Access to culture without knowing the language

Culture vultures love going to museums, concerts, theatre, and other indulgences. Without a guide or translator, one is left with images and sound. No amount of text in the unfamiliar language can help with better comprehension of the “cultural experience.” If you are a tourist, a short-term visitor, an expat, or someone who is linguistically challenged, I daresay it is a big problem indeed.

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Language is the key to a culture. So I’ve been told.

What if you don’t understand the language? Are you then not able to appreciate the culture?

Culture vultures love going to museums, concerts, theatre, and other indulgences. Without a guide or translator, one is left with images and sound. No amount of text in the unfamiliar language can help with better comprehension of the “cultural experience.”

There is a lot of culture in the Netherlands. A lot of performances and exhibitions of very high quality, I must add. However, much of the publicity of such events is communicated only in Dutch. The programme notes are not translated into English or other languages. I have been to museums where the text is only in Dutch.

When I protest to my Dutch friends, they reply “but Dutch is our language. What’s the problem?”

If you are a tourist, a short-term visitor, an expat, or someone who is linguistically challenged, I daresay it is a big problem indeed. I have tried to learn Dutch. I could get by. But when it comes to a deeper understanding of a cultural event, such as the history of a concerto, the background behind an artistic collaboration, or the libretto to an opera,I and other culture vultures are left behind.

That is why I prefaced my review of a new play “Love Dolls” on its tour in Holland.

Feel free to comment on this blog about my review and this blog.