Free thoughts on language learning

Discussions on learning Spanish, English and other language issues. Occasionally, we may stray from language learning topics if there is something that catches my interest.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

More to Learning Cultures Than Language

When thinking about learning about other cultures we rightly focus on learning the language of that culture, be it French, Spanish, Chinese etc. That's just one aspect of what defines the people of a given culture. An article in the New York Times last week focussed on the differences from culture to culture in people's spacial awareness and need for personal space. Here's a section that I found particularly interesting:

Scientists who say Americans share patterns of movement and behaviors to protect their personal space have recently found new evidence in a cyber game.

Researchers who observed the avatars (digital representations of the humans that control them) of participants in Second Life, a virtual reality universe, found that some of the avatars’ physical behavior was in keeping with studies about how humans protect their personal space.


Isn't that cool??? People behave the same way in a virtual world as they would in the physical world. "Yo buddy, yer crowdin' me. Step back!" applies when you are an online character just as it might in the real world. I thought I'd look around online to see what else has been written on this topic and came up with some interesting stuff. A professor on the West Coast teaches a class called, Gestures: Body Language and Nonverbal Communication and proposed an interesting experiment that makes me uncomfortable just reading about:
Elevator Behavior
Next time you walk on to a crowded elevator, don't turn around and face the door. Instead, just stand there facing the others. If you want to create even more tension, grin. Very likely the other passengers will glare back, surprised, grim, and upset.

Reason? You have broken the rules.
Go here to read more from Gary Imai

Here's something from the U. of California on eye contact, distance between speakers and the dangers of generalizing about these kind of things. It makes a person want to do their research before assuming you know too much. We'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this one. - Happy Thanksgiving!

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