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Poll: Mastering a language is mastering its culture.
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
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Dec 16, 2008

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Mastering a language is mastering its culture.".

This poll was originally submitted by Mariam Osmane

View the poll here

A forum topic will appear each time a new poll is run. For more information, see: http://proz.com/topic/33629


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Cristina Heraud-van Tol  Identity Verified
Peru
Local time: 15:59
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Not necessarily Dec 16, 2008

Depends how specific you are. My main source language is English. I cannot say I master all sorts of cultures where English is spoken! Americans, British, Aussies, they are all different.

I have learned all three variants of English and even though I've studied in an American school and been in the USA twice, besides living in Australia for several months, I cannot say that I "master" those cultures. I know them very well, but there will always be details that escape.

As I live in Peru and haven't been to those countries for a while (and cultures are in constant change), they might be many things now that are new for me and that I don't know.


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Nesrin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:59
English to Arabic
+ ...
There is a connection, but... Dec 16, 2008

I'd say that mastering a language is one of the factors that enable you to immerse yourself in a certain culture (I don't think "mastering a culture" is really possible).

Other factors are living in the country, being familiar with its literature, art, customs, well, its culture!

You can also turn it around and say that you can't possibly master a language unless you immerse yourself in its culture.


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Samantha Payn  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:59
Member (2008)
Russian to English
+ ...
I agree ... Dec 16, 2008

Nesrin wrote:

I'd say that mastering a language is one of the factors that enable you to immerse yourself in a certain culture (I don't think "mastering a culture" is really possible).

Other factors are living in the country, being familiar with its literature, art, customs, well, its culture!

You can also turn it around and say that you can't possibly master a language unless you immerse yourself in its culture.


... and to me translation and particularly interpreting require that not just the words but also the cultural implications behind them are conveyed to the listener/reader if at all possible.


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xxxInterlangue
Angola
Local time: 22:59
English to French
+ ...
Only to a certain extent Dec 16, 2008

To what extent can you "master" a culture? Our world evolves (quickly), so do its cultures even within the same language... And don't languages evolve?

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Laureana Pavon  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 17:59
Member (2007)
English to Spanish
+ ...
What exactly does "mastering a country's culture" mean? Dec 16, 2008

Even if I simply consider the country where I live, how can I say that I "master its culture"?

Different people who have had different life experiences, different education levels and professional careers, political/religious views... will all believe that they "master" their culture.

My point is that one cannot define whether we "master" a specific culture or not.

Have a great day!

Laureana


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Rocio Barrientos  Identity Verified
Bolivia
Local time: 16:59
Member
English to Spanish
+ ...
We exist in culture, and culture is language Dec 16, 2008

Humberto Matura, a great philosopher and biologist and the person who coined the word "languaging" wrote the following:


'We human beings exist only as we exist as self-conscious entities in language. It is only as we exist as self-conscious entities that the domain of physical existence exists as our limiting cognitive domain in the ultimate explanation of the human observer's happening of living. ...Human existence is a cognitive existence and takes place through languaging, yet, cognition has no content and does not exist outside the distinctions of the observer. That the physical domain of existence should be our limiting cognitive domain, does not alter this. Nature, the world, society, science, religion, the physical space, atoms, molecules, trees ..., indeed all things, are cognitive entities, explanations of the praxis or happening of living of the observer, and as such, as this very explanation, they only exist as a bubble of human actions floating on nothing.'

Humberto R. Maturana. [1986]. The Biological Foundations Of Self Consciousness And The Physical Domain Of Existence. [Unpublished Manuscript

http://www.oikos.org/quotes/qotw2.htm#HUMAN%20EXISTENCE%20IN%20LANGUAGING

I strongly feel that language is culture, obviously you don't have to master a culture or cultures

Happy Holidays!

[Edited at 2008-12-16 15:43 GMT]


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Alexander Schleber  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 22:59
Member (2003)
English to German
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Partly Dec 16, 2008

Mastering a language includes a good understanding of the culture in which it is used. Yet, one can be a master of current English, yet not necessarily of the literary usage, etc. etc.

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María Eugenia Wachtendorff  Identity Verified
Chile
Local time: 17:59
English to Spanish
+ ...
N/A Dec 16, 2008

If you master the Spanish language

Have a nice day, guys!


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Blanka Salkova  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 22:59
Member (2007)
English to Czech
+ ...
indeed Dec 16, 2008

Alexander Schleber wrote:

Mastering a language includes a good understanding of the culture in which it is used. Yet, one can be a master of current English, yet not necessarily of the literary usage, etc. etc.


absolutely agree


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Hilde Granlund  Identity Verified
Norway
Local time: 22:59
English to Norwegian
+ ...
You never "master" a culture Dec 16, 2008

... not even your own, native cultural environment. If you think you do, you are mistaken.
As Cristina said: My main source language is English. So is mine.
Of course, I am not up-to-date on all aspects of English-speaking culture. Why, I am not even abreast of all aspects of Norwegian culture. I try to keep updated on my fields in both languages. I don't think anyone can do more than that. Unless they move VERY frequently. Cultures change - as has also been said.


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Ludmilla3
Local time: 06:59
English to Russian
I agree with 'You never "master" a culture' Dec 17, 2008

I agree with Hilde Granlund:

"You never "master" a culture".

In the novel 'Summing Up' William Somerset Maugham wrote:
(It is not a quote because I don't have the book on my desk. It is only rewriting. Please, be forgiving because English is not my native language.)

If you wish to speak perfectly in a language of an alien country and to become truly accustomed with its people and literature you will have to devote the whole life to it. It is because that the people (and their literature in which they expressed themselves) consist of not only their actions and words that they speak. Both of these are truly understandable. However, the people also consist of their hereditary instincts and flavor of their feelings that they took in with mother’s milk as well as inborn likes and dislikes. A foreigner has never apperceived all of these to their roots.


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Rocio Barrientos  Identity Verified
Bolivia
Local time: 16:59
Member
English to Spanish
+ ...
I agree Dec 17, 2008

Hilde Granlund wrote:

.you never master a culture.. not even your own,.


You cannot master a "living" entity, culture changes every second... it is dynamic...


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:59
Spanish to English
+ ...
which: source or target? Dec 17, 2008

I have great mastery of my source language, I know, becuase when I guess-interpret, most of the time, my clients agree that my interpreatition was right. Nonetheless, becuase it isn't my native language I check with them.

When it comes to target, I usually rely on corpora to confirm usage. I don't live in my target language culture nor do I particpate in "discourse communities", so unless I collect and analyse genres/texts by natives, there's real danger that I fail my clients - not cos I live abroad, but becuase I'm not a privileged participant in the discourse communties of the authors I translate - which has little to do with where I live.

When it comes to my third or fourth tranaltion source language, I end up restricting the kind of texts to scientific ones or straighforward factual ones, not culture-bound ones.

I recognise important subtleties in my main source langauges (ES, CAT) that would escape people who didn't live here. For example, a recent text had a reference to el "Neng" (or "Nen"), who was a short-lived but important phenomenon in Spain last year; he's completely died a death since then (programmed by the TV channel?) . Nonetheless, when I came across the "Neng" in a text recently, I doublechecked my interpretation of what he signified, just to be sure I was reading him right. I was right, of course, I've been here donkey's years so nearly all of my interpretations of the source text are spot on, in all modesty.

What I might doubt is whether I'm speaking the appropriate language of my target discourse community. I'll never know, becuase I don't belong, but what I can do is observe what they say and how they say it, by referring to corpora of their works.



[Edited at 2008-12-17 04:07 GMT]


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