Constructing French-American Understanding

The Cultura Project

in French Politics, Culture & Society
Gilberte Furstenberg Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Globalization requires the ability to work and interact with people of many different nationalities and cultures. Such interaction further involves the ability to communicate more effectively across these different cultures, whatever one’s field or discipline. This implies the absolute necessity for all of us to understand the languages, values and attitudes of other cultures so that misunderstandings and misconceptions are reduced. The events of September 11 greatly increased the public’s awareness of this issue. As a professor of linguistics wrote in the New York Times shortly thereafter, we need to “understand the words of our enemies—not to mention those of our friends.”1 The Cultura project seeks precisely to develop in-depth understanding of a foreign culture, by first looking at specific words that will provide access to the heart and core of another culture.

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