– COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE –
As the basic building blocks of communication, words communicate meaning, but culture is the most important factor that influences the meanings of words. Meaning is in the person, not in the word, and each person is the product of a particular culture. Thus, if we are willing to learn to communicate well in a foreign language, we must understand the culture that affects the language.
In other words, culture and communication are inseparably linked. You can’t have one without the other because they are interconnected. Culture gives meaning and provides the context for communication, and the ability to communicate allows us to act out our cultural values and to share our language and our culture.
But our own native language and culture are so much a part of us that we take them for granted . When we travel to another country, we don’t think much about our language and culture but we carry our own cultural views along with our passports and luggage; we never leave them behind. Using our own culture as the standard to judge other cultures is called ethnocentrism, and although they are unintentional, our ethnocentric ways of thinking and acting often get in the way of our understanding other languages and cultures.
In other words, although we don’t plan to be ethnocentric, we think and behave in such a way that it becomes difficult for us to understand other languages and cultures. The willingness to understand a different culture is the cure for cultural blindness. Studying a new language provides the opportunity to develop different views because we also learn the context of the culture that the language belongs to.
When linguists study a new language they often compare it to their own, and consequently they gain a better understanding of not only the new language, but of their own language as well. Students who study a foreign language will also learn more about their own native tongue by 30 comparing and contrasting the two languages. You can follow the same comparative method in learning more about culture – your own, as well as others’.
Remember that each culture has developed a set of patterns that are right and appropriate for that culture. If people do things differently in another culture, they are not ‘wrong’ – they are just different and suitable for that particular culture. Always thinking that ‘culturally different’ means ‘culturally wrong’ will only promote intercultural misunderstanding and this is what we should all try to avoid.
A. Mark the best choice.
1. To influence (line 2) is to .
a) be willing b) understand c) be the product of d) affect
2. Line 7, when things are ‘inseparably linked*, they .
a) provide a context b) are interconnected c) share the same culture d) are able to communicate
3. Line 13, to ‘take’ something ‘for granted’ means .
a) to carry it with you b) not to leave it behind c) not to think much about it d) to be a part of it
4. Line 17, ‘unintentional* means .
a) not planned b) difficult c) different d) not used
5. Line 33, ‘appropriate’ means .
a) comparative b) native c) foreign d) suitable
C. Mark the statements as True (T) or False (F).
1. in some cultures, It Is not unusual to be late for a business meeting.
2. North Americans do not have strict rules about mealtimes.
3. People usually compare the similarities between two cultures.
4. Cultural differences make everybody feel frightened.