Do Our Culture and Behavior Reflect the Way We Speak?

Anyone who becomes involved in one way or another in the world of translation, whether as a client, as someone needing to move a thought, an idea or a business across borders, or as a translator (acting as the bridge in this process), it is important to understand the relation between language and culture.

Ever since the beginning of linguistic studies, much debate has been dedicated to whether our culture and behavior as a society are a reflection of the way we speak or, to the contrary, our manner of speaking and communication reflects our culture. It’s a chicken-and-the-egg type of question of which is a greater influence on the other. In our case, as linguists, we should always understand that in order to learn and understand a language we must equally understand the culture it reflects. We can’t demand that a client have the same knowledge of that destination of their ideas or business; we are the ones responsible for making the journey of those ideas as clear as possible and it is our job to find the tools to make that happen.

This insight isn’t limited to a single language pair, or just to oral and written communication. All forms of communication have their own unique flavor depending on the source and the target thereof. We must have the desire to do our job better and to be a sturdy, reliable bridge for our clients. Hence, a concluding thought: travel, study, learn, gain experience, acquire knowledge, delve into the culture behind the language; only so will you really be able to possess all the tools to keep that bridge from ever falling apart.