Published : Sep 9, 2018

Language and Culture, Working Together

There is a lot of information about the importance of second-language skills in business and travel. Just as much has been written about the importance of cultural learning. But, not so much information has focused on the importance of both, and how they can work together to make learning both more efficient.

Global partnerships, diverse workforces and the growth of international travel are not just trends; they’re here to stay. Learning language and culture can make your business more successful and trips more enjoyable.

These include not only choosing the words you use, but also:

  • Mannerisms in how they are conveyed
  • Body language, important to communications in almost all cultures
  • Etiquette, some cultures demand punctuality while tardiness is customary in others
  • Greetings

Being truly fluent requires both language and cultural knowledge. Without understanding foreign customs, communication can be unproductive, even detrimental, regardless of the words you use.

Research makes it clear that customs are avenues of communications, almost as much as language.

Not surprisingly, travel is the best way to learn language and culture. You can immerse yourself in the environment. Short of that, here are some approaches to learning language and culture.

Ensure than your language learning program includes cultural information

For example, many language learning textbooks include sections about culture; how people work and interact, how they dress, mannerisms, entertainment, etc. These sections are usually written in the language you’re studying, so you learn vocabulary as well as how people live and work.

Try watching television

Most cable companies offer foreign-language programming. Rai, for example, is an Italian-language channel available in most places, offering news, documentaries, talk shows, lifestyle programming, and even game shows. In addition to increasing your vocabulary, you can view mannerisms, dress, gestures, how people interact, phrasing and learn more about culture and history.

Don’t be hesitant to share what you see with your instructor, in the language you are studying. Feedback is essential to building knowledge, and is particularly useful if your instructor is a native speaker.

Read native-language books, magazines, newspapers and others

Reading in the language you’re studying can greatly accelerate your learning in a variety of ways.

Reading a book can help put language and culture into a broader context and, again, help build your knowledge of vocabulary and phrasing. One suggestion: choose a book about a topic in which you are interested. You’ll learn more about the topic, and you’re more likely to stick with it.

Magazines, many available online, can give you a more intimate look into lifestyles. Major newspapers are also available online from virtually every country; reading them will tell you about a wide variety of topics, from current events, lifestyles to sports. Also, it’s sometimes fun to read the advertisements.

Language learning through repetition is outdated. Understanding the linkage between language and culture, are the two most important keys to language proficiency.

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