Given the fact that language is dynamic and is constantly evolving, it requires us to learn the cultural context and register of every new piece of vocabulary. This is the reason why the relationship between language and culture is central to the learning process of a second language, since it is language in its cultural context that creates meaning. In particular, over the years, English has been gaining importance around the world in so many different fields and at the same time it has become the international language that many organizations, such as the European Union, use as the official language. A demonstration of this statement is the increasing demand of a higher command of this language, not only in order to get a job but simply to be able to get by when travelling abroad. Thus, this fact has encouraged many foreigners to start learning English as a second language, which raises the number of non-native English speaking people. As a consequence, this makes English function as a common entity for thousands of different cultures all over the world. Nevertheless, this still poses a question as to which of these factors is more important in the communicative process, the culture or the language itself?
It is worth mentioning that sharing a common language alone is sometimes not enough to communicate with the other person, especially when those who are participating in the conversation are from different countries. For instance, using linguistic structures such as sarcasm or irony may be considered somewhat risky when engaging in conversation with a person from a different culture, because that person may not understand those structures or may even misinterpret them. In fact, even people from the same country may find difficulties with understanding certain expressions or jokes, simply because they are from different generations or even different continents, as may be the case with Latin American and European Spanish, or American and British English. Despite the fact that they are officially the same language, an American speaker may use words and phrases that are unfamiliar to a British person, although that person may be able to determine the meaning through the context of what is being said. Although they speak the same language, their cultures are still quite different and so are their idioms, expressions, words and even pronunciation or spelling. So, as well as considering a language to be a group of grammatical rules, we should also take into account that languages represent the way in which people of a certain culture think and behave.
In the case of translation, for instance, culture plays a major role. Translation is not only about translating one text into another language, but it is also about making the translation adapt to the target language’s culture. For instance, if we were to translate an English text containing humour into Mandarin, the text may need to be adapted to ensure that it makes sense and that the humour can be understood in accordance with the target language and culture. For example, a typical English expression such as ‘it’s all Greek to me’ may be used to refer to something that a person cannot understand at all. However, we cannot translate it literally into Spanish because it wouldn’t make sense with the demonym ‘Greek’. Instead, we’d adapt the expression and use ‘Chinese’, which is a more familiar idiom to the Spanish culture. Also, this does not only occur in translating texts, but also in the dubbing of films and interpreting conferences. As illustrated in the example above, culture plays an essential role in communication, and that is why when learning a language, consideration should also be given to the relevant culture during the learning process. In my opinion, teachers should always include some cultural learning in their classes, otherwise students would be