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The Effect of Culture and Language on Communication

Updated on May 19, 2011


Culture and language are intertwined and inseparable. Culture is the driving force behind a language and the reason for the language's existence, make up, and grammatical rules, but language is equally important to culture.

Culture is expressed through language. It is the way people of a culture communicate (Gladstone, 1969). In Spanish, there are grammatical rules which express views of the culture. One of these rules expresses how they react to blame. When a person is constructing a sentence that would be roughly similar to the English sentence, I broke the glass, the sentence has to be reworded to say that the glass broke itself. This is because the Latin American culture makes it so that a person does not want to blame themselves for what happened.

Differences in culture can also be seen in the same language that has been spread to different regions. For Spanish, some words and pronouns are different depending on the region. Spain is the home of what is considered proper Spanish and differs from spoken Spanish in Latin America (Spanish Language, 2011). One of these differences comes from the the equivalent of the English word you. In Spanish, there are singular and plural pronouns. The formal pronouns for “you” are Usted (singular) and Ustedes (plural). The informal pronouns for the English word you are tú (singular) and vosotros (plural) or vos (plural abbreviation). In Spain, the formal pronouns are used around friends and family and the informal pronouns are just known, but rarely used except in small areas (Spanish Language, 2011). In Latin America, usted and ustedes are used in formal settings for teachers, older adults, and aquaintances, and tú, vosotros, and vos are used amoung friends and family. For Latin America, the use of the informal pronouns is not looked down on, but in Spain, the use of these same pronouns is considered a sign of ignorance (Spanish Language, 2011).

Differences like the ones seen in pronouns in Spanish come from the mixing of cultures over time. All the people that have lived in one area for a long time speak the same form of the dialect of a language for the most part and when they visit places that have another dialect, they think that those people sound strange just like the people in that area think that the visitor has an accent. These accents come from the culture surrounding the development of the spoken language. Over time, different cultures interact with other cultures and almost always pick up some things from that culture. In Spanish cultures, there were wars with Americans in one area, Romans in another, and French in another. In these three areas, different parts of the language were changed. The Romans spoke what was considered vulgar Latin (Spanish Language, 2011) and in areas where they were, Spanish picked up traces of their Latin in that area. The other encounters left other marks on the language. People who have had the same cultural background picked up the same additions and habits in their language, be it the tendency to not want to place blame, like in most Latin American countries where the expression for breaking a glass is that the glass broke itself, or the use or non use of informal pronouns.

Similar to the Spanish language, English has dialects as well. Most English speakers are aware of what is considered the Southern Drawl, but they might not pick up on the reasons for the difference in the spoken language until they have a chance to live in the area. In the cities of North East of America, the English Language has a fast tempo, letters are left off the end of words, and words are often abbreviated to make speaking them faster. When two people in the cities of North East meet, they do not usually want to know the details of a person's day or life. They might ask “What's up?” but expect the rely to be something along the lines of “nothing much.” which is similar to how Spanish is treated in Puerto Rico which has been greatly influenced by America. In the South, this question is often handled differently. The words are often pronounced and drawn out (the Southern drawl), but the person asking is also trying to engage in conversation. Things are slower paced in the South and this may be an influence of the Spanish culture that is near by. In Mexico and most other Latin American countries, the people that live there are extremely social. They take the time to talk and listen to each other. This cultural habit has bleed up into The United States and is visible in the slightly more socially oriented south.

Culture's effect on language makes it so that a person that speaks the same language but a different dialect can tell where you are from and what values you might hold. Language is a way of expressing culture and connecting other people. Without culture language could not exist, but without language, culture would be difficult to express.


Gladstone, J. (1969) Language and Culture, retrieved April 11, 2011 from

Spanish Language. (2011) Spanish Dialectes, retrieved April 11, 2011 from http://www.spanish-


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