Does the picture next to you look like an animation movie to you? If you have visited Spain or learnt Spanish, you will be more likely to know that this place exists: it’s Parc Guell in Barcelona, designed by the famous architect Antonio Gaudi.
It’s technically possible to learn a language without learning about the culture of the countries in which it is spoken. I refer to “culture” in its broadest sense here, including customs, values, traditions, history, current society etc. But even if you’re learning a language strictly for career reasons, it helps to take note of the culture.
All languages are rooted in the culture of the country or area they originate from, so learning language and culture at the same time makes a lot of sense.
So how do you do that?
You can learn Spanish in Singapore, no problem at all, but if you have a chance to visit Spain or Latin America at some point (or even learn Spanish there), it will add fuel to the fire of motivation, which needs to be kept burning.
Failing a real-life visit, which of course requires time and money, there are lots of other things you can do to expose yourself to the culture:
- Passionate teachers will instinctively introduce bits of culture throughout their lessons. Aoba’s blog about Japan and Japanese is a great example of that.
- Failing that, you can do it yourself! Read up on the country’s history, read books by famous authors of the country (translated, if need be), see if there are any events going on related to the country. The site of the Singapore Film Society, for example, will alert you on the films being screened during the European Film Festival and the Japanese Film Festival (to date, 2011 festival websites aren’t up yet).
So all in all, don’t limit yourself to just learning culture without learning anything about the language. Knowing the language of a country will put the culture in a new light. And vice versa. You could learn a country’s language without caring about its culture, but it’d be boring and futile. So learn about both language and culture at the same time!