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Cultural-Lingual Interaction

posted Jun 9, 2012, 11:26 PM by Golden Knight   [ updated Jun 10, 2012, 1:03 PM ]

By JD Kieffer

6/9/12


Since the dawn of mankind, humans have interacted with one another peacefully, diplomatically, and, at times, violently. Though we have diverged incredibly in the past ten thousand years, at our core we remain human. Yet, often we forget this. We ridicule people for their strange and alien customs. We argue over petty things like the type of clothes worn and the accent spoken with. As a unique generation based on technology and ease of access emerges into the world, it is forced to confront these differences. What this means is that we can expect to experience an even more intercultural interaction in the coming years. In other words, as the world becomes increasingly interconnected, we have to make a choice. This choice is whether to remain culturally isolated or to attempt to gain an understanding of the outside, of that which is beyond everyday interaction. The key to promoting peace on earth is to acquaint ourselves with other cultures, specifically languages.

One of the primary reasons for our global diversity is language. Language can convey a shade of meaning far deeper than words themselves. A change of inflection or intonation can give a particular word an entirely different meaning. “Das Wetter ist Schon?” or “Is the weather nice?” in German, asked with such a lingering tone indicates a question. Das Wetter ist Schon said flatly demonstrates a statement. By comparing the tones of two languages, one can construe a distinction in culture. In French, the phrase “La paix se trouve dans la comprehension”, or “Peace lies in understanding”, evinces the romantic undertones of the French language. The same phrase translated into Indonesian, “Perdamian Ditemukan Pema Haman”, suggests a tropical, more exotic flow. The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis states that because language and culture are inseparable, language defines world-view and outlook. Why are there so many words for rice in Japanese? Why do Norwegians have dozens of words for snow? The answer is because language and culture are inherently one in the same. 

But through all this disparity and division in the world, runs a common trend: we are all humans and share the same values at heart. In educating our youth, we instill “transcultural” principles that last for a lifetime, regardless of the language spoken. What we need to do as teachers is to integrate a lingual education into the standard curriculum. It has been shown consistently that young children have a propensity for grasping language in a unique way; they become adept in usage in a matter of months. In this way, we can inculcate compassionate and liberal world-views into our children at a young age. And isn’t that what is needed in this world? Compassion for another’s perspective? We see argument after argument, debate after debate, and conference after conference in the newspapers and on the television, fueling our acceptance of division. Some would argue that competition and fractious argument create superior ideas. Yet, global cooperation—well, global cooperation could produce results and solutions that are tangible. 

Overall, we are shaped by the decisions that we have no control over and the ones that we do have control over. By educating ourselves and our youth in language, a foundation is formed. We will effectively create a multidimensional acceptance of one another and see the true oneness that exists in humanity. We will be able to be compassionate and understanding with regard to the choices and beliefs of other ethnic groups. We could cooperate on a global scale and discover solutions that lie in hiding. We can finally achieve our dream of world peace. As Albert Einstein said, “Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding”.

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