In this essay Amanda Fulford examines the subject of inter-cultural understanding from two perspectives: first, through considering Naoko Saito's exploration of translation and inter-/intra-cultural understanding, and second, through a discussion of work from the field of literacy studies, in particular the New London Group's ?pedagogy of multiliteracies.? In her consideration of the different approaches taken to the challenge of multicultural and globalized societies, and the experiences of encounters with language, Fulford pursues four principal themes: learning from difference, active design of meaning, a relation with language, and transformation of the individual. She shows how Saito's use of American philosophy, in particular Henry David Thoreau's Walden and Stanley Cavell's readings of Thoreau, can play a crucial role in any reconsideration of teaching and learning in adult literacy education. Fulford further demonstrates how Thoreau's notion of the ?father tongue? is central to the idea of learning from difference and to our use of language. She concludes by proposing that literacy education and research within the field of literacy studies could benefit from the kind of philosophical conversation, across the borders of subject and epistemology, that an exposure to, and consideration of, the ideas of Thoreau and Cavell on what it means to read and write can offer.