How Language Impacts Your Thinking

There’s the old adage, “you are what you eat,” and this expression implies that your health is in part determined by the food you eat. But perhaps more important than your physical fitness being defined by your diet is the way you think and how you look at the world, and in a very powerful but perhaps indirect way, your language plays a role in this. Language, of course, is one way we communicate with others. In essence, it is a way to take what we think and give it a sound or a symbol so that others can hear it or read it. But this is a two-way street. In the same way that we use language to define our thoughts, our thoughts and perceptions can be defined by the language we use. There are a few fascinating ways that this manifests.

In the same way that we use language to define our thoughts, our thoughts and perceptions can be defined by the language we use.

Language Is Time

Writing instructor Ana Mendez conducted an exercise with her creative writing students, encouraging them to translate a story they had written in English into their original native language. One student experienced a problem common to bi- or multi-lingual people. The student discovered that there was a huge stumbling block in translating his English story into his childhood language of Latvian, because who he was as an older university student writing in English was not the same person as the innocent child that spoke Latvian. In other words, he associated Latvian with the language of childhood; light and innocence clashed with the more mature, darker sensibility of his current self, and the bleaker, more pessimistic language in which he’d written his story. His experience reflects a common problem for people who understand more than one language. People can identify or relate different languages with different periods of their life, and this can affect their ability to process the language.

Language Is Perception

Lera Boroditsky of Stanford University observed that using different languages can partition the way we think. This just means that through the repeated use of language, the things that we notice and the things we choose to focus on can be shaped by the rules of the language that we regularly use. Different languages will have different aspects and emphasis. For example, Turkish would be considered an “evidentiary” language, because much of the grammar and structure is based on how information is perceived and in what manner. For example, if you were telling someone that your brother ate all the cake, you would use a different verb form depending on if you had actually seen him eat the cake or just heard the story from your sister. Spanish, on the other hand, is concerned with what something is, and so much of the grammar concentrates on modes of being. These linguistic foci inevitably have an effect on the way that people think in order to better express themselves in the language they most frequently use. This is one of the reasons why fluency in a language is more than just having memorized a dictionary. And that’s why if you want professional language translation services, you should contact us, and see how our experts can make sure you’re understood.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

seventeen − four =