Does it make sense to separate a language from the culture it belongs to?

General discussion about learning languages
Dragon27
Orange Belt
Posts: 146
Joined: Tue Aug 25, 2015 6:40 am
Languages: Russian (N)
English (decent)
Polish (decent comprehension, rudimental speaking)
Spanish (passive intermediate)
Tatar (false beginner, actively studying)
German (school leftovers)
x 242

Re: Does it make sense to separate a language from the culture it belongs to?

Postby Dragon27 » Wed Jul 31, 2019 5:03 am

rdearman wrote:Regardless of culture, you cannot travel to Esperanton.

IronMike wrote:Similarly, there are many in "Esperanton" (as you put it)

Where did this "Esperanton" come from? Shouldn't it be Esperantujo or Esperantio?
1 x

User avatar
rdearman
Site Admin
Posts: 4616
Joined: Thu May 14, 2015 4:18 pm
Location: United Kingdom
Languages: English (N)
Language Log: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=1836
x 10781
Contact:

Re: Does it make sense to separate a language from the culture it belongs to?

Postby rdearman » Wed Jul 31, 2019 6:23 am

Dragon27 wrote:
rdearman wrote:Regardless of culture, you cannot travel to Esperanton.

IronMike wrote:Similarly, there are many in "Esperanton" (as you put it)

Where did this "Esperanton" come from? Shouldn't it be Esperantujo or Esperantio?

I made it up.
0 x
: 6 / 100 100 Italian paperbacks:
: 306 / 75000 Output Challenge 2019 (普通话写作):

Lollygagging Podcast available on iTunes

User avatar
tarvos
Black Belt - 2nd Dan
Posts: 2441
Joined: Sun Jul 26, 2015 11:13 am
Location: Dark paradise
Languages: Native: NL, EN
Speak well: ES, DE, RU, FR, RO, EO, SV
Speak reasonably: IT, ZH, PT, NO, EL, CZ
Need improvement: PO, IS, HE, JP, KO, HU
Passive: AF, DK, LAT
Dabbled in: BRT, ZH (SH), FI, BG, EUS
Dabbling in: Malay
Language Log: http://how-to-learn-any-language.com/fo ... PN=1&TPN=1
x 4544
Contact:

Re: Does it make sense to separate a language from the culture it belongs to?

Postby tarvos » Wed Jul 31, 2019 7:56 am

We always say Esperantujo.
1 x
Ich stehe zwischen zwei Welten, bin in keiner daheim und habe es infolgedessen ein wenig schwer.
Preferred pronouns: feminine.

Cainntear
Brown Belt
Posts: 1447
Joined: Thu Jul 30, 2015 11:04 am
Location: Scotland
Languages: English(N)
Advanced: French,Spanish, Scottish Gaelic
Intermediate: Italian, Catalan, Corsican
Basic: Welsh
Dabbling: Polish, Russian etc
x 3361
Contact:

Re: Does it make sense to separate a language from the culture it belongs to?

Postby Cainntear » Tue Aug 06, 2019 1:05 pm

How many languages are still tied to the culture that created them?

Modern France, Spain and Italy have very little cultural connection to Rome, and even the cultural landscape of the countries is very different now from a century or two ago.

Is Modern French culturally the language of the modern republic? the Nazi-occupied north and/or the Vichy government? the Napoleonic Empire? the bourgeois-democratic republic? the kingdom?

How deep is the cultural link between Japanese and Okinawa, where Japanese only replaced Okinawan as the majority tongue in the last couple of generations?

Can you learn English in a Scottish cultural context, or do you have to learn the closely related Scots tongue?
6 x

User avatar
iguanamon
Black Belt - 1st Dan
Posts: 1588
Joined: Sat Jul 18, 2015 11:14 am
Location: Virgin Islands
Languages: Speaks: English (Native); Spanish (C2); Portuguese (C2); Haitian Creole (C1); Ladino/Djudeo-espanyol (C1); Lesser Antilles French Creole (B2)
Studies: Catalan
Language Log: viewtopic.php?t=797
x 7974

Re: Does it make sense to separate a language from the culture it belongs to?

