Is Knowledge about Culture Really Necessary When Learning a Foreign Language?

  • Published on:
    May 31, 2017
  • Reading time by:

The answer to this question is always going to be a big, fat YES. Whoever says or insists that culture is not an important and crucial factor when learning a foreign language, is completely and utterly wrong. First, trying to separate the two is going to be rather difficult, since they are linked in so many ways that is practically impossible to learn a language without taking into consideration the traditions, common sayings, proverbs, ways to address a person correctly and the cultural influence behind it. Second, learning about the country, its history, traditions, government, and geography allows you to enrich the learning process and have a more meaningful context when speaking this newly acquired language. We could list a million reasons culture is connected to the language and we are probably going to do so in this article.

Each language carries with it all the history and culture of the area that it originated in. The political, social and economic conditions of the country will always influence its vocabulary and the different meanings of its words. For example, Spanish, being the official language in more than 20 countries, has such a rich vocabulary that most of its words have different meanings depending on the region where you are. Let us take, as an example, the word “apretar.” In Chile, the verb means to make someone keep their obligation; in Argentina and Uruguay, it means to kiss passionately; in Venezuela, it means to tighten –a screw, for example-; and in Mexico, used as an adjective, it means to have more money than others. You can call a thong “zunga” in many South American countries, but in Colombia, you would be calling someone a prostitute. In Japan, if you are not familiar with their –complicated- honorific speech, you could easily screw up a business negotiation. Starting to understand the importance of culture when learning a new language, are we?

The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) has concluded that through the study of other languages, students gain knowledge and understanding of the cultures that use that language. The fact that teachers are being conscious about having their students learn both the language and the culture behind it is just another piece of evidence that supports the big, fat yes we used to answer the main question in this article. A student will never truly master a foreign language unless they also master the cultural context that it implies.

How can foreign language learners acquire this magnificent knowledge?  Well, the best way to both learn a new language and its culture is to go to the country per se, but we all know not everybody can afford to do that. However, this would be the ideal scenario. Going to London, Australia or the US to learn English; learning Mandarin in Hong Kong; Spanish in Mexico, Buenos Aires or Madrid; Japanese in Tokyo; and Italian in beautiful Tuscany. Another option is to try finding a native speaker to teach you. He or she will probably have a good insight on what the cultural context is like in their country of origin. You can also try doing your own research or even finding friends who speak the language online, this way, you can also practice –free of charge- whenever you like! The Internet is a wonderful multicultural and multilingual world; do not hesitate to give it a shot.

 

Your job search starts here:  ArgentinaAustralia | AustriaBahrain | Belgium | Brazil | Canada | Chile | China | Colombia | Costa Rica | Czech RepublicDenmark | Ecuador | Egypt | Finland | France | Germany | Greece | Hong Kong |  Hungary | IndiaIndonesia | Ireland | Italy | Israel | Japan | KazakhstanKuwait  | LuxembourgMalaysia | MexicoMorocco  | Netherlands | New Zealand | NigeriaNorway | Oman | Panama | Peru | Philippines | Poland | Portugal | Puerto Rico | Qatar | Romania | Russia | Saudi ArabiaSingapore | South AfricaSouth Korea | Spain | Sweden | SwitzerlandTaiwan | Thailand | Turkey | UK | Ukraine | United Arab EmiratesUruguay | USA | VenezuelaVietnam

 

Vanessa Fardi / NEUVOO

Online Content Specialist

Email: vanessa@neuvoo.com

You might also enjoy..

Mastering the Art of Negotiating Your Worth

Mastering the Art of Negotiating Your Worth

Negotiating salary is a pivotal yet often challenging aspect of professional life. Whether entering a new job, seeking a promotion, or aiming to increase earnings, mastering the art of negotiating your worth is crucial. This comprehensive guide provides strategies and additional tips to navigate salary discussions effectively, ensuring a fair and s
Why You Really Need to Start Budgeting in Your 20s
by Cora Gold

Why You Really Need to Start Budgeting in Your 20s

Almost everything nowadays comes with a manual, template or instruction. Your new iPhone has a tiny booklet to teach you how to operate it. The clothes you just brought home from shopping have a washing manual. But recall the time when you received your first paycheck — did it come with instructions on how you should spend it? Read on Why You Reall

Join the discussion!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *