Do you know what I want to say?

Do culture and language go together?

Multilingual environments create an atmosphere where sense of humor, culture, language and behavior are all mixed and modified somehow. Every community has got its own ones being essential to know them in order to be able to become a part of it.

After having been sharing experiences with people from many different places I realized that language is not just a group of simple words. I did Ma in English Studies where I had the opportunity  to study three different languages for the first three academic years. I remember being a student and talking to my peers and we all agreed something was missing. We all could communicate each other in different languages, understand foreign people, watch international TV shows, read books and even sit exams in a languages which were not our mother tongue. So, what was wrong?

At the very beginning, I thought that the lack of grammar, vocabulary and phrases made me feel uncomfortable when I tried to pronounce a speech. After a while, despite  of increasing my level in those languages, that old feeling was within myself yet. I could not understand why  my sentences sounded unusual  but were still grammatical . One day, while having dinner with a group of Italian friends, one of them came to me and said : “Alberto, you have to start speaking like us”.  That was the missing thing! I could talk, write and understand perfectly that language but I did not make the effort to absorb the culture, sense of humor and the way local people talk. That is why in English the word “sorry” is said that often, in American English which is “pary”, in British would be “party”, in Italian a “cocktail” is a “drink” in English, and a “copa” in Spanish, that is why Italian people used to put an extra vowel at the end of a word which finishes by consonant, and Spanish speakers find hard to say a single “s” at the beginning of  a word without an “e”, and  if you hesitate in English you should say “ammm…” but in Spanish would be “eeeee…” or “maa…” in Italian, or if you are in Belfast you ask for a “wee” cup of tea, if you want to have a nice one.

I could confirmed that culture and language go together . My last professional experience was interpreting for a British company and the most challenging part was to transfer from one language to another especially jokes, set phrases , body language and hidden meaning. I am pretty sure that without having being working, travelling, studying abroad and meeting real local speakers I could not have got it. From my personal experience, I would say that when you decides to use a language you are not just translating words, but being aware of the history of an outer identity and place, in a word empathy .

Alberto Martín


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