Renown peace studies specialist Johan Galtung speaks of language, peace education, culture and language learning in this interview with Donna J. McInnis for the Japan Association for Language Teaching. He emphasizes the connection of language learning with relationships and cultural understanding.
Language learning, according to Galtung, can never be done in isolation. The nature of language requires relationship. From his perspective, “for each language, a deep bond — a parent, a friend, a beloved teacher — is needed. Languages flow along the bonding, making learning from significant others easier than school learning, except when there is bonding with the teacher or classmates of that language. The language is part of that person.” These relationships are bound to the language learning and healthy relationships make for successful language acquisition.
Also, Galtung points out that language education is a unique setting to learn about culture, not just in order to tolerate other cultures, but to start to look deeply at cultural values and expressions from a peace perspective. He reminds us that tolerance seems a worthy goal, but that “not all aspects of all cultures are worth learning. Rationalizations of violence, repression, and exploitation are also parts of cultures. Maybe those who dwell in these cultures have become so used to these aspects that they no longer sense them? And, maybe the foreigner with a fresh look may have an important task in asking questions unasked in and by the culture itself?” Language learners have a role in building peace within and between their multiple cultures. Peace educators have the opportunity to help learners along this path.