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Does becoming bilingual also involve being bicultural?


Roger Pulvers follows up on his previous post about raising bilingual children. In his latest piece, his discusses the importance of culture in language learning. I agree with his take since I consistently  stress the need to understand and incorporate culture in language learning and language usage. Check out Pulvers two articles and please feel free to leave a comment. 

Several weeks ago in this column, I wrote about some of the nonlinguistic aspects of raising a bilingual child. These can be social, financial and marital, involving the milieu the child grows up in, the necessity to move back and forth between countries, and even the periodic separation of husband and wife in the interests of exposing the child to one of the native-language environments.

I want to return to the subject of bilingual children because some readers have responded with letters following that earlier column, and it’s also surely a matter of concern to many others who aim to give their offspring the benefits of being both bilingual and bicultural.Let’s look at five aspects of bilingualism — when one of the languages is Japanese — from the standpoint of modes of communication. As parents who have brought up bilingual children will know — my wife and I raised four — a truly native command of a language involves far more than just the amassing of a large vocabulary and stringing words together in what appears to be a fluent manner.

The five aspects revolve around titles, politeness, apologizing, showing gratitude within the family and expressing intimacies to loved ones. Click here to read more.


  1. I don’t think a person can truly be bilingual and not understand the culture. Cultural elements impact the meaning of words and phrases. If you don’t comprehend the culture then there is no way you can be fluent in a foreign language. However, even if your language skills aren’t perfect, if you have a grasp on the culture, your understanding and use of the language is better.

  2. Language Language

    Nah, being bilingual doesn’t mean that you are bicultural as well. A shit load of Indians speak English, but they don’t eat scones and neither do they play baseball. From experience, I speak 5 different languages. I can identify somewhat with the different Cultures but not really.
    Also, if you look at former Empires, example being the Persian Empire. It left a lot of influence on all of Asia, up till China. All the languages have Persian in them but the people that speak them aren’t necessarily Shia or Muslim and they don’t really identify with Iranian Culture.

    Just my 2 cents

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