Antro 412 Section 6
Last year I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to study abroad through the CSUIP for one year. As I was living in Downtown Long Beach 2 years ago, many of my neighbors where either from Mexico, or had decent of Mexico, and most of them either couldn’t speak good English, or some, not at all. So I decided to go to Mexicoto learn their language. Little did I know was upon arriving to Mexico I going to meet people from all over the world, Japanese, Australians, Europeans, Latinos, etc. While meeting all these internationals I thought hey, they either speak English or Spanish, this shouldn’t be a problem! But I quickly learned that just because Australians and British speak English, our culture differences sometimesprevent us from being able to understand each other. Also, after a few months and learning quite good ‘Mexican Spanish’ I learned that the Spanish from Spain, Mexico, and other Spanish speaking countries varies greatly. Differences in culture and language soon created problems while facing intercultural communication in the 11 months I spent speaking, exchanging knowledge and ideas with peoplefrom foreign cultures.
The first challenge I faced when I arrived in Mexico was my lessoned ability to communicate effectively with the natives. I had only taken 2 semesters of Spanish before going, and although I thought I kind of knew Spanish, I found out that I didn’t know anything, and that you cannot directly translate English to Spanish, it just doesn’t work! The textbook “InterculturalCommunication a Text with readings” by Pamela J. Cooper states “Translation from one language to another lead to some interesting problem. One of the roots of our culture is language. We learn the syntax, semantics and pragmatics of our language. As long as we remain in our own culture, our ability to use language to communicate is fairly high. However, when we enter a culture with a languagedifferent from our native language, our communication ability lessons.” (Page 108) Here is an example of a problem in translating English to Spanish. I wanted to stay “I couldn’t help myself.” Using the Spanish I knew, I literally translated this to “No me podia ayudar”. Out of the 3 Mexicans I had said this to, only one understood me because he also spoke English. I quickly learned that to say this inSpanish is “no me pude aguantar las ganas” which literally means “I couldn’t put up with or bear the desires”. The hardest things to translate from one language to another are sayings and statements that cannot be directly translated. While trying to learn a new language, we try to directly translate from our native language to the target language, but we discover this is a problem. The syntaxand grammatical rules change significantly from some languages to another so we first must learn these differences to successfully communicate in the target language.
Since language is strongly linked to culture, it is extremely important to learn the language to effectively understand, appreciate and function in a foreign culture as well as the culture differences and expectations. As DeborahTannen states numerous times in her speech in the video “He said She said”, conversation rituals, metamessages, uses and functions of language and ritual oppositions all depend on the situation you are in, and change greatly from one culture to another. What is acceptable in some cultures may not be acceptable in others. For example, in America and Germany, if you tell a friend that you will be attheir house at 5:30 PM, your friend will expect you to arrive at 5:30. 5:45 would be considered late, and if you arrive any time past 6:00 PM, it would be considered rude and you a liar. However, when my first week in Mexico, a Mexican planned meeting was supposed to start at 4:30 PM in front of the library. All the internationals arrived at 4:30. We all asked ourselves, “But where are the...