Where has our loving Heavenly Father planted you? Which of the following two pictures captures where you are right now? Are you in a rainy part of the world where plants and trees grow everywhere with no human effort needed to cultivate them?
Or are you in an arid place where trees are stunted or non-existent, and only small brush is visible?
Mark Hedinger has written several blogs posts about learning culture using the metaphor of the Culture Tree.
In this post, he talks about how the visible part of a tree is dependent on the roots. In culture, the roots are the invisible values and belief systems shared by a group of people. As he states, we cannot directly see the invisible values and beliefs, but we can get clues (and divine direction) from what is visible. In the next series of language acquisition posts, we are going to look at the various visible parts of the Culture Tree and see how we can use language to better understand the visible and invisible where we have been planted.
People’s ways of life are interconnected with their environment. How people dress, what they eat, what they produce or manufacture, what they do in life and leisure all are influenced by their environment. (See: Global Trellis: The Culture Tree: Where are you planted?)
The environment impacts language. Think about how often you discuss the weather with others. What about activities you enjoy doing outside, or inside because of weather/climate?
Learning environmental language gives you opportunity to interact with people on many levels.
If you are a beginning language learner, you can acquire language for:
—What people say about where they live
—Kinds of weather
—Physical characteristics of the environment
—Activities people do in their environment
—What is grown there/what foods are produced, eaten, and exported
—Of what material are houses constructed and furnished
—How are life patterns of the people affected by the place
You can learn these items from books, but how much better if you learn from the people who live there! Can you join them in sports and leisure events? This is a great way to build relationships, learn language and culture, and have fun!
We don’t want to stop at this level, though. Remember, the visible helps us see the invisible, the values, beliefs, and assumptions of life of the people where we have been transplanted. As you advance in your language abilities, you can learn from and discuss such topics as:
—Environmental concerns that the people express
—Commerce and livelihood: how elements in the environment impact this (I just read an update from a couple who created a tourist business based on their unique environment.)
—What spiritual realities of the people are tied to the environment
The Bible speaks a lot about environment. Paul tells us, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)
As we build relationships with people, can we join them in their lives, activities, and concerns for their environment? With the Holy Spirit directing us and opening their understanding, can we bring God’s truths and help people see who He is through their own environment? This is a great topic for conversation and a great topic for deliberate language acquisition.
Where are you in the Grow Your Culture Knowledge challenge? This 4 week challenge will help you experience a culture growth spurt! With tracks for newbies and old hands in a culture you will grow in 4 areas: history, the arts, pop culture, and religion. If you haven’t, get started with your growth spurt today! (Available until May 13th)
Photos by Eyoel Kahssay on Unsplash, Karen Hedinger, and Flickr.