Postby iguanamon » Tue Aug 06, 2019 3:02 pm

Some interesting points have been raised in this discussion. I've learned a couple of large, pluricentric languages- Spanish and Portuguese. From my perspective, my Spanish is Caribbean and my Portuguese is Brazilian, but, obviously these languages are spoken in places that are culturally quite different from the Caribbean and Brazil. The Spanish spoken in Patagonia is still Spanish and the Portuguese spoken in Mozambique is still Portuguese... as is the Portuguese and Spanish spoken in Iberia, but the cultural contexts are very divergent from to what I am accustomed.
Cainntear wrote:How many languages are still tied to the culture that created them?...

Two of the other languages I've learned are inseparable from the cultures that created them- Ladino/Djueo-espanyol and Haitian Creole. They are both intrinsic to their respective cultures. Djudeo-espanyol came about from the expulsion of the Jews from Iberia five hundred plus years ago and their relocation to the Ottoman Empire. A learner cannot escape reference to and the context of Sephardic Jewish Culture when learning it.

Haitian Creole is a product of the Haitian slave experience. It is a language created and developed within the context of the African diaspora in Haiti. Haitian culture is an intrinsic part of the Haitian Creole Language and vice-versa. Regardless of whether one is an adherent of the vodou religion or not, a learner can't learn the language without some reference to vodou or the African slave experience as they are an intrinsic part of the language.

I am neither Jewish, nor Afro-Caribbean (though I do live in the Caribbean). I have learned both languages to a high level without living in either Haiti or Turkey/Israel. So, while the languages are definitely tied to specific cultures, it is possible to learn them from outside the cultures but, in my experience, it is not possible to learn them and ignore their cultures.

While I can never be accepted by either culture as a native, no matter how well I may speak or write, my learning the languages shows an appreciation of those cultures. Ladino/Djudeo-espanyol is a "dying" language in the sense that there are no monolingual speakers left and the language has not been passed down to the young, even in Turkey. World War II, the Holocaust, post Ottoman nationalism and emigration all contributed to the language's downfall. My learning Ladino/Djudeo-espanyol will not help to revive the language as the context which created and sustained the language for four and a half centuries no longer exists and cannot be recreated. Haitian Creole, on the other hand is a vibrant living language whose context still exists and thrives.
13 x

Cavesa
Black Belt - 3rd Dan
Posts: 3315
Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2015 9:46 am
Languages: Czech (N), English (C1), French (C2), Spanish (intermediate), German (somewhere on the path), Italian (passive advanced, active basic)
x 9545

Re: Does it make sense to separate a language from the culture it belongs to?

Postby Cavesa » Wed Aug 07, 2019 1:34 am

Gòl·lum wrote:Apparently, people do this because they think a language is just a bunch of grammar/syntax rules, vocabulary and sounds. However, you can't really learn a language without being immersed in the culture where it belongs, because there's a lot of slang, idioms, songs, proverbs that relate to the way the people of that culture live and their history.


No, that is definitely not the reason. People don't usually think this, they just don't care. Most people don't learn languages out of love or pure interest.

1.Many people simply have to learn the language, it is obligatory, they learn enough to do their jobs, or pass their school exams, and good bye. You don't need much of a culture knowledge for many types of jobs and you don't need to be that great at the language. Most people don't even believe it is possible to get beyond B1 without moving abroad and they are not trying to do it.

2.You may need to learn a language of the culture which (or a part of which) you dislike or even hate, so compartmentalisation is a rational approach to the task. Yes, it is true that every culture has something nasty hidden in the history, if you look deep enough. But there are some languages, that simply have these things too close to the surface, at least for some learners. And you cannot usually choose to learn to understand all the nice stuff but not be bothered by the ugly. To give a completely unpolitical example or metaphor: You cannot learn to understand just the nice coworker who chats with you about baking, and not the one who tells her friend not silently enough how ugly she finds you.

