Does Your Language Influence Your Thoughts?

Linguistics is the study of languages and how they intersect with culture.  It’s a very interesting topic and one that I was very much interested in whilst I was in college. It was a random course to fill up credits, however I became quite intrigued by many of the theories that linguistics explores.

One of the theories that I was most intrigued by was the fact that languages may influence the way people THINK. The easiest example for explaining this concept is in terms of color. Certain languages have one word for a certain range of colors (for example, red and orange), and therefore people consider these colors as one, or very closely related. While English has two words for these distinct (to us) colors, others have only one. Therefore these colors are much more closely related in people’s minds who speak that language.

A study has definitively concluded that Russians are faster to distinguish different shades of blue faster than English speakers thanks to the fact that Russian divides up darker blues from lighter blues with two different words. However, it is still debated whether or not the actual language and vocabulary has an effect on memory and categorization.

Japanese speakers tend to group objects by their material or texture rather than by their object shape, which is a very interesting concept.

Another example is between German and English, and how each language tends to place emphasis on either actions or their consequences. According to this article, “Where did the thief go?” will get a different answer than “How did she get away?”.

It’s also said that Bilingual language speakers may get the benefits of “both worlds” so to speak, as their thinking can often be more flexible. Learning a new language could help you to experience some of the effects along with many other benefits.

Even just learning a new language at home for fun can bring these benefits, especially if you keep at it. Learning a language is hard work but can pay off immensely. I’ve had a lot of success just from using Rocket Languages, which is an excellent and fairly-priced language learning program that has garnered a lot of attention recently.  There have been several blog posts and reviews written recently and it’s clear that it’s a very decent language learning program. It’s certainly a better bargain than the highly expensive Rosetta Stone, which isn’t even a traditional teaching method and many people have trouble with.

All in all, languages are a huge world and a uniquely human concept. If you’re interested in more about linguistic relativity, check out the Sapir Whorf hypothesis.