Language and Culture as a Social Reality I Giuliana Militello

Whilst language plays a pivotal role in the understanding of and access into a culture, it does not define it. It works as a mechanism or shield – language is essentially a safety blanket.

If I can communicate in French to the Parisians, then I am safe and immune from any prejudices or disadvantages. Unfortunately, the Parisians aren’t always that welcoming!

Nevertheless, communication is a fundamental aspect of human nature. Whilst advances in technology and media in recent years have allowed leeway in terms of interactivity with various people and entities, learning a language is a key into not only the society but the individual in it. An error in translation can cause misunderstandings – not only in specific words and phrases, but in the essence and meaning of what is said and also what is implied.

The two go hand in hand – without one, the other suffers. Essentially, language learning leads to cultural learning and understanding. Is it the ability to communicate to locals when abroad and holidaying, or is it something more profound? Perhaps language fulfils the need for acceptance into a different social group, so as not to seem an outsider. Language is a demonstration of power, of knowledge, and in many cases, of respect.

When learning a language, what is it one really hopes to achieve?

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