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How does thinking in a certain language affect us?

Updated on September 26, 2011


How does thinking in a certain language affect us? Well, to tell you the truth I don't really know, but, that doesn't mean that this document won't be useful. I am writing this as more of a question to everybody. So, do we think in our language and, how does that affect us?

Thinking in a language

Well, we do think in languages. I am right now thinking in english as I write this hub. I am going through what I will say and how I will say it, most of this is done in english. But, when we are not thinking about writing or anything where we sound out things in our head how do we think. For example, in a basketball game, when you get passed the ball you do not think to yourself, "Okay, I have the ball, now I'm going to dribble upwards 5 feet, turn, and shoot." No, our minds just start running and we do all those actions without thinking it out in english, or any other language. So why do we think in language sometimes, and not other times. I believe that when our brain wants us to do has to do with reaction or simple/complex everyday actions we do not NEED to think in a language and therefore we don't. But when we are presented with problems that we may have to "think" out or do over in our head, something we are unsure about, we turn to language for clarification. This may just be instinct, or it may be the need for us to hear ourselves. Also, just to get you thinking, how to babies think about problems? They don't have a language they can turn to, yet. So what does their brain do and how do they think about what they need to do? Is this why language was formed? So that we could formulate ideas and complex answers that needed more than just raw instinct?

How does thinking in a certain language affect us?

So how does thinking in a language affect us? Well, it is very ineffective, language is slow, whereas reactions are fast. But, language allows us to hear ourselves, and go through problems with something more than just instinct. Thinking in a language is a safety blanket we can go to. It is comfortable to us and helps us. So what about thinking in different languages? Does one language help us become more creative, while another allows us to be more effective at logical problems. Does a beautiful language make people feel eloquent and above others? Does a language with a lot of emphasis produce angier people? Do multi-lingual people think in certain languages while doing math problems while thinking in another for writing an essay? If so, is this because they believe one language is more efficient than another for a certain task?

What do you think?

Language was created to allow for communication but does it do more than that? I believe that it allows us to think in a different way and different languages may give people different ways to think. These are just my thoughts, what do you think? (and in what language?)

What language do you think in? And how does it affect you?

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    • humagaia profile image

      Charles Fox 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      In order to conclude on your question, one should note that, for polyglots, thinking in each specific language is necessary to communicate in that language. Thinking in a language to communicate, however, is not the same as thinking in a language to think.

      My opinion is that any language is the product of what it is used for. An Inuit may have many words for something that an English speaker may not require - possibly due to location, climate and way of life. An Amazonian Indian will not have necessity for the intricacies of language about investment. And, more advanced languages are structurally less complicated - perhaps as there is more diversity of words that make communication more precise in a modern language, rather than needing constructs in a primal language, that do the same thing.

      It would also be worth considering how 'modern' languages allow us to think, and verbalize about the past and the future. Is and was this the same for primal or proto-languages?

      As a mathematician with capabilities in many computer languages I can confirm that I do think in the computer language that I am using at the time. These languages and their constructs are present to allow the completion of particular tasks in a logical manner. These are languages that equate to primitive language as they have limited vocabulary and precise punctuation.

      As an English speaker, who creates multi-lingual websites, I can also state that, for me, the most difficult translation pair is English to Turkish. The problem is the order in which word groups are presented within sentences. You should also contemplate how punctuation has an effect on thought, as using particular punctuation when translating English-Turkish, has an effect on the efficacy of the translated text in transferring the thought to the brain of the recipient.

      This answer to your question is somewhat trite. At the expense of seeming to promote my hubs, I think you will find those that delve into language (and also how to teach our kids) of some interest in your quest for a solution to your conundrum.

    • Drenguin profile image

      Drenguin 6 years ago from Somewhere

      Thanks for commenting! It is an interesting question, I just decided to post my views on the subject. That is an interesting story, I would really like to perform some actual research on this.

    • Learn Things Web profile image

      Learn Things Web 6 years ago from California

      I did read where a bilingual person said they would think in one language in some situations and the other in others, although I don't remember any specifics. I had a friend once who could completely understand her parent's native language but she couldn't speak it at all. I used to listen to conversations between her and her mother. Her mother would speak in her native language and my friend would answer in English. Even though she understood the language perfectly, she was completely unable to form any thoughts in it.