Language Represents Culture

Clark   Saturday, June 07, 2003, 07:33 GMT
I am thinking about taking Portuguese next semester, but I have one problem; I am not Portuguese or Brazilian, and none of my ancestors came from Portugal or Brazil (or any Portuguese-speaking country for that matter). I guess what I am getting at is that most people assume a person is part of whatever culture because they speak a certain language. This has deterred me from learning certain languages inthe past. I know it should not do, but has anyone had similar experiences? Does anyone know of any sort of group that speak a language just because they like it, but do not want to have anything to do with the country that speaks the language?
silk   Saturday, June 07, 2003, 20:52 GMT
There is always a link between the language you want to learn and the People who speak it, their culture, civilisation, literature, politics, ...etc. You may learn a certain language because you love someone who speaks it. This reason is very motivating. You may want to travel to a country and you wish to converse with locals in their own language and not in English or whatever.
In my opinion, the reason why English speakers don't learn much about other languages is not because they have no ancestors came from those countries. The reason is that they don't need to learn them as English is spoken in almost every corner of the world.
hp20   Sunday, June 08, 2003, 01:13 GMT
clark, i don't see it as a problem that you don't have ancestors who speak the language. as silk said, people learn foreign languages for a variety of reasons. the only reason i can see as to why you may not want to learn portuguese is if you don't really have a reason to ever use it. in that case it may be a waste of time (for you individually, not that it's a waste of time to learn portuguese in general).
Clark   Sunday, June 08, 2003, 01:51 GMT
Well, when I wrote this, I was trying to figure out a way to ask if anyone feels that a person can learn a language but not have anything to do with the culture that speaks the language.
Kabam   Sunday, June 08, 2003, 02:06 GMT
I assume you will necessarly be exposed to the culture if you speak the language.
Clark   Sunday, June 08, 2003, 04:00 GMT
Yes and no. If one learns a language from native speakers, but this person never goes to where the language is spoken, in theory, this person will never really experience the culture. One of the reasons I brought this up is because I wondered if there are any groups of people who are from one culture, but get together and speak in another language just for fun. I think the best example I could come up with would be Esperantoists. These people might get together for the sole purpose of speaking Esperanto, but the culture would be from whatever country they lived in.

I think it would be neat if a group of Americans, British, Canadians, French, etc. got together to speak a foreign language, but they kept their "culture."
Qui suis-je ?   Sunday, June 08, 2003, 06:31 GMT
Why do people automatically assume a person is part of one culture if they hear this person speaking a foreign language (foreign to the country the person is in)? I wish there were no ties to language. I wish that one could get together with a group of people from around the world, speak in a foreign language, and not have anyone's culture affect why we chose to speak the language. Spekaing language without the hassle of culture would be a good thing.
javier   Sunday, June 08, 2003, 09:03 GMT
To Clark,

Many people learn a language and they do not have anything to do with its culture, above all as to the English learning. In my case, I do not have any English ancestors, all of my family does not speak English at all and I have instead learned English and I speak it assiduously with others who do not have any English ancestor either.
Clark   Sunday, June 08, 2003, 09:15 GMT
Was your purpose of learning English pleasure or business? I guess I am trying to get at the pleasure side of this question. Is there anyone out there who wants to learn a language for the fun of speaking it and not to be connected culturally? I am sure that someone has been raised speaking a language that they feel is "their" language but have no links to it culturally.
hp20   Sunday, June 08, 2003, 15:17 GMT
well, what are you meaning by "culture" in your last post? do you mean an ethnic tie with native speakers, ancestral ties or something?
Clark   Sunday, June 08, 2003, 17:30 GMT
No, not really. For example, there are a lot of French people who are very proud to be French, but they are ethnically black. Their culture is French though. This is what I mean by culture. Their way of life consists of things one would see "European French" people doing.

