Does the language you speak affect the way you think?

Keith Chen: Could your language affect your ability to save money?

Ooo I can’t wait to watch these! When I was at uni the part of the course where we looked at the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis and other ideas like this.

While the analysis is interesting, the conclusion seems to be a little nutty. Even if there were a link between the grammar of one’s native language and one’s propensity to save money, I do not think that this would be based on a single linguistic feature.

I completely agree

Does the language you speak affect the way you think?
If we’re talking about foreign languages, I’d say they only affect you if they’re able to trigger some kind of emotional responses from you.

Could your language affect your ability to save money?
I think that’s highly unlikely.

Actually, he is claiming that those WITHOUT a future tense are the ones that save more because they supposedly meld the present and the future together, while speakers with a future tense think about future as a distant entity and therefore do not feel as inclined to save.

I did not watch the video. However, there is no future tense in Chinese and China has a high savings rate.

Chinese speakers express the future using words like “tomorrow”, “want to” “intend to” “next year” etc. They fully understand what the future is.

I read it on the BBC,
but its more likely to be about culture… which might have helped shaped the languages and the two developed together.
But it’s still a cultural issue, it’d be next to impossible to prove that the differences come from the language’s future tense. Given that they wouldn’t even be able to know all the factors at work.

"In his research paper, he says that compared to speakers of languages which use a future tense, speakers of languages with no real future tense are:

Likely to have saved 39% more by the time they retire
31% more likely to save in a year
24% less likely to smoke
29% more likely to be physically active
13% less likely to be obese"

Socials sciences should always be taken with a grain of salt.

Farrago, do you have the link to the original paper? I would not mind checking it out. I don’t think that it is crazy to think that differences in languages cause differences in the ways people think (in fact, I would be surprised if this was not the case, to some extent), but I suspect you are correct about the cultural issue.

This is the PDF

It’s an important issue, but why is it only about saving money?
Of course, the language affects the way you think.
English has 26 verb tenses (acrive+passive), that’s why it is more exact in expressing of actions than Russian or German that have much less tenses.
But German and Russian are more inverntive, more resourceful in making up new and new relative words, that’s why the native speakers of these languages can more precisely define the very different shades of meanings.

With regard to the original argument about savings rate etc. I think this is merely an example of our tendency to impute causality where there is none. I am sure we can find all these differences among people of different classes and different ethnic origins all speaking the same language.

as for
“But German and Russian are more inverntive, more resourceful in making up new and new relative words, that’s why the native speakers of these languages can more precisely define the very different shades of meanings.”

I would be interested in seeing any proof of this. I think these skills vary with individuals and not with nations.

@steve- I don’t speak about the individuals, they are very different in every nation. I speak about the different inherent features of every language.
It doesn’t mean that one language is better or worse than another language. But every language has its own peculaiarities in the cognition of the world and its reflection in the language.

But evgueny I have not seen any evidence of what you state, nor have I noticed any differences in these skills across different language groups.

Although this is beyond the “attitude towards saving” discussion, here is a link from Alex Rawling’s blog where he talks about just the kind of flexibility needed in certain languages. Perhaps evgueny picked up his idea from some similar source.

Frankly speaking I seldom pick up any ideas, I have a lot of my own ideas and feelings.
Maybe it takes some time for concideration and more detailed answer, I’ll remember this topic and perhaps write something in a month or two.
But I feel in my own experience that when I’m speaking in Russian, in German or in English,my attitude to life is a bit different. I don’t change my moral principles, but I’m more punctual and logical when I speak German. And I feel as if I’m more global, more generalized and tolerant when I speak English. And what about Russian: I feel more close to the nbature, more romantic, less businesslike, less practical when I’m speaking Russian.
And I think that all these languages somehow influence me.

I believe that the way we express ourselves, and some aspects of our behaviour, change as we change languages. Fundamentally I don’t think our personality changes but the way we express ourselves, the outward appearance of our personality changes.

With regard to Rawlings blog post, it is not just the English who are reluctant to leave their own identity. In fact one key to language success, in my view, and especially success in pronunciation, is to project oneself as a member of another language group, without inhibition. Anyone can do this if they want. And when we learn a language we inevitably imitate some aspects of the behaviour of another culture. The better we imitate, the better we will speak.

With reference to the original study, I read about another social sciences study, at a Canadian university, one which apparently received $500,000 in public funding. The study showed that eating with chopsticks as children tended to cause people to have darker hair. In fact in a large sampling of millions of people who ate with chopsticks as children, the vast majority had black hair.

I would say so definitely, especially when I am practicing language interpretation, as it definitely requires one to think hard about how to translate something. Meaning is key, don’t just translate words, more importantly, translate and render the MEANING, which of course goes under an Interpreter’s Ethic (one of the most important ones in my opinion) “Accuracy and Fidelity” :slight_smile: