Is understanding Chinese Culture Essential to Learning Mandarin Chinese Language? Learning Mandarin Chinese goes beyond memorizing words and basic grammar rules. Just because you know how to say ‘tea’ and ‘cup’ in Mandarin Chinese, doesn’t mean you’ll be able to order tea in a restaurant in Beijing. In fact, you may be surprised by what you get instead!
There’s more to building a conversation with a native than you read in a textbook. That’s why you can’t try learning Mandarin Chinese language outside of its cultural environment.
Understanding culture is like having a context that allows you to give the right meaning to each new word you learn. The more you know about the sociocultural background, the easier it is to get involved and learn new words, expressions and ways of speaking.
Culture is essential to learning Mandarin Chinese language well enough to communicate with natives. In fact, most universities and even high schools invest in exchange programs to allow students to learn languages in the right environments.
Culture Increases Engagement in Learning Mandarin Chinese
When learning Mandarin Chinese language, you need motivation to progress with single words, tones, phrases, expressions, grammar and so on. When you can place all this new information in a cultural context, it can help you engage at a different level with the Mandarin Chinese language. Learning about how native people live and talk introduces a human side to the Mandarin Chinese language, which keeps you hooked on the learning process.
To understand culture, you need to go further than textbooks and dictionaries. You can use a wide range of alternative resources to get relevant information about the locals:
Movies and TV drama – Students who watched Chinese movies and TV drama improved their listening and speaking skills faster than their colleagues. Watching subtitled movies or TV programs instead of dubbed ones can give you an accurate image about how native people speak. You’ll get to notice particular expressions, accents and tones of voice that will help you understand more about the cultural environment of the Mandarin Chinese language you’re studying.
Newspapers and magazines – There’s a significant difference between what you learn in a classroom and what you find in magazines. This happens because columns stay in line with how people actually speak to each other in everyday life. They respect all grammar rules, but keep a natural voice at the same time.
Blogs – They have the advantage of connecting you with the local vocabulary. Depending on the niche, you can even improve terminology and learn some items you’ll only find in the ‘urban’ dictionary.
Original literature – Reading original versions of novels is both a reason and a method for learning a language. You get to see how the author has built phrases and what new meaning he or she gives to various words.
Traveling – It remains the most important resource when looking to improve your language skills. You’ll not only listen to how natives speak, but you’ll get to communicate with them as well. Traveling is a very efficient way of learning Mandarin Chinese language because it gives you less alternatives. You either learn to say it right, or you risk to creating chaos and potentially embarrassing situations!
Learning About Local Culture Means Less Misunderstandings
Understanding culture allows foreigners to use the right word, depending on the context. This way, there’s less room for misunderstandings and confusion.
Learning Mandarin Chinese language without understanding the culture behind it is tasteless. It’s like cooking fried chicken without the right spices! You get to know something about the recipe, but you’ll never experience the real flavor.
You can’t learn Mandarin Chinese just because you want to do business in China. You must find the deeper reasons behind the language: how the Chinese act, how they live, what they eat, what their beliefs and traditions are. All these details will give you a new perspective on the language and allow you to learn faster.
Culture Knowledge Allows You to Think in another Language
When you know more about the people you’re talking to, you have a greater chance of saying the right words at the right time. You won’t have to create the phrases in your native language and then translate them in the new language.
Understanding culture allows you to give the right meaning to each word, in the larger context, because you’ll be able to think in Mandarin Chinese.
There are concepts you can express in English, but you couldn’t say in any other language with a word-to-word translation. By understanding cultural differences while learning a language, you’ll find new ways to express these things.
Culture is essential when studying languages. Because understanding cultural background–art, literature, lifestyle– helps you reach language proficiency and really live the language while you learn.
Importance of Art in understanding a culture
Art is the physical representation of a cultures views, beliefs and practices. It reflects the essences of the people through their drawing, painting, carving, body adornment and folklore . Art can help one to understand a culture that may otherwise be hard to relate to, since it reaches people on a basic emotional level. Although art can also vary greatly between cultures, it can at same time it can be a medium that bridges the gap between cultures. It can be used to represent the core beliefs of a society. Art can also be used by societies to express power, prestige, and rank.
Looking for your next culture fix? Check out these Hong Kong art shows…
NOT A FASHION STORE ! (until 5th January 2022)
A unique art exhibition “NOT a fashion store!” is being held at HONG KONG MUSEUM OF ART from 19th March 2021 until 5th January 2022. The exhibition showcases 76 sets of artworks related to fashionable and traditional clothing, shoes and accessories from various eras curated from the four core collections of the museum, namely Chinese Antiquities, Chinese Painting and Calligraphy, China Trade Art, and Modern and Hong Kong Art. The exhibition is to inspire visitors’ thoughts on personal image and fashion and culture when appreciating the works of art.
TEA WARE FROM YIXING: GEM OF ZISHA IN THE K.S. LO COLLECTION OF THE FLAGSTAFF HOUSE MUSEUM OF TEA WARE (until 31st July 2021)
FLAGSTAFF HOUSE MUSEUM OF TEA WARE is holding a new exhibition, “Tea Ware from Yixing: Gems of Zisha in The K.S. Lo Collection of the Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware”, from 22nd May 2020 until 31st July 2021. Featuring more than 100 items of zisha ware, the exhibition showcases works by renowned teapot makers of the Ming and Qing dynasties and the 20th century, as well as demonstrates the diverse aspects of the art of zisha pottery.
Experience the life of Chinese and discovering the Chinese Culture.
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