Sí pero no (Yes but no)

I find the intersection of culture and language fascinating.

Some of us learn new languages simply because we have a passion for them. Then there are those of us who are compelled to learn other languages. This could be for a variety of reasons, like moving to another country or for work.

Whatever the case, speaking more than one language can provide an incredible educational opportunity. Learning another language can serve as a tool, giving us the ability to communicate with more people. It also helps us gain insight into other cultures, while providing us ample opportunity to reflect on our own culture. Culture and language are inextricably interwoven.

Learning a language in a formal setting, like a quality school, can help us in developing a strong foundation in a new language. However, if we relegate the use of our newly acquired language to just the confines of a school, we will never come to understand that language in all its glory. Additionally, it is unlikely that we will gain the kinds of cultural insights that come from interacting with native speakers, particularly in their countries of origin.

In Mexico, there are always wonderful new things to learn about the complex intertwining of the Spanish language and the Mexican culture.

For example, phrases like “sí pero no” and “más o menos” (“yes but no” and “more or less”) stand as linguistic flag posts, highlighting a powerful cultural ethic stemming from a deep philosophical understanding of the nature of life. Life is ephemeral. Life has moments of great uncertainty. While we control much in life, much is dependent upon the ebb and flow of the cosmic tide.

Now, my assertions about this linguistic/cultural/philosophical nexus may well be correct. Then again, “quién sabe” (who knows.)
In the final analysis, whether or not we can accurately decipher the philosophical underpinnings of a culture via language is certainly a matter for ongoing investigation. What is most important is that learning another language gets us to think. It gets us to think about ourselves, our culture and the culture of other people. That, in and of itself, is a great reward.

Image courtesy of [David Castillo Dominici] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

*Authors note: You might see this column pop up online in a newspaper, under the name Both Sides. I am publishing this column here first at CYInterview.com. For a bunch of years, I have been writing newspaper columns. Since my columns have received a good response on CYInterview, I thought I would share it with you. Hope you enjoy.

You can reach me with your questions and comments at [email protected] Like today’s column? Check back frequently.