3.The strength of the connection language-culture varies. As Iguanamon says, there are languages that are inseparable from the cultures. But when it comes to many others, it is different. For example, you could learn Czech/French/Italian/... just with dubbed movies and translated books, and you'd still have more options than you could digest. So, is it the language's culture too in some way, because the natives devour this imported stuff too and incorporate it in their language and thinking and cultural background, or is it not the language's culture as it is imported from elsewhere? That is an interesting question that I don't think has a clear answer.

But you definitely can learn the language with so much translated stuff without every coming in contact with anything created really by a native. You will encounter tons of idioms, slangs, proverbs there too, and they will be used correctly, it just won't be presented exactly in the reality of the target country. Anyways, I think reducing the "culture learning" to stuff like idioms and proverbs is horrible, or mentioning this as the main benefit of exploring the culture, that is really mistaken. You can memorise a book of idioms and know absolutely nothing about the culture too, that is actually not rare at all. Learning about the culture is much more than that.

I am definitely not saying that the "sterile" approach to language learning is the best, I guess my own path is a proof of the opposite. I just don't think that people trying to separate it and learn just the tools they need deserve such a harsh judgement.
7 x

nooj
Blue Belt
Posts: 680
Joined: Tue Jan 24, 2017 12:59 pm
Languages: english (n)
x 1548

Re: Does it make sense to separate a language from the culture it belongs to?

Postby nooj » Wed Aug 07, 2019 8:13 am

But when it comes to many others, it is different. For example, you could learn Czech/French/Italian/... just with dubbed movies and translated books, and you'd still have more options than you could digest.


I'm interested to know how many languages like these are there where you can learn the language with just dubbed movies and translated books.

A couple dozen? A couple hundred?
0 x
زندگی را با عشق
نوش جان باید کرد

User avatar
Ogrim
Blue Belt
Posts: 784
Joined: Mon Jul 27, 2015 10:29 am
Location: Alsace, France
Languages: Norwegian (N) English (C2), French (C2), Spanish (C2), German (B2), Romansh (B2), Italian (B2), Catalan (B2), Russian (B1), Latin (B1), Dutch (B1), Arabic (learning), Romanian (kind of learning)
Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/viewtopic.php?t=873
x 2475

Re: Does it make sense to separate a language from the culture it belongs to?

Postby Ogrim » Wed Aug 07, 2019 3:14 pm

Gòl·lum wrote:So does it make much sense to start learning, let's say, Japanese, if you don't plan to live in Japan?


Generally speaking, to me it makes a lot of sense to learn a language even if I will never live in a place where that language is spoken. In fact, I have learnt several languages to which this applies. To me it makes sense when you have a keen interest in the culture that language represents. If you are a big fan of anime, or classical Japanese poetry, then your life will be richer if you learn Japanese. I have learnt Romansh, a language spoken by some fifty or sixty thousand people living mostly in the Eastern part of Switzerland. I've visited the area, but I am not going to live there.Still, because I have learnt the language I have access to cultural expressions which would otherwise remain unknown to me. Learning Russian gives me the tool to enjoy Russian literature, cinema, music and news in the original. I strongly doubt I will ever live in Russia, but this does not put a damper on my enthusiasm for the language.

In this day and age, with internet and modern technology giving you virtual access to almost every corner of the world, learning the language of a culture you are interested in offers so many more possibilities than just 40 years ago, when none of this existed, and my only access to e.g. Spanish culture when I started learning the language was buying two-days old editions of El País and searching the local library for books, VHS tapes and LPs in Spanish. Back then the reward of travelling to Spain was much bigger than it is now seen from a language-learning perspective. (Of course there are other very rewarding aspects of travelling to Spain.)
9 x
Ich grolle nicht

Cavesa
Black Belt - 3rd Dan
Posts: 3315
Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2015 9:46 am
Languages: Czech (N), English (C1), French (C2), Spanish (intermediate), German (somewhere on the path), Italian (passive advanced, active basic)
x 9545

Re: Does it make sense to separate a language from the culture it belongs to?

