Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts




As the state of Iowa continues to see an influx in 'new immigrants,' English speaking retail and service agency employees often assist consumers who are nonnative speakers of English on a regular basis. This mismatch between language and culture can sometimes cause misunderstanding and discomfort in cross-cultural relationships. Six Hispanic Spanish LI adult consumers and 13 White English LI employees from one rural Iowa community participated in this study. Both groups were asked a series of interview questions to share their perceptions about their ability to communicate with people in the other group. The participants were also asked to consider how nonverbal cues and signals might enhance or distract from verbal communication. All but one of the interview responses were audio recorded and analyzed to search for patterned themes as well as divergent but noteworthy thoughts. The results indicate that the Hispanic immigrants, at various proficiency levels feel some success conducting basic personal business such as shopping, dining out, and making simple transactions at the bank. Feelings of success are usually related to friendly service from employees who smile, listen patiently, and help the immigrant consumer feel comfortable. Anglo employees want to assist the immigrant consumers but when a language barrier exists, feelings of frustration are commonplace. Many employees remain in the store after assisting an immigrant hoping they have provided the correct product or service. Nonverbal cues play a significant role in cross-cultural communication. Smiling and eye contact indicate friendliness and comprehension and hand gestures often fill linguistic gaps.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Robin Lanae Hinders



OCLC Number


File Format


File Size

75 pages