The power of language is to reflect culture and influence thinking was first proposed by an American linguist and anthropologist, Edward Sapir (1884–1939), and his student, Benjamin Whorf (1897–1941). The way we think and view the world is determined by Instances of cultural language differences are evidenced in that some languages have specific words for concepts whereas other languages use several words to represent a specific concept.
Cultural differences have also been noted in the ways in which language is used pragmatically. In some cultures, new skills are learned through nonverbal observation. A distinction has also been made between cultures that encourage independent learning and those that encourage cooperative learning.
Differences in the social roles of adults and children also influence how language is used. Home and school contexts may represent different cultures, subcultures, or both and may influence language acquisition in noticeable ways. Nonverbal cues (e.g., facial expression) and contextual cues (e.g., shared experience) have different communicative roles in different cultures. In some cultures, prelinguistic children (who are not yet verbalizing) are spoken about rather than spoken to. Children may be expected, and thus taught, to speak only when an adult addresses them. They are not encouraged to initiate conversations with adults or to join spontaneously in ongoing adult conversations. Additionally, in some cultures, children who enthusiastically volunteer answers at school are considered show-offs. In some cultural settings, children are not asked recitational questions. Instead, they are asked only questions of clarification or for new information. Thus, when these children experience recitational questions in a school setting, they may be confused as to the purpose of the questioning and the expected response.
Further cultural differences in how language is used in educational settings have been documented by Tharp (1994). These...