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Language and culture – are they inseparable?

lip 14

Imagine trying to learn another foreign language – but this time completely independently from its country’s culture. Is that even possible? No literary references, no history, no knowledge of the local customs and way of life… Can you master a language without all those context information?

It may actually seem quite possible, at least in theory. But in fact, the only reason we can imagine such a process is our unawareness of small, slight changes that happen to us every single day. Learning another language is a great source of those changes. We don’t always realise that, but the languages we acquire are not only simple sets of words and grammar rules – each of them comes with a certain style of thinking and a characteristic view of the world. It’s hard to disagree that life in countries such as China, Germany and Brazil goes at different paces, emphasises different values and as a result may be experienced in a very unique way. Believe it or not, all those differences are reflected in a language, and as such, they can be acquired along with it.

Language learning is therefore a process of constant changes, not only in our vocabulary and ability to communicate, but also in our personalities. Every piece of new information and every new way of thinking and perceiving the world affects us and interacts with who we are.

So, if language can help us understand the culture and adapt to it, is it possible that knowing the culture could help to acquire language? Actually, it is! Immersing in the culture and getting to know some native speakers is perceived by some as one of the most effective ways to boost your language skills. Deep understanding of the country, people and their customs can be very useful while matching words to meanings and context. It may also be quite motivating – if you get fascinated by the nation’s literature, cinema or a certain part of the culture, you’ll want to master the language to appreciate your interests completely and have as much fun as you can with them.

While you’re discovering the culture, language learning seems to come more naturally and easily. So if you’re planning to take on another foreign language, here’s a piece of advice – make friends with some natives, take a trip to the country, discover its cinema or literature… Anything that brings you closer to understanding local way of life will do. It’s not only an easier way to learn, but also so much fun!

(KJ)

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