Estudio Español places a lot of emphasis on understanding the culture which goes alongside the language. In my experience, people who need to learn a language for business purposes don’t understand the necessity of this: all they want to do is communicate with colleagues in their target language. That is understandable; however, my question today is whether one can learn a language without learning the culture?
Firstly, it is my belief that it is not possible to gain a deep understanding of a language without learning the culture, as many words, expressions and language used stem from the culture. If you don’t study the culture, it’s harder to learn particular idioms, as you don’t understand their origin, meaning that your lexicon is not as rich as it should be. Put bluntly, your knowledge language suffers as a result.
This is linked to my second point, which is when you learn the language and the culture simultaneously, you gain an insight into the people who use the language. You learn what is important to them, how to act in their countries, and this in turn helps you communicate effectively in your foreign language. Take, for example, the use of formal English. Without understanding the culture, you could use informal English in an incorrect situation, thus offending somebody in the process. Furthermore, that sentence you just used might only be offensive in one English-speaking country, but not another. Consequently because of this, Americans often have the reputation for being rude in Britain when really it´s just intercultural differences. And they’re two nations who speak English as a first language! The study of cultures reduces the chance of you making intercultural blunders, which is useful both in private and business life.
Thirdly, there is a certain pleasure to be had at learning about the countries which speak the language and as your understanding of these countries grows, so does your love for them. There is always something to be learned from other cultures, even if they seem completely alien from the beginning.
To conclude, although language lessons which focus purely on the language and the grammar are effective, a high probability of making an intercultural blunder remains. To reduce that probability, one must learn the cultures of the countries which speak that language at the same time as learning the language. Otherwise, questions remain as to whether the student is aware of how to use this language properly in the correct situations – and for that, one needs to learn the culture alongside.
What do you think?