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. So does it make much sense to start learning, let's say, Japanese, if you don't plan to live in Japan? Is it possible to learn Navajo without spending a significant amount of your life living with and like the people of the Navajo tribe?
I am not sure if that would be possible in case of Japanese or Navajo, but it is certainly possible in case of languages that are widely used as lingua francas.
In fact, a debate along similar lines rages on in African and Asian countries that were colonised by European powers during the 19th and 20th centuries. On the one end of spectrum are people like Leopold Sedar Senghor and Chinua Achebe. Their stance is summarized in an essay Chinua Achebe wrote in 1962. In The African Writer and the English Language, Achebe urges his fellow English-speaking writers to fashion "an English which is at once universal and able to carry his [sic] peculiar experience."
Clearly, neither Achebe nor Senghor loved their colonisers, but they were confident that they could adopt their colonisers' languages and make them their own. Or, to answer Gol-lum's question, yes, it is possible to separate a culture from a language if you are merely going to use the language as a tool.
People have been doing that for millennia. Sumerian was the language of the learned people long after Sumer ceased to exist. Classical Chinese was widely used by the Japanese, Koreans, and Vietnamese; although that did not mean they were in awe of the Tang, Song, Ming, Qing, or another Chinese dynasty. Newton wrote the Principia Mathematica in Latin. He was a great scientist, but I doubt that he was enamoured of the Romans.
P.S. I think it might be possible in case of national languages as well. A Japanese novelist Minae Mizumura divides languages into three categories:
2. Developed national languages (Spanish, French, Russian, Japanese, German, Chinese, and others)
3. Regional languages (Punjabi, Pashto, Navajob, Zulu, and others)
Someone does not have to be a fan of anime to be fluent in Japanese. But someone has to have an interest in the culture of regional languages to learn them.