Overcoming Monolingualism 14 - Language as Aid to Culture Learning

Published by: Anonymous
April 14, 2012

The following quote from David Hesselgrave is of great value in the connections it draws between the processes of language and culture learning. Building off citations of brain and education research, Hesselgrave is attempting to point out that learning the language of our host culture well is to being entering their own thought processes:    

     "We may conclude that there is a basic similarity in the ways in which people see and think about the world around them. Languages do have a certain validity for the consideration and communication of facts concerning the world.
     At the same time, as members are enculturated into any linguistic community, they will tend to perceive and think about reality in similar ways, not simply as a result of an inherent human understanding and logic, but also because of the particular language by means of which they "see" and "think." This is so because the various languages divide up experiences differently and store them in very different categories. When from our earliest days we thus share intimately in the total experience of a people, it is only with some difficulty that we are able to comprehend and adopt alternative languages, world views, and logical systems. The natural tendency will be to reject or restructure the new material to fit the familiar indigenous linguistic and logical framework…A little imagination will therefore enable the missionary to understand what is involved when Yorubas, Samoans, or Moros convert to Christianity.
     But by the same token, as missionaries gain an increasingly comprehensive understanding of the respondent language, they will be able to vicariously participate in the experiences of the respondent culture. To the extent that their prior studies of the worldview and mind of the people have been valid, these will now be corroborated linguistically. And as they proceed with their study of language, they will be enabled to attain entirely new vistas of understanding and empathy, providing they understand and appreciate the nature of language itself." (372)

[Hesselgrave, David J. Communicating Christ Cross-Culturally. (2nd Edition) Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 1991.]



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