Unidad 2: De compras y la ropa

5. Reflexionemos sobre las diferencias culturales

As you recall language and culture are intrinsically linked. You cannot speak a language correctly if you don’t understand the culture. We need to be able to speak and act according with the cultural rules governing communication among Spanish-speaking countries. Many misunderstandings frequently happen because we know the word but not the real meaning within another culture.

For example, in the US when we describe a friend as ambitious, we are speaking about a person that has and shows a strong desire and determination to succeed. If you tell your friend: You are ambitious, you are giving him a compliment. The same sentence in Spanish is translated as: “Tú eres ambicioso.” In the Spanish-speaking culture this is not a compliment, but rather an insult! Although the translation is correct ambitious is ambicioso, the cultural implication is completely different. A Spanish-speaker would interpret this as you telling him that he wants to seek wealth, power and fame no matter the cost; this obviously does not make one successful. To be able to communicate in another language, you need to understand the culture that is linked to the language. You cannot divide language and culture. Language is one of the ways that a human being expresses one’s culture, just like music, painting, literature, etc.

With this in mind, let’s analyze the cultural meaning of the family. La familia: The family is the center of the Spanish-speaking society. In our culture, the family is very important too, but one of the big differences is that Spanish speakers don’t have a nuclear family and an extended family. Family encompasses all relatives, no matter if you are the brother of the mother-in-law of your cousin, or your aunt’s grandfather’s sister. Everyone is family. This concept is so important in the Spanish speaking culture that when you have a good friend, with time, they see him/her as part of the family.

A graphic of an extended family, including a mother, father, daughter, son, grandma, and grandpa.

Also, this special relation with friends is recognized and formalized with religious titles such as “padrinos”, “madrinas” or “ahijados” (Godfathers, Godmothers and Godchildren). That is the reason that all their celebrations are so crowded, you cannot have a celebration without the family, and for the Spanish speaking culture, there is only ONE BIG FAMILY.

Something very important to understand is that this characteristic is not exclusive for the Spanish speaking community. It is a strong characteristic that is found in all the Latin cultures: French, Italian, Portuguese, and Romanian. You will also observe similarities within other cultures like Greek, Arab, Turkish, etc.

Read the next paragraph about La familia applying what you know from the cognates, prior vocabulary and the cultural reading above to the passage in Spanish that follows about “la familia.”

En el mundo hispanohablante la familia es toda una institución, es la base de la sociedad y alrededor de ella gira la vida. El trabajo es considerado un medio para satisfacer las necesidades de la familia y el éxito radica en el bienestar de sus miembros. Los lazos familiares se extienden entre generaciones, abuelos, tíos, primos, hermanos, hijos etc. Si algún miembro enfrenta alguna situación desafortunada como una enfermedad, la pérdida de empleo o cualquier otro tipo de crisis, inmediatamente será apoyado por el resto de los miembros. Es la responsabilidad de la familia ayudarse unos a los otros; por ello es muy común escuchar “Es uno de los nuestros,” expresión que ejemplifica esta estrecha relación.

Estos lazos familiares no solo se aplican en momentos de crisis, todos los eventos sociales se rigen por estos lazos, así que un pequeño evento se convierte en una gran fiesta; ya que todos los miembros de la familia asistirán. Tradicionalmente las familias siguen una estructura de patriarcado, es decir, el padre es la cabeza de la familia. Sin embargo, es la madre la que es el centro de la familia y es la que mantiene los lazos familiares. La expresión “20 y la madre,” ejemplifica lo antes expuesto. En cualquier reunión llegarán 20, refiriéndose a todos los miembros familiares y la madre, núcleo de la familia, que no puede faltar en ningún evento.

TAREA: Now with this in consideration, we would like you to tell us in Spanish some similarities or differences that you find in your family and what you think about the expression “Es de los nuestros.”


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Yo puedo: segundos pasos Copyright © by Elizabeth Silvaggio-Adams & Ma. Del Rocío Vallejo-Alegre is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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