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Learn Culture Through the Local Language

This is my way of loading the dishwasher. The opportunity to learn culture is one of the things that I enjoy most about living a new language. Living abroad provides a rich canvass of cultural cues, idiosyncrasies, and ways. I highlight ways because it is a term my family has coined to refer to the ways that people do things.

The ways are sort of like rules for living, but they are not The Rules—written, measurable rules about doing things, they are just the ways that people do things.

Let me give you an example, when I got married, I discovered that I had some definite ways of doing things. Dishes, for example are always loaded into the dishwasher with the plates and bowls parallel to each other.

My husband, on the other hand, had a different way of loading the dishwasher. Rather, he had many ways of loading it. The thing that I noticed most was that the plates were often at right or other angles to each other. This was a new way of doing things.

No mail If you've lived abroad, you know that it can be both exhilarating and frustrating. My dad summarizes the challenges well,

"We become frustrated and perplexed when people misunderstand us and we fail to understand them; when our work seems to bring no result; when ‘simple’ things go awry—mail arrives late; when grocery shopping consumes an entire morning; when the office telephone still hasn’t been connected; when the prearranged taxi fails to show; when the bus stops on the ‘wrong’ corner and we miss it; when the bed promised by the host organization comes a month late. We feel lonely, missing old friends familiar sights and ways of doing things, and accustomed foods and leisure activities.” (Terry Marshall, Whole World Guide to Language Learning p.4.)

The Walkabout method gives you many opportunities to learn culture and to adopt new ways of doing things. You rely on the environment as your classroom, which will yield more than language skill. Cultural learning will be a bonus that could exceed your language accomplishments and help you grow. You will learn about values, institutions, and different perspectives of the new culture.

As you learn your target language, watch for and capture cultural learning opportunities. Click here to learn about fika, an example of how Language and Culture intertwine.

Ready to get started?

Click here to learn the five-step Daily Learning Cycle.

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Why Learn Culture?

A Senegalese poet said 'In the end we will conserve only what we love. We love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught.' We must learn about other cultures in order to understand, in order to love, and in order to preserve our common world heritage."

–-Yo Yo Ma, White House Conference on Culture and Diplomacy

The Whole World Guide

Love the ideas and language learning tips here in our website? Want to learn more about the Walkabout method? Buy your own copy of The Whole World Guide to Language Learning: How to live and learn any foreign language.

This book is chock full of ideas on how to use Walkabout language learning. It has sample lesson plans as well as language learning drills and practice tips. Order your copy today.

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