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The connections between language and culture

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In the past people learning a new language didn’t pay much attention to the cultural aspects of the country in question. Nowadays, however, it is much more common for language courses to specifically look at the cultural aspects of a given country when teaching the language.

This is especially important when it comes to communicating in business terms and it can also make it far easier when visiting a foreign country. The fact is that it is no longer good enough to learn a language and then to simply translate what needs to be said directly from English -- it’s also important to understand the cultural aspects of a language before it can be used correctly.

The differences in business cultures

Business people working in foreign countries will find it far easier to do business successfully if they take the time to learn appropriate languages. Fluency is good to have but is not vital -- the majority of foreigners will simply appreciate the courtesy and effort that has gone into beginning to learn the language. It is, after all, a lot easier when a foreign businessman takes some time to learn business English.

Learning a foreign language helps people understand how other cultures work. For example, dealing with certain nationalities can be a lot different than dealing with your own. The Chinese, for example, like to build up long-term relationships, don’t like to lose ‘face’ and find it hard to actually say no. So, taking the time to learn the language here makes it far easier to negotiate the ‘maybe’, ‘perhaps’ and ‘we’ll see’ culture and to understand what the answers given will actually mean.

Another cultural issue that often comes up when learning a foreign language is that regarding women. In many cultures women are still viewed in a different way to men and may act in a different. They may not find it easy to work with foreigners -- especially men -- from different cultures.

So, for example, in some Eastern business cultures women find it hard to say that they cannot do something -- especially if they are asked to complete a task by a man. Again, learning the language here will also give you the cultural awareness to translate the real situation.


Whether visiting a foreign country for business or pleasure learning about the culture as well as the language will make any visit much more successful.
Author: Torsten Daerr