Postby Cavesa » Thu Aug 08, 2019 10:29 am

nooj wrote:
But when it comes to many others, it is different. For example, you could learn Czech/French/Italian/... just with dubbed movies and translated books, and you'd still have more options than you could digest.


I'm interested to know how many languages like these are there where you can learn the language with just dubbed movies and translated books.

A couple dozen? A couple hundred?


A couple dozen for sure. Truth be told, I think overall just a couple dozen languages (perhaps a hundred) offer enough content, either original or translated, available outside of their country for normal learning. Out of these languages not requiring moving abroad, I'd say it might be a half. But that is just a wild guess based on my information.

Ogrim wrote:
Gòl·lum wrote:So does it make much sense to start learning, let's say, Japanese, if you don't plan to live in Japan?


Generally speaking, to me it makes a lot of sense to learn a language even if I will never live in a place where that language is spoken. In fact, I have learnt several languages to which this applies. To me it makes sense when you have a keen interest in the culture that language represents. If you are a big fan of anime, or classical Japanese poetry, then your life will be richer if you learn Japanese. I have learnt Romansh, a language spoken by some fifty or sixty thousand people living mostly in the Eastern part of Switzerland. I've visited the area, but I am not going to live there.Still, because I have learnt the language I have access to cultural expressions which would otherwise remain unknown to me. Learning Russian gives me the tool to enjoy Russian literature, cinema, music and news in the original. I strongly doubt I will ever live in Russia, but this does not put a damper on my enthusiasm for the language.

In this day and age, with internet and modern technology giving you virtual access to almost every corner of the world, learning the language of a culture you are interested in offers so many more possibilities than just 40 years ago, when none of this existed, and my only access to e.g. Spanish culture when I started learning the language was buying two-days old editions of El País and searching the local library for books, VHS tapes and LPs in Spanish. Back then the reward of travelling to Spain was much bigger than it is now seen from a language-learning perspective. (Of course there are other very rewarding aspects of travelling to Spain.)


Gòl·lum's question is so native anglophone :-D
We have access to so much of the culture whether we travel or not. And it is normal to do things that you will not do for a living. This question is like "is it worth playing football, if I never will make millions of it?" To some people it is, to others it is not.
4 x

User avatar
Iversen
Black Belt - 2nd Dan
Posts: 2357
Joined: Sun Jul 19, 2015 7:36 pm
Location: Denmark
Languages: Monolingual travels in Danish, English, German, Dutch, Swedish, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Catalan, Italian, Romanian and (part time) Esperanto
Ahem, not yet: Norwegian, Afrikaans, Platt, Scots, Russian, Serbian, Bulgarian, Albanian, Greek, Latin, Irish, Indonesian and a few more...
Language Log: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=1027
x 4913

Re: Does it make sense to separate a language from the culture it belongs to?

Postby Iversen » Thu Aug 08, 2019 11:31 am

I have spent a lot of time reading and watching documentaries about places like China and Japan, but I am not going to learn their languages (unless somebody invents a pill or brain enhancement tool that would teach me their writing systems in a flash).

Learning about cultures doesn't imply that you also decide to learn their languages.

The other way it is slightly different because a lot of culture goes into idioms and into names for institutions etc, but (as others have pointed out) many languages are used by a number of cultures, and some of your materials might represent old phases of those cultures. So learning French would not necessarily mean that you should be interested in the second world war or in the Sahel area or whatever Macron has said recently - it just gives you a privileged window into those things which you wouldn't have without the language.
3 x


Return to “General Language Discussion”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Enkiae and 2 guests