If you want to understand a culture, learn the language
Language and culture are synonymous. For this reason, I try not to translate under languages into English and then the second language. We cannot feel or appeciate the deeper meaning of a language if we see it through our own cultural filter. Many words and expressions can’t be translated directly.
I went to France in July for a month and did not speak a word of English. I went to small villages and avoided most of the touristy areas. I prefer to make mistakes in another language and fully immerse myself in the culture to speaking English. By the end of the month, I could understand almost everything. I used to speak French well, but lost much of my fluency due to a lack of practice. I study other languages in order to be a better professor. I observe which techniques I rely on to learn, and I apply the best strategies while teaching. Reading is still key to understanding words in context and of course listening. Don’t be surprised if your comprehension far exceeds your ability to speak-it’s all part of the natural progression of learning a language. We go through the same acquisition pattern as babies do whilst learning a native tongue- listen, try, and try again to speak until we are understood.