Cultural Misunderstandings

Separating culture from language is a bit like trying separate ice from water … they blend into each other in so many unpredictable ways that it is next to impossible.

For adult learners where mostly language trainers are focussed on fluency, this is doubly true. You could conceivably teach grammar as just a set of rules that are free of cultural influence. But as soon as you get to use that target language, you encounter culture.

When it comes to being polite in a second language the level of cultural nuance is at its highest. However, at first glance, these can appear to be small, easy to understand transactions. The problem emerges in that, understanding the meaning of the individual words is not enough to understand the conversation or its intent.

Here is a slideshow from Slideshare which gives some great examples of the difference in politeness between various cultures, and how easy it can be to be misunderstood. It also provides some simple guides for avoiding such situations yourself, no matter what language or culture you encounter.

Taleninstituut Language Learning Tip:

When you do a language course, always make sure that your trainer spends some time in the area of cultural differences. This is of special importance in business where it will not be seen as professional or thorough to be unaware of causing offence in your new language. Understanding the difference nuance in politeness can be the difference between a contract won and lost.

Here at TalenInstituut Nederland (The Dutch Language Institute) we understand the needs that companies face as well as the fears individual learners feel. This is why we offer flexible, fully customised Business language courses to businesses and individuals. Through a process of interviews and meetings we establish the unique needs and competence of our clients and design each and every course around those. To find out more about our Business Language courses, visit our website and ask us for a quote: www.taleninstituut.nl.

© Taleninstituut Nederland

By: David Chislett
Trainer Business English

www.taleninstituut.nl
david@taleninstituut.nl


Foto: ARTZUID Amsterdam
Fotograaf: Jeroen Docter