Laura Augustyn

The Language Culture Connection

Language and culture are intricately intertwined. "Whenever you teach a language, you also teach a complex system of cultural customs, values and ways of thinking, feeling and acting." (Bonnie Norton Pearce and Diane Larsen Freeman)  Key points to remember are:

  1. No culture is "better" than another, but that cross cultural understanding is an important facet of learning a language.
  2. There is a connection between language and culture.
  3. Teach your students the cultural connotations especially of sociolinguistic aspects of language.
  4. Screen your techniques for material that may be culturally offensive.
  5. Make explicit to your students what you may take for granted in your own culture, Especially in "second" language learning contents, the success with which learners adapt to a new cultural milieu will affect their language acquisition success, and vice versa, in some possibly significant ways.
  6. Treat with kindness and empathy.
  7. Create a culture that is aligned with values and traditions.

As we learned in class from our instructor William Key, "learning a new language is complicated, but one of the ways that helps is to use language in as real a situation as possible. Use situations and topics from the real world so students learn language that is useful in their daily lives. Language is about communication, not being 100% correct (even native speakers make grammar mistakes!) Language is used to achieve your goals, it is not the goal itself. Learning about culture as well as language helps. lt is important to know about the culture as well as language in the place you wish to teach. Do activities not directly related to language learning (music, art, eating, traveling, games, television, media, current events, religion, etc.) so that both you and them can be immersed in the language and culture that they are trying to learn."

Practical experience is important. Traveling is the best experience to get immersed the language and culture connection. I am going to use travel to Egypt as an example: In October 2016 I traveled to Egypt. I had a mentor / friend who had immigrated to America in 1969 and stayed in America for over 45 years. I knew this man for over 35 years as we worked together in the hotel / hospitality business, working with many immigrants. We even owned our own restaurant called "The Nile", located in New Haven CT,  where I learned all about the food. He decided to go back to his beloved homeland of Egypt and retire there a year before I visited him in October 2015. For so many years of knowing him, I always heard the wonderful stories about Egypt, how it is called "The Mother of the World" and how everything began there. How the Sphinx and the Pyramids were built and are still standing, how hieroglyphics was the first writing, how many cultural things such as dance, including belly dancing, were started in Egypt. How Cleopatra and Mark Anthony cruised along the Nile River.  How Nefertiti, one of the Queens, started makeup and hair color. About the music.

And most of all, I learned about honesty, truth and how to treat one another, regardless of background, nationality or religion.