Language: The Gateway To Culture

The local language is the preferred route to understand the culture due to 2 reasons:

  1. Most people don’t speak English very well, due to their learning it as a second or third language. These people do not represent the real sampling of the country's population, just being the better-educated cosmopolitans who speak a global language.
  2. Most translations are poor substitutes for the real cultural essence, and a person needs to learn the original language to fully understand the context and culture.
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Communication

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Language And The Way We Think

Language is a literal and linguistic tool that many believe is a fundamental basis of the way we think. Some have hypothesized (like the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis) that many languages do not have room for certain thought patterns, and are able to alter our thoughts.

The underlying logic is just because there is no word in a certain language to express something, people who speak the language will not be able to think it, and if they learn a different language, new words and phrases are learned, leading to new ways of thinking.

  • Culture is a way of perspective and identity, and people speaking the same language immediately bond and form a connection.
  • If an English speaking person learns Spanish, the underlying culture that emphasises ‘passion’ or ‘enjoying the experience’ is a more important cultural value in the countries who are natively Spanish.
  • The culture of a certain place may include cuisine, history, music and notable personalities, but language becomes the salt without which the culture is tasteless.

Learning a new language provides access to people who have different thoughts than our own, helping us understand ourselves and the world with a new insightful mindset that didn’t exist before.

Learning a new language, therefore is not just culture, but a way into the minds of people who are not like us.

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A strategic advantage is to work on pronunciation, as you want to convince people to speak with you in the language, instead of "helping you out" by speaking in your native tongue.

A simple way is to look at diagrams of tongue positions so you can mimic them when you're trying to speak. The goal is understandability so that native speakers don't struggle to understand the phrases you already know.

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Learning with flashcards

Flashcards can be a powerful learning tool, but they can also be a waste of time.

  • They are powerful because retrieval and spacing are key to memory. If you have a lot of information to memorise, flashcards will help you the best.
  • But flashcards can also waste your time. You may memorise something you don't need, or fail to memorise the important things. But most of all, flashcards can be a way to avoid doing the real thing.
We need an exit strategy

Many new graduates face the stress of figuring out what to do after they get their degree. The post-grad crisis represents a general problem all of us face - figuring out what to do once you've won your major battles.

If your goal was to lose 20lbs, what next? Or if you aimed to graduate with your MBA, now what? An exit strategy could be to tweak your diet to keep your ideal weight, or apply for a promotion at your current job once you've graduated with your MBA.

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