Discover News, Tips, and Interesting Stories

Explore our blog and find all kind of translation related articles such as stories, interesting facts, and even tips for clients.

Written by Traduality

Traduality helps organizations protect and get closer to its customers, employees, and partners in their native language.

September 23, 2020

Does language form our thinking?

Have you ever thought about whether your language affects your way of thinking? Or that maybe, your way of thinking affects the way you talk? As we all know, our language is a fundamental part of our culture, but… how does language affect our culture and personality? If you speak two languages, do you think you behave differently when speaking your second language?
Well, the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis tells us that the language of a civilization affects the way in which it understands the world. We know that the culture of a region affects language, given the differences between the variants of that language. For example, in Spanish, a man who serves the diners of a restaurant can be called: “camarero”, “mozo”, “mesero”, or “mesonero.” In English, you can either say “apartment” or “flat.” And in French, the number 70 can be said “soixante-dix” or “septante”, although the second form is only used in Belgium and Switzerland.

Language as a way of transmitting culture

We humans recognize linguistic differences from the maternal womb, that is, that we are born pre-programmed to identify the characteristics of the language our parents speak and, as we listen to them before and after our birth, we will probably perceive the world in the same way that they do. Below, you can see some examples of how people from different regions perceive the world:

1. In a study conducted with speakers of Spanish and German, they were asked to describe a bridge. It is important to mention that the noun for bridge is masculine in Spanish and female in German. Spanish speakers described the bridge as “strong”, “big”, and “tough” (male adjectives); while German speakers described it as “beautiful”, “lovely”, and “elegant” (feminine adjectives). Although the study was conducted in English, a language without grammatical gender.

2. People in Finland have about 40 words to call snow or, at least, all types of frozen precipitation. They have names for clean and dirty snow, and for crystalline and irregular ice. While in Spanish, they only have four: “hielo” (ice), “nieve” (snow), “granizo” (hail), and “aguanieve” (sleet). Hawaiians, living in a completely warm area, use the word “hau” to refer to snow and ice.

3. In Japan, respect and hierarchy are very important. Honorifics are Japanese words used to address people. For example: “san”, which would be equivalent to sir or madam; “kun”, to refer to men of minor age or category; “chan”, for women of a minor category or age, children and even animals; “senpai”, for seniors, whether for co-workers or schoolmates who have more time or experience but who are neither bosses nor teachers. Senpai is a word that has no translation.

None of these cases means that we do not receive this information from our environment, however, we include it, analyse it and express it differently.

How can I observe that language modifies my thinking?

One way that bilingual people might notice the differences of thought between one language and another, is the use of expressions, words, and curse words. A person could have a limit to the amount of curse words they can use in their own language. However, in their second or third language, they would not have that problem, because they could not receive the stimulus of that expression in the same way as a native speaker. Perhaps, you are more outgoing in one of your languages than another; more talkative or more authoritarian. A part of our personality changes when talking to friends who are native speakers of our second language, since our personality and ideas are reflected in the culture of others.

This hypothesis is still developing, but culture and language are likely to nurture one another for the development of a person’s thinking. So, if we want to change something about ourselves, maybe we can start changing the language we use and see what happens.

Featured Articles

Machine Translation and Human Post-Editing: How it Works

Have you ever needed a translation service for your business but felt there wasn’t enough time for the project to be done well? Some companies or clients sometimes need to translate corporate documents, marketing materials, or legal content quickly, and it’s almost...

What are the Eight Types of Translation?

In the intricate tapestry of global communication, translation plays a pivotal role in bridging linguistic divides. It's not merely about converting words from one language to another; it's an art that encompasses various forms, each with unique challenges and...

What is the Difference Between Transcreation and Transliteration? 

In the world of translation, there are many ways to translate content from one language to another. Aside from translation and localization, transcreation and transliteration also play a significant role in the industry. While transcreation and transliteration sound...

You May Also Like…


Submit a Comment

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

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.