What is Biculturalism?

Biculturalism is when one person belongs to two different cultures, explains Cecilia Montes-Alcalá, an associate professor in the School of Modern Languages. Biculturalism, which can come with language learning, can provide a new mindset in how you view the world, she adds. Learn more in Montes-Alcalá’s two-minute lecture: 

Transcript: What is Biculturalism?

Biculturalism is when one person belongs to two different cultures. It could also be more than two, it could be multiculturalism, so two or three cultures. Usually, that happens because your parents belong to different cultures or because you were raised in two different countries or moved from one country to another.

I think the benefits are that you open your mind to a completely different mindset of how you view the world. When you are monocultural, you tend to think that what goes on in your culture is like, for everybody, the same things. Then, when you get exposed to another culture, you are like, 'Oh my God, they eat that or they do this.' When you're bicultural, you can really appreciate that there's not only just one way of doing things. There's more than one, and they both have value.

Ideally, when you learn another language, you're not just learning the vocabulary and the grammar and the pronunciation, but you're also learning a whole new set of cultural norms. Unfortunately, that's not always the case. Some people don't have the option of traveling abroad or actually immersing themselves in the other culture. So you could technically be bilingual, learn another language, and stay monocultural if you don't have the chance to do that.

So, it's not a one-to-one thing; bilingualism is not always biculturalism and vice versa. But again, in an ideal world, learning two languages should lead to learning another culture with a language.

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