Resources: Notes on Life and Language in the United States

English and Culture: Why Just Learning English Is Not Enough

Posted by Lindsay McMahon on Mon, Jul 11, 2011 @ 10:23 PM

 English and Culture globe in handIf you are an international professional, working and living in the United States, English and Culture are the tools you need to succeed. Anyone from another country who has ever tried to complete a business deal, apply for a job or even strike up a conversation with an American will tell you that just being able to speak English is not enough to be successful in the United States. However, a lot of international professionals come to the US and reach a high level of English but then realize that they are still not succeeding at work. What's missing? It might be culture!  In this post, I will offer 4 reasons culture is more important than you think. 



 4 Reasons You Need More Than Just English


1. Language is a reflection of culture: Do you know why we have so many expressions and proverbs in English that are related to action, self-reliance and risk-taking? Because language always reflects culture. If you understand the cultural values in the United States, you will be able to speak English more naturally and you will understand why certain phrases are used often.


2. Language is not just verbal: Language is about communication and sometimes non-verbal language is more important than the spoken word. Can you recognize common non-verbal gestures in the United States and do you know what they mean? What are the chances of miscommunication if you use English words but you continue using nonverbal gestures from your home culture?


3. Understanding cultural adjustment is key to learning English: Do you remember the last time you felt really confused, disoriented, lonely and misunderstood in the United States? Maybe this feeling lasted for a week or a few months. How easy was it for you to focus on learning English during those weeks or months? It helps to know what to expect during cultural transitions and how to handle culture shock.


4. Cultural competence is a valuable and marketable skill: How do people manage time and schedules in the US and how is that different from your own time management style? How do you build a professional rapport with your American colleagues? What's the best way to hand out a business card in the US? Can you answer these questions? Your success in your career in the US will depend on your cultural competence. Check out this article for more information.



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Topics: Advice for English Students, United States Culture, Cultural Competence, Cross Cultural Coaching

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