduated though her marriage life is not working properly as expected. After encountering each other in the hotel, the Harris and Charlotte develop a friendship. It is evident that Charlotte is used to the Japanese lifestyle and culture while Harris is struggling to understand their lifestyle and mode of communication leading to confusion. However, as he spends more time with Charlotte, he adjusts to Japanese lifestyle and culture making his stay in the country more comfortable.

Analysis of intercultural communication

Throughout the film, it is evident that there is more than one culture involved. Harris is from America and barely understands the ways of Japanese people in Tokyo. In this regard, the producer of the film decided to use the concept of non-verbal communication to show how Harris managed to manage through his daily life and relationships in Tokyo before finally adjusting to the new culture. Non-verbal communication has been used in the film mainly to create meaning in the life of the main character Harris who is an American since he cannot speak Japanese language. While arriving in Tokyo, it is evident through his facial expression which is more of a non-verbal communication strategy that Harris is overwhelmed with everything. It is because everything from the lit-up signage and the buildings are all written in Japanese language making it hard for him to read or comprehend what they mean (Lost in Translation (2003) – IMDb, n.d.). He is not even impressed by a billboard of his where he is promoting a whisky product showing that he is not happy being in a foreign country where he does not understand anything. All these ordeals make him miss home especially his wife and children regardless of the fact that their relationship has been shaky.

On his arrival at the hotel, the negative impacts of intercultural relationships is seen as he cannot fully comprehend what the Japanese people are telling him which forces him to try to understand their messages through non-verbal communication. In this case, the aspect of interpersonal perception which was discussed in the textbooks reveals itself in the film. The interpersonal perception in this case involves the process of interpreting and also observing the ways in which people behaves and perceives things. It is the only way in which Harris was able to make sense of the world around him without which, his mission to Tokyo could have not turn out successful as expected.

However, things turned out better for Harris when he met Charlotte who is also an American. They find a strong connection based on the fact that they share the same culture thus easily understand each other. Though the two are in an environment where they seem vulnerable because of cultural difference that can lead to stereotype, it is evident that Charlotte has a strong connection with the Japanese people that is why she has few friends she can relate with properly. However, just like Harris, she too does not understand Japanese language. While in hospital, the audiences are able to point out how she struggles to understand the doctor’s explanation regarding what was wrong with her toe. It is evident that the Japanese people are stereotyping on the American since they cannot understand their language. The two Japanese ladies at the hospital whom the audience see laughing at Charlotte and Harris because they cannot understand the doctor’s prescriptions are perfect examples of stereotype related to intercultural relations.

In the end, though Harris and Charlotte underwent through culture shock in Tokyo which led to the feelings of confusion, anger and loss as a result to difference in language and social rules between the American and Japanese culture, the two managed to adjust to life after finding each other. After learning more about Japanese culture, Harris came to appreciate their lifestyle and this is seen when he calls his wife informing her that he is considering living a healthier lifestyle something which he acquired from the Japanese cuisine. He also managed to have fun while speaking with the Japanese people rather than considering himself as an outsider.


Lost in Translation (2003) – IMDb. (n.d.). The Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Retrieved May 13, 2012, from