Why learning the culture along with a new language is a MUST!
Friday August 30, 2019

“Culture is the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one category of people from another”

Let us begin this article by putting forth a very pertinent question, is it possible to learn a new language without understanding the culture? When asking this question, we would often come across two sets of answers. First who would totally discard the idea of getting familiar with the culture as they deem it to be a hassle and recognizes language only as a set f words and phrases. On the contrary there is another kind of group who hold the notion that culture and language is intertwined. So whom do we go with?

To start if off, if we view language as a secluded entity and fall back on rote learning without understanding the essence that it offers, then this task would seem extremely lifeless and robotic. Such rote learning also keeps the holistic understanding of the language and the underlying meaning at bay. Whereas if we have a knowledge of the culture and the enunciation and intonations that comes along, then it makes our job easier and speeds up the learning process.

How does understanding the culture plays a vital role?
Culture increases engagement in learning a language. It is often said that when studying languages, one needs to understand the nexus that entails verbs, tenses, the use of adverbs, phrasal verbs, and so on. Now add to this hundreds of new words, letters, and kaboom! You’re on the verge of quitting. But there is a way out. When you process all this new information in a cultural context, it can help you engage at a different level with the foreign language. Learning about how native people live and talk introduces a human side to the language, which keeps the learner hooked on the learning process. Therefore, to understand culture, one needs to delve further than textbooks and dictionaries and explore more local options like movies, street theaters, art, local food etc.

How are culture and language, intertwined?
To understand language it is crucial to understand culture. In many cultures we have often seen people speaking in various tones. In South East Asian cultures, people usually speak in a very high pitched tone which is not the case otherwise in many European countries. Therefore a person visiting South East Asia for the first time may find himself/herself in an uncomfortable position when conversing to people and this may often lead to misunderstanding. Therefore familiarizing with the culture is important to bridge this gap.

Now let’s take a step further. Think about the various cultural influences behind English language alone. Understanding English-speaking cultures allows non natives to communicate differently, depending on the country they visit or do business with. Words like ‘pants’, ‘biscuits’, ‘trainers’ or ‘football’ have varied meanings in the US and the UK. It’s sometimes difficult for native speakers to understand these differences, so just imagine how hard it would be for foreigners!

Similarly, the dialect for Latin Americans differs from one country to another and from Spain too. ‘Boludo’, for example, means stupid in Argentina and brave in Mexico. While ‘fresa’ is the word for strawberry in Spain, but it describes a snob in Mexico. Here you go!

Thus in conclusion we can say that understanding language lies in understanding the culture. At Communiqua we too believe in this ideal and therefore strive to impart a holistic education which covers every aspect of the same.

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