Is it really possible to become fluent in a language without having a basic understanding of its culture? Some people say you can communicate quite accurately without considering the cultural context of the words, phrases and sentences while others say you are missing out the truth of a language if you don’t have some understanding of the cultural setting of the language.
Culture and Language are Interwoven
Understanding a language involves understanding its culture and many say language is essentially culture. That goes for language translation as well. Culture language translation is just as important as the bare nuts and bolts of the language by itself.
How a group behaves and interacts is essentially learned and becomes part of the group’s culture.
There is a definition of culture that states it’s the collective programming of a particular mindset which sets out to differentiate one group of people from another.
The basis of a culture isn’t just its artefacts and tools, but it’s how the group members interpret, perceive and use them. It’s the symbols, values, interpretations, and the group’s perspectives that set one group of people apart from one another in a modernized society. It’s not the material objects in human societies. People who share a culture typically interpret symbols and behaviour in a similar or same way. They will probably share food, values, art, mythology and etiquette. These have an effect on language because they are the subjects of discussion in a group
Idioms and the Way a Speaker Speaks Showcases a Language and Culture
Understanding a culture and its language can be fast tracked just by learning idioms.
● A common saying such as ‘a penny saved is a penny earned’ shows how important money is in the English speaking world. The language itself is portraying the culture in this example.
● A language is usually spoken and the way the words are emitted is sometimes part of the culture, as with Koreans who use the front of their mouth in a very direct way. It seems that when a Korean utters a sentence it resembles the action of throwing a dart and that’s quick and pointed.
● U.S. English is sometimes described as a drawl as the words sit back in the throat and the lips barely come together when engaged in a conversation.
● Spanish comes out in various ways and sometimes it appears spicy and fiery while other times it seems mellow and easy going.