Global Awareness = Learning About Other Cultures’ Foods & Holidays?

I subscribe to the RSS feed of the Flickr group Great Quotes about Learning and Change. The following image by Scott McLeod popped up in my reader a few days ago.


by Scott McLeod

As a former World Language teacher (Spanish & German) and being passionate about bringing global awareness to colleagues and students, I know HOW true Scott’s image rings and what the reality in most schools look like.

Going over the colors of the flag, having kids read about or listen to the story of the Aztecs and the legend of how Tenochtitlan was founded, then thrown in a few tacos and burritos and voila the global studies unit about Mexico has been covered.  Teachers and students are suddenly “aware” of hispanic culture.

There is so much more to global awareness in today’s interconnected world, as Scott points out:

In an era of ubiquitous interconnection, global awareness does not mean simply learning about other cultures’ foods and holidays.

Awareness as defined on Wikipedia:

is the state or ability to perceive, to feel, or to be conscious of events, objects or sensory patterns. In this level of consciousness, sense data can be confirmed by an observer without necessarily implying understanding.

I want to emphasize the last part of the definition:

“…conscious WITHOUT necessarily implying understanding.”

While understanding (knowledge) would, of course, be preferred, awareness is a first step.

  • Aware that there are cultural nuances that could change perception of one and the same event
  • Aware that differences could affect relationships and the way one communicates with another.
  • Aware that translation of words does not equal translation of perception or meaning.
  • Aware that language and culture are intrinsically linked.

Since being “aware” of cultural differences does not necessarily mean that you understand the difference, I want to bring up one question I have wondered about in the last few weeks. Maybe some of you would know how to turn my awareness into understanding or maybe Jason Mraz even reads blogs and can enlighten me. 🙂

There are two versions of Jason Mraz’s song:  “Lucky” (English) and “Suerte” (Spanish). Although there are verses in both versions that are sung in English and are identical, the other verses are not the same.

When I listen to each song on my iPod, I even feel that they are two different songs (with similarities of course).  The music videos brings both of them together as the settings are in the city of Prague and on a tropical beach.

Here are three examples of verses and “their translation”.

Boy I hear you in my dreams
I feel your whisper across the sea
I keep you with me in my heart
Sé que te quiero cuando te vas
supe desde tiempo atrás.
Es que mi corazón no sabe querer
hasta volverte a ver.
I’m lucky I’m in love with my best friend
Lucky to have been where I have been
Lucky to be coming home again
Suerte que despierto junto a ti
suerte que sentí lo que sentí
suerte que regresas para mi
Lucky we’re in love in every way
Lucky to have stayed where we have stayed
Lucky to be coming home someday
Suerte que hay más por conocer
Suerte que contigo creceré
suerte que te tengo al volver

As a fluent speaker of both languages, I wonder WHY I get such a distinct feeling from both songs? Some of the lyrics from each version even seem to contradict each other. Ex. “Lucky to have stayed where we have stayed” versus ” Lucky that with you I will grow” (translated).

Is this a cultural difference, that “staying” and “growing” in each language would have been perceived differently by the listeners?

Do the individual words evoke different perceptions? Was that done on purpose or just because a direct translation would not have rhymed?

What do you think? Let me know?

English version “Lucky” by Jason Mraz & Colbie Caillat

Here is the Spanish version “Suerte” by Jason Mraz & Ximena Sariñana