Blurring the Line between Language and Culture – Language Magazine
fatiha guessabi argues that culture is a language in itself
Language always carries meanings and references beyond itself: The meanings of a particular language represent the culture of a particular social group. To interact with a language means to do so with the culture which is its reference point. We could not understand a culture without having direct access to its language because of their intimate connection.
a particular language points to the culture of a particular social group. learning a language, therefore, is not only learning the alphabet, the meaning, the grammatical rules and the arrangement of words, but also the behavior of society and its cultural customs. thus; language teaching should always contain some explicit reference to culture, the whole from which the particular language is drawn.
The process of human communication is complex, since many of our messages are transmitted through paralanguage. These auxiliary communication techniques are culture-specific, so communication with people from other societies or ethnic groups is fraught with misunderstanding if the larger framework of the culture is ignored. growing up in a particular society, we informally learn how to use gestures, gazes, slight changes in tone or voice, and other auxiliary communication devices to alter or emphasize what we say and do. we learn these culturally specific techniques over many years, largely by observing and imitating.
The most obvious form of paralanguage is body or kinesthetic language, which is the language of gestures, expressions, and postures. however, the meaning of words can also be altered by the tone and character of the voice.
language is culture and culture is language
language and culture have a complex and homologous relationship. language is intricately intertwined with culture (they have evolved together, influencing each other in the process, ultimately shaping what it means to be human). in this context, a.l. krober (1923) said, “culture, then, began when speech was present, and from then on, the enrichment of one means the further development of the other.”
if culture is a product of human interaction, cultural manifestations are acts of communication undertaken by particular speech communities. According to Rossi Landi (1973), “the totality of the messages that we exchange with each other while we speak a certain language constitutes a speech community, that is, the entire society understood from the point of view of speech”. further explains that all children learn their language from their societies, and during the process of learning a language they also learn their culture and develop their cognitive skills.
Language communicates through culture, and culture also communicates through language: Michael Silverstein proposed that the communicative force of culture works not only to represent aspects of reality, but also to connect a context with other. that is, communication is not only the use of symbols that “represent” beliefs, feelings, identities or events, but it is also a way of bringing beliefs, feelings and identities into the present context.
according to the principle of linguistic relativity, the way we think about the world is directly influenced by the language we use to talk about it. “The real world is, to a large extent, unconsciously built on the linguistic habits of the group. no two languages are so similar that they represent the same social reality. The worlds in which different societies live are different, not simply the same with a different label attached” (Edward Sapir, 1929). therefore, speaking is assuming a culture, and knowing a culture is like knowing a language. language and culture are homologous mental realities. cultural products are representations and interpretations of the world that must be communicated to be lived.
The problem lies in what happens when cross-cultural interactions occur, that is, when the producer and receiver of the message are from different cultures. contact between cultures is increasing and cross-cultural communication is imperative for anyone who wishes to get along with and understand those whose beliefs and backgrounds may be very different from their own.
Language can mark cultural identity, but it is also used to refer to other phenomena and to refer beyond itself, especially when a particular speaker uses it to explain intentions. a particular language points to the culture of a particular social group. therefore, we can assume that language learning is cultural learning, so language teaching is cultural learning due to the interdependence of language and cultural learning.
Culture is a fuzzy set of attitudes, beliefs, behavioral conventions, basic assumptions, and values that are shared by a group of people and that influence each member’s behavior and each member’s interpretations of the meanings of each other’s behavior. others. and language is the means to express and embody other phenomena. expresses the values, beliefs and meanings shared by the members of a certain society by virtue of their socialization in it. language also refers to objects peculiar to a given culture, as evidenced by the proper names that embody those objects. Byran posited that “a loaf of bread” evokes a specific culture of objects in British usage unless a conscious effort is made to empty it of that reference and introduce a new one. therefore, we can conclude that language is part of culture and, through it, we can express cultural beliefs and values, and that the specific uses of a given word are specific to a language and its relationship with culture.
Indeed, language teaching inevitably means teaching languages and cultures. According to Buttjest, “the learning of the culture is actually a key factor in being able to use and master a foreign language system.” The Bellagio Declaration of the European Cultural Foundation and the International Council for Educational Development states that “for effective international cooperation, knowledge of other countries and their cultures is as important as mastery of their languages, and such knowledge depends on teaching of foreign languages”. /p>
Learning a language is, therefore, learning the behavior of a given society and its cultural customs. language is a product of the thought and behavior of a society. The effectiveness of an individual speaker of a language in a foreign language is directly related to his understanding of the culture of that language (Taylor, 1979), and it is possible to consider the teaching of the culture through the students’ own languages, that can be used in a specific context. way of interpreting the other culture (ager).
Finally, we can conclude that immersion teaching accelerates the acquisition of cultural knowledge: “…the integration of language and culture learning through the use of language as a means for the continuous socialization of students is a process that It does not intend to imitate or replicate the socialization of native teachers, but rather to develop the cultural competence of students from their current stage, transforming it into intercultural competence” (fengping gao).
references ager, d. (1993) Language education for intercultural communication. usa: multilingual affairs ltd. Asante, MK (1990) Handbook of International and Intercultural Communication. editorial sage. brannen, b. yes (1997) “translation where cultures meet: j-e translation”. j-e link, inc. byran, m. (1989) Cultural studies in foreign language teaching. multilingual affairs ltd. byran, m and sarries, v. and. (1989) investigating cultural studies in foreign language teaching. multilingual affairs ltd. byran, m. (1989) Cultural studies in foreign language teaching. multilingual affairs ltd. brannen, b. yes (1997) Communication in Japan and the United States. State University of New York Press. Clyne, M. (1994) Intercultural communication. Cambridge University Press. Dodd, HD (1997) Intercultural Communication. wm.c. brown publisher. hinde, r.a. (1997) nonverbal communication. Cambridge University Press. Jandt, F. me. (2003) Intercultural Communication: An Introduction. London: Salvia Publications. Oatey, H. yes (2000) Culturally Speaking: Managing Relationship Through Conversation Across Culture. london: continuous. samovar, L. a. (1986) Intercultural communication: a reader. ee USA: Wadsworth Publishing Company. fengping gao, “Japanese: A Language Heavily Cultured”, Journal of Intercultural Communication, Issue 10, December 2005
fatiha guessabi ([email protected]) is a professor of languages and translation at the faculty of literature and humanities at the université de béchar in algeria.