I hope I explained this all right.
deaptor   Monday, June 09, 2003, 17:00 GMT
I totally agree with hp20 here.
First, there is no reason to learn a language if you are not going to use. I learned German and my German was really good for someone who learned it in a typical Russian school and was not gifted in languages at all. But now it's gone almost completely. I believe the language is such thing that if you don't use it, you lose it.
Second, of course having ancestors from a country of the learning is not necessary at all. For example, all my ancestors were Russian as far as I can trace my roots. Neither my parents nor granparents have learned English. They learned German and French because these languages were more practical in the past. I see only one way how having ancesor could help me with English -- I would not wait till 27 y.o. to start learning English -;) Though I don't see my age as a problem at all. The only real problems for me are lack of time and that there is nobody to speak to in English.

> If one learns a language from native speakers, but this person never goes to where the language is spoken, in theory, this person will never really experience the culture.
Well, I never has been to any English spoken country, and I have had very few opportunities to speak English with a native speaker, nevertheless I think I got some knowledge of the English culture through the reading. Of course you may say that it is not "really experience" but how do you define "real"? Anyway I think that the language and the culture is deeply bound over many years their development together. Any changes in the culture usually result in some changes in the language. Of course, Esperanto, as an artificial language, is very different in this respect.
Clark   Monday, June 09, 2003, 19:55 GMT
I think we look at language in a very different way. Language for me, is a hobby. I love learning languages just for the fun of it. And generally, the languages stick in my head. I have not practiced German in a while, but I could have a conversation with you in the language. I really love language, and I learn languages because I love them, not because of a need or anything. So I think that there is a reason to learn a language you might never use; for fun. And I guarantee you, if you learn a language, you wil read materials in the language from somewhere, even if you never meet anyone who speak the language.

I think since I am a native English-speaker, I have little need to learn a foreign language; and since I love languages as a hobby, that our viewpoints are very different.

But have you ever thought about what if the language of the German people was Portuguese? Why do the German people speak German? Stuff like this interests me. What if when the Indo-Europeans migrated into Europe, the Germanic people spoke Proto-Italic, but were "genetically Germanic?" Would we then call Romance language "Germanic" because they would be spoken by Germanic people? This is more in they way of where I am trying to go with "Language Represents Culture."
deaptor   Tuesday, June 10, 2003, 11:31 GMT
Apparently we don't have the same view on language, though I'm learning English a hobby now. I mean, when I started to learn it, less than four years ago, it was not a hobby, I just needed to have some knowledge of English that would allow me to communicate with others. In about one year I had reached the level that was enough for my practical needs, that was (and still is) very limited because I'm not a translator, nor a linguist, nor anyone else who does it for life. So I could stop learning English then, but I decided to go ahead to see how good I can learn it, just for fun. It seems the major difference between us is that you want to learn as many languages as possible, but I want to learn one second language as good as I can.
As to my German, I have not practiced it for more than ten years, so I believe it is almost all gone now.
Now your questions, I'm not sure that I've understood them correctly, but I'll give my shot anyway. It seems to me that language is connected to culture and history rather than genes. So being genetically Germanic or anyone else does not matter. I think also that if there were different migrations of the population in the past, we would have a different languages today. Maybe not so different in their names but in the way the languages are spoken. Many things could be different if... , but we can't change the history to verify all these ifs. So there is no point to consider these question seriously, in my opinion.
Antonio   Wednesday, June 11, 2003, 11:43 GMT
Great you´re thinking of learning Portuguese, you will certainly like it! Don´t feel already defeated if you haven´t any close portuguese origin; but rather, learn Portuguese for what it will culturally add you.

Let me ask you where are you from, Clark, as well as where are your relatives from?

One very important thought:
People don´t realise that the Portuguese is as spread as the English. It is not often told.
In recent times millions of Portuguese migrated throughout the Globe; but , Even before, hundreds of thousands went to Germany, Britain ( primary London ) , Dutchland, and France, mainly. They assumed local ´common´ or ´ridicule´names and mingled. I´m inventing it.
What I mean is, even if you´re 100% English, you have a great possibility of being Portuguese and you don´t even know about it. :-)
How many of you can tell who entered your family in 1600 or before?