Why is it valuable to learn the language and the culture together?

“McDonald’s hamburgers in a Mexican market?!”

“Learning a language without comprehending the culture is like going to a vibrant Mexican marketplace …  and eating hamburgers from McDonald’s.”

So starts a well written article about the relationship between language and culture!

“They are so intertwined.”

Learning culture and language together is valuable because the two are so intertwined! Some things make more sense when you can both hear them and see them at the same time, when you can understand them mentally and feel them emotionally at the same time. It was one thing for Dennis to write out the Spanish words for “Happy Birthday” on my note pad, but it was a quite different matter when he asked me then to sing it for him and a neighbor as I stood in his small convenience store in San Jose, Costa Rica. He wanted to make sure I really had it down.

But I really got more that day. Dennis was a “trusted insider” and trusted insiders are essential for asking questions about language and culture. You can take your observations and awkward situations to them and ask them “What happened?” or “How would a Costa Rican respond to that?” When you experience something in the culture and are able to discuss it with a trusted insider it takes on a much greater significance and meaning.

Also, when you prepare to talk about something, discussing your thoughts with a native speaker will expose you to other words and other ways of saying it that are more natural and easier for your audience to understand. It makes it natural rather than “translated”.

David is a missions mobilizer with AskaMissionary.com

Coffee fueled her first term in Japan

That was it! Karen … raised her support, and moved to Tokyo, where she immersed herself in learning Japanese. 

A highly relational person, she soon found that sitting in her quiet apartment hitting the books didn’t suit her well. 

“I thought, ‘I can afford to go to a coffee shop once a week and study and build relationships,’” she said. “Every Monday, I would go study at this coffee shop for 3-4 hours. The owner, Roan-san, started to recognize me, and he was so encouraging and kind. I could ask him questions about my homework, about Japanese culture and life.”

And that’s how this non-coffee-drinker from a small town in the States ended up volunteering once a week at a Japanese coffee shop. 

“It had always been a bit of a dream of mine to work at a coffee shop, but in my small hometown, we don’t even have a Starbucks,” she said. “Here I am, doing this in a whole other language. I can do everything except roast the beans!” 

This unexpected role at Roan-san’s coffee shop helped Karen adjust to Japan in three significant ways.

Here is a fun encouraging read about the joy of experiencing culture and language together while translating the Bible as shared by several Ethnos 360 members.

For more great discussions about the relationship between culture and language, search online using “learning culture and language at the same time”!

Editor, AskaMissionary.com

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