The boy with his finger in the dike. Sasquatch. Rapunzel. Leprechauns. You might recognize some of these myths and legends. Their stories told have been passed down through the ages, though that doesn’t make them true.
In this article we’ll tackle some of the most common myths about learning a language and intercultural communication training.
Myths in language learning
Language Myth #1 – Adults can’t learn a new language
Yes, they can. People often talk about how kids learn languages easier. That’s true, especially if they’re 6 or under, though it doesn’t mean that adults can’t become fluent. There are different types of people who speak two or more languages, but that has no impact on someone’s ability to learn.
Language Myth #2 – It’s expensive
It doesn’t have to be. Most language educators offer different price points. You can also add to this with your own engagement efforts.
Language Myth #3 – You have to live where it’s spoken
Surrounding yourself with your target language helps but is not necessary. When you live where your target language is spoken you’ll get many more opportunities to practise, as well as a more nuanced feel for the culture of the language, but this is not a requirement to be an effective communicator in any language.
Language Myth #4 – Translation tools are enough
Translation tools can help in some contexts, but will hinder in most. They offer no context, no non-verbal cues and often don’t help develop an understanding of idioms or other expressions.
Language Myth #5 – Self-study is enough
Using apps, an online resource, or any other approach to self-study can offer a positive impact on language learning. However, social learning – including valuable feedback – is unrivalled in its ability to enhance development.
Language Myth #6 – It’s boring
Doesn’t have to be. Working with others and consuming media made in your target language are two approaches which often help make learning a language much more fun and engaging.
Language Myth #7 – It takes 5 years
Learning a language does take time, it can take a lot of time. How much is dependent on the person learning, and their environment. If the student has the time, energy, and ability to study 5 hours a day, every day, it makes sense that it will be a quick process. If they live amongst their target language, even quicker. The time it takes to learn is different for everyone, the expectations should be as well.
Myths in intercultural communication training
IC Myth #1 – We’re all just human
Well yes, but all of us are uniquely impacted by our parents, environment and culture. Recognising how these differences influence our behaviour is vital to collaboration, innovation, productivity and more.
IC Myth #2 – Exposure is enough
People often feel that living or travelling amongst another culture removes the chase of benefiting from intercultural training. While doing so can certainly help someone gain perspective, it is not enough. Understanding the theories behind intercultural communication and competence, and putting it into practice helps expand and focus even the most open-minded people.
IC Myth #3 – Everything can be attributed to cultural differences
This is a common incorrect generalisation of a culture. Combining cultural knowledge with individual characteristics can help shape understanding of people’s behaviour.
IC Myth #4 – Emotional intelligence = cultural intelligence
One does not equal the other. Emotions are expressed differently and for different reasons depending on the person and depending on the culture.
IC Myth #5 – Language training is more important
Learning a language offers a great insight into a culture and some of how it works, however it is not enough to not only come to recognise and understand a culture, but to then accept and potentially integrate into it.
IC Myth #6 – Isn’t needed if not engaged in diverse spaces
Cultural influence can be seen in many ways, though it may not be recognised. People often limit the definition of diversity to ethnicity, however culture is much more nuanced.
IC Myth #7 – Knowing the theory is enough
Learning something without applying it will lead to memory loss. When it comes to intercultural communication, practice is a strong requirement due to the complexity of human nature and the vast variety of people and cultures we get exposed to.