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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Lyons ミシェル ライオンズ

How engaging with culture aids language learning

Learning a language is a form of cultural enrichment, yet culture is often absent or lacking in language learning materials. During our research for 'Japanese For Anyone (Really!)', we discovered the impact engaging with culture has on the ability to progress when learning a language.

Our research results showed that those who started learning Japanese because of an interest in the culture had a more positive mindset towards language learning and their ability to become fluent. Having cultural context appeared to increase the emotional bond with the language, and reduce the friction with learning it.

Those who started learning Japanese because of an interest in anime or manga seemed to have a more negative experience, suggesting that a lack of appreciation for the wider culture makes it harder to feel connected to the learning process, therefore making it harder to progress.

Conversations with other language learners also revealed that engaging with the culture increases motivation to study at times when motivation is low. Popular ways of engaging included Japanese vlogs, walking videos, and educational podcasts. Many learners found that engaging with the culture re-ignites their interest, and reminds them of why they wanted to learn the language in the first place.

Unfortunately, many language learning materials incorporate very little cultural context. Approximately 50% of the people we surveyed during our research said they don't find language learning books engaging, which is poor feedback for what we believe is a form of cultural enrichment.

Author of 'Japanese For Anyone (Really!)', Deanna J. Wright, hopes to change this with her book by offering unique cultural insights gained from her personal experience in Japan. Read the full case study of the strategy we developed for the book here.

Ultimately, engaging with culture reduces friction with learning a language, improving the learning experience and the ability to progress. If it works for Japanese, it could work for all languages!

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