Have You Learned the Language of the Roots?

Sep 8, 2022 | 0 comments

Previously Culture Bound’s Culture Tree was introduced as a tool to learn the culture and language of the people to whom God has sent us. 

In May 2020, the Culture Learning post discussed the roots of the tree and the roots of culture. The roots of a culture include such things as values, belief systems, assumptions about right and wrong, and what is beautiful, the heart of the culture. 

Why is it important to learn language that pertains to the roots? Our God works on the heart level. This is not purely survival-level language. This goes far beyond being able to get through the daily activities of shopping, taking the children to school, even going to a doctor’s appointment. It is so easy in language to get to a point where we are comfortable where we live, we function well, and we have learned to communicate in the areas that are part of our lives, and then language learning moves to an occasional activity done informally when there’s time. This is known as plateauing. 

May I challenge you, beginning and advanced language learners to superior language learners: keep learning! Continue to look for ways to expand your listening, speaking, and reading abilities so you can share life and God’s truths on a heart-level.

Beginning language learners

—Watch local young children’s programs.  They often teach values. For instance, programs like Thomas the Tank Engine, Mr. Rogers or Daniel Tiger often address relational issues and values. 

—See if you can find well known stories that are told each generation. You might be able to find them in your native language. For example, when working with a language learner in Vietnam, we found this book that would help her know what most Vietnamese children know. She could look for such “root” issues as what was considered “good” traits (the heroes) and “bad” traits. Or take a look at Little Blue Truck. Values of kindness, cooperation, and helping someone who was mean can be clearly seen.

—Observe and note down what parents and grandparents say to their children.

—When appropriate, ask people in your Language Learning Community to explain what happened in situations you have observed and did not understand what took place.

—Pay attention to items you see for sale or advertisements and billboards; they might give insight to “root” values.

—Take notes on what you observe from the visible parts of the CultureTree.

Advanced language learners

—Listen to host people talk to each other and note the topics of conversations and opinions expressed. Keep notes on these conversations. After a while, you can see how many times the topics come up.

—Watch news programs and other programs such as documentaries that can give you insights into what is considered “good,” respectable, virtuous, unacceptable, unseemly, etc.

—Movies can be value laden. 

—Read non-fiction and fiction authors, poets, political commentators, etc. For instance, Octavio Paz’s Labyrinth of Solitude in Spanish (El Laberinto De La Soledad,) gives great insight into Mexican thought patterns and social interactions. When appropriate, engage in conversation about what you read. Mostly listen to what they have to say!

—Learn the local beliefs and formal religions represented and when appropriate, engage in conversation with people. Again, mostly listen!

Pray that the Lord of the harvest will give you insight into the roots of the culture and language to truly understand people and respectfully share God’s truths with them.

…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,… 1 Peter 3:15


Next Wednesday, September 14th at 8:00 a.m. MDT/10 a.m. EDT we have another webinar for Member Care providers: Planning a Healthy Home Assignment for Your TCKs by Lauren Wells of TCK Training. To attend the webinar or receive the recording register here.

Karen Hedinger

Lover of languages. Director of CultureBound’s LanguageCourse. Wife. Learner.

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