Shaules Joseph, Language, Culture and the Embodied Mind: A Developmental Model of Linguaculture Learning

Reviewed by Dr. George Simons at

Joseph Shaules is well known among interculturalists for developing the model of deep culture, which opens the door to appropriating the research results of neurobiological studies, neurolinguistics and the advances of cognitive science. His new book furthers the exploration of the connection between language and culture and abets the jailbreak that we have been attempting to make from centuries of dualistic self-definition, to free ourselves to embrace our nature as holistic beings, or, as the book’s title puts it, “embodied minds”.

No one who has achieved some fluency in a second language has not experienced at least the occasional awareness that they seem to be a different person when switching from one tongue to another. It is not just a matter of using other words, but of experiencing different feelings, perceptions, and finding our flesh behaving in ways that reflect the habits of another cultural system. Bir dil bir insan, iki dil iki insan, as the Turkish saying puts it, “One who speaks only one language is one person, but one who speaks two languages is two people.” Language and culture are not only inextricably intertwined, but also embodied. Shaules shows us how this weave functions and its consequences for learning and life.

Likewise, many of us are tired of the struggle of “mind over matter”, of suffering the guilt of offenses against our “higher nature” committed by our “baser instincts.” What we require is not just a corrective for damaging philosophical perspectives–though that may be a needed starting point–but the consequent embrace of our personal wholeness, along with the insights and the means to develop it, manage it, and function more effectively as part of a global human community. This is, notwithstanding, an enormous challenge for which we need the insights offered in these pages.

Joseph Shaules has provided us, in fact, with three books in one:

  1. First, background: the updated theoretical and research perspectives, that we need to recognize and employ, to embrace the fresh metanarrative and the metaphors with which we can understand ourselves, our culture, and the role of language anew in the formation and expression of both. Here we find the landscape, the vista for what follows.
  1. Secondly, theory: the extrapolation of a developmental pedagogical model for what Shaules calls “linguaculture learning”. Here we find the process and the steps involved in it that lead to deep learning that is both personal and transformational. While the focus is on language learning, it is obvious that this model has far-reaching consequences for other fields of pedagogy.
  1. Thirdly, practice: a user’s guide to this model, how it can be used in teaching both language and culture. Shaules does not provide an infallible roadmap, but rather a well-equipped backpack, whose contents sustain us in unexplored territory, tools that support our curiosity, experimentation, risk-taking, pathfinding and reflection. Again, we can employ this kit when wandering about other areas of learning and competence, as well as for personal insight and self-development.

Obviously, this book provides an essential and up-to-date resource for those who design and implement programs of language learning, desiring to impart and guarantee more effective linguistic competence. Yet, given how language and culture gestate in the same womb and mutually birth each other, it is a contemporary vademecum for those of us who consider ourselves intercultural professionals (or incorrigible migrants).

We are entering a new era of human self-understanding, particularly important in the face of advances in artificial intelligence, which we fear are already invading what we consider our human integrity. At the same time, it seems that technology is offering us previously unimagined potential. It is this reader’s belief that understanding, discussing, employing and communicating perspectives found in this book will strengthen us going forward. Hopefully, they will lead us to a more serviceable ethic, as we strive to establish sustainability, to survive and flourish in a coming age which is already upon us.

Springer, 2020. ISBN 978-981-15-0587-4m 978-981-15-0586-7

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