Learning a new language involves so much more than memorizing vocabulary and grammar rules. Students also need to learn the culture and how to speak naturally in the target language. After all, the goal of learning a new language is to be able to talk fluently with native speakers, right?
Surprisingly, many language courses and apps don’t teach students about the important social factors that affect how a language is spoken. That’s why the best-accredited languages courses go beyond the basics to teach students not just what to say, but how and when to say it.
Let’s explore four social factors that accredited language classes should teach.
1. Accredited Language Courses Should Teach Casual vs. Respectful Speech
As an English speaker, you’re already aware that you speak to people differently depending on your relationship with them. You’re probably more careful about pronunciation when talking to your boss than speaking to your younger siblings. Knowing when to use certain registers of speech is a component accredited language courses must instruct.
English-speakers tend to “swallow our consonants” when speaking casually. Take for example a word like “kitten” or telling your dog “good boy!” In casual speech, “kitten” becomes “KIH-en” and “good boy” sounds like “gubboy.” The same habit applies to most Romance languages like Italian, Spanish and French. Learning to look out for informal pronunciation will improve overall listening comprehension. Check out the quick video below that talks about informal contractions and gives some examples.
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2. Great Language Courses Teach Table Manners & Etiquette
Did you know that ice in a soft drink is an American tradition? While restaurants around the globe will almost always offer a Coca-Cola, it usually won’t come with ice. In most European countries, it is most polite to keep your hands on the table throughout the course of a meal instead of resting in your lap. If you’re working or traveling abroad, you’ll need to be aware of minor details like this.
After completing a few accredited languages courses, you should be able to:
- Order food at a restaurant (and know what you’re eating)
- Feel comfortable at the table, and know which silverware to use
- Choose the right place to sit
- Understand who pays the bill, whether to leave a tip and how much
It’s crucial to know about a culture’s commitment to the clock. Here in the US, punctuality is key, but other nations are more relaxed about it. And in India, it’s a sign of importance when someone shows up a bit late.
3. Buying & Haggling — Is it Okay to Negotiate Abroad?
Haggling about prices is somewhat rare in the US. It’s appropriate at flea markets, garage sales, and sometimes with a contractor providing services. But you wouldn’t sit at a fancy restaurant and negotiate prices, nor would you try it in a big box retail store like Wal-Mart.
In other countries, haggling is a part of the shopping experience. For instance, in China, Iran, and Egypt, you’ll get ripped off if you don’t haggle! Vendors over-price goods on purpose and hope those unwary travelers will pay the inflated price.
4. Accredited Language Courses Should Teach Currency Conversions
The value of fiat money (paper money and coins) changes a little every day. While the internet has made fast currency conversions a reality for world travelers, sometimes we find ourselves in a place with no internet access. It’s essential to understand the value of the local currency relative to the US dollar. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself paying far too much for food or a taxi. The best language courses will include some simple, memorable currency formulas – or teach you where to look for the most up-to-date currency exchange rates.
What Not to Say
And finally, the best-accredited language courses will cover taboos. Some cultures find topics like politics or intimate family life rude or even repellant!
Understanding New Languages
At LanguageBird, our mission is to provide students with a thorough understanding of new languages through cultural exploration and conversational lessons. Contact us to learn more about language courses for credit today.