IWTYAL 093: Is culture important in language learning?

Thiago asks: “I’m learning Japanese. How important is it for me to learn the culture?”

In this episode:

  • Why language and culture are inextricably linked
  • Why you can’t learn a language to a high level without familiarity with the culture
  • However, if basic communication is your main aim, you don’t need to be culturally literate
  • You can get to a basic level of conversation in the language without knowing about the culture

Today’s Featured Resource:

100th Episode Special!

Help me create an amazing feature for the 100th episode!

I’d like to create a montage of voices of podcast listeners from around the world, all giving one piece of language advice they’ve learned from the show.

This would be such a great way to commemorate the 100th episode, and provide motivation for all of you out there learning languages on your own.

If you’d like to participate, please click the link below and leave a short message including the following information:

  1. Name
  2. Where you’re from
  3. The ONE thing you’ve learned from the show that’s made a big difference to your language learning

Click here to leave the message

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To claim your free lesson and start speaking today, simply visit:https://iwillteachyoualanguage.com//italkishownotes

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See you in the next episode of the I Will Teach You A Language podcast!

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  • thiago

    Always before getting on the bus to go to my university(which is a 1h to go and come back), I download some podcasts to practice my listening and learn something new on my way. Today, when I played your podcast with my voice on it, I just freaked out hahaha you have no idea how big was my smile. It was awesome. So, thank you Olly for responding my question, and thank you for your great content.

    • My pleasure — I love to think about having that effect on people in different parts of the world…so cool!

  • Israel Lai

    I’d like to do the collage thing, but I’ve come such a long way that I can’t recall which things I learnt from you…haha

  • dandiprat

    My general advice for most people is to wait until you are good enough to learn about the culture in the language you are studying. I find it annoying when beginning language courses spend lots of time talking about higher culture in my native language English because if I want to learn about that in English I can get a separate book on the subject.

    There is a drawback to this approach. If you never read about the culture of your language in your native language, then you may have difficulty talking about it in your native language. If you have a job where you need to talk or write about the country you’re studying at a high level in your native language (i.e. C1 or C2) you might run into difficulty because you won’t know the conventional translations of many of the culture specific terms, if there are any. You might end up being B2 in your native language when talking about the country you have studied.

    • Agreed. I also think it’s highly unlikely anyone could ever get to C1 in a language without knowing a lot about the culture, because you have to interact lots with native speakers to get to that level.

  • Laderon Ashkenazie

    That could be just my personal preference but I do not understand how to learn a language without it’s cultural aspect. What I mean is that I normally treat the language just as a tool, a key to the culture, thus my goal is not to learn a language as such, but rather be able to dive into the target culture. And again by culture I do not mean things like movies, music and sculptures – but people, being able to communicate with them, understand’em on not a verbal but rather deeper level. Otherwise you’ll just translate your English into the target language. Cultural aspects help you to avoid some sorts of faux pas, and stop being an ignorant gringo.

    • I’m with you there… I would never learn a language without having an interest in the culture. But I think there are people out there who do have an instrumental need to learn, and perhaps aren’t too interested in the culture. We’re all different!