Affects of Language on Culture in English and Chinese – Comparative Study
Misunderstandings are fairly common when people of different languages and cultures communicate. Because of cultural differences misunderstandings may arise, although the language used in communication may be faultless. The same words or expressions may not mean the same thing to different people. Because of cultural differences, a serious question may cause amusement or laughter; a harmless statement may cause displeasure or anger. Because of cultural differences, jokes by a foreign speaker may be received with blank faces and stony silence. Yet the same stories in the native country of the speaker would leave audiences holding their sides with laughter. You are probably aware by now that the term culture here is being used in a sense different from the ordinary. What do we mean by culture? Obviously, the Chinese term wénhuá (culture) in the expressions ta mei you wénhua (he hasn't been educated) or wénehua ban (a lesson of culture) does not apply. Nor do we mean culture in the sense of sophisticated tastes in literature, music art, etc. Here we have so much broader meaning. Following the definitions of sociologists and anthropologists our definition of culture refers to the total pattern of beliefs, customs, institutions, objects, and techniques that characterize the life of a human community. "Culture consists of all the shared products of human society." This means not only material things such as cities, organizations and schools, but also non-material things such as ideas, customs, family patterns, and languages. Putting it simply, culture refers to the entire way of life of a society, “the ways of a people”.