Language and thought

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  1. Jeff Berndt profile image88
    Jeff Berndtposted 10 years ago

    Here's a question for all you bilingual or multi-lingual people out there:

    Has learning a second or third language changed the way you think about the world in general?

    I can speak a smattering of a couple languages other than my native one (not even close to fluency), and I've found it easier to think in those languages when trying to talk to someone in them, rather than to think in English and try to translate. (This limits my conversation pretty heavily, of course.)

    I wonder if mastering those languages (and their different rules of grammar, syntax, etc) would change my thought processes in English at the articulate, thinking-in-words level? Might it also have an effect at a more elementary, sub-conscious level?

    How much does our native language affect the way we view the world?

    1. alqx profile image61
      alqxposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      Thinking is possible without language, but it will not be organised. Language organises thought.

      Any sophisticated trend of thought has to be grounded by language, be it mathematics or English or some other language. The rules of the language you use will affect the way you think. Then, the differences in grammar, richness and depth of different languages can affect thought processes.

      Mathematical language allows you to instantly see that 1/2=2/4=3/6=4/8. It's not as quick trying to see that relation in, say, English.

      Other languages may also not always have a direct translation for every word for a given language. So the way you classify and recognise ideas is also affected.

    2. quotations profile image91
      quotationsposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      Thanks for your question. It made me reflect on how  I personally think and how my background has affected my thought processes.

      I am fluent in Italian and English and I also speak French though not with the same degree of fluency. I learned Italian first and then English, when I was about six.

      Because of where I live, I use only English in my work life and so my vocabulary in English is more sophisticated and technical. I find that when I am in a business situation I think in English - when I am writing in English, as now, I think in English. There is no English to Italian translation.

      But when I think private thoughts that are emotionally significant, or when I deal with every day things (like realizing that I am hungry and should make myself breakfast, as now) I think in Italian.

      Other times I think in neither language - but a deeper personal language that does not require me to form full sentences or words in either language.

      I am capable of thinking in French if I force myself to but this is not natural and would never do it except as an exercise or when I am reading French. If I am speaking or writing in French, I first form the thought in English (because I learned French by attending school in Canada, and the language of instruction was English to French) and then look for the French equivalent - which is I guess both the reason for and an indication that I am not completely fluent in French.

  2. bloominglily profile image60
    bloominglilyposted 10 years ago

    I think learning another language is necessary. I speak Spanish, and  in my opinion, there's no other way to close the gsp of etnhic misunderstandings.

  3. Daniela Daljac profile image61
    Daniela Daljacposted 10 years ago

    Yes it's true!

  4. Claudin_Dayo profile image60
    Claudin_Dayoposted 10 years ago

    I agree with bloominglily, although I'm only learning languages of my choice. It's fun to learn and have another language than that of yours, and having the such did let me realize that people of different language is unique in many ways smile

  5. profile image38
    robin7013posted 10 years ago

    I think it changes the thought process to some extent.

  6. kids-toy-box profile image81
    kids-toy-boxposted 10 years ago

    I speak German and english and my native lanuage does affect my thought processes for sure, but since learing a new language I sometimes find my self questioning this especially if I am speaking to  a native english speaker. It is also wierd changing between the two languages since I use both daily.My natural response is always to respond in my native language so it does require some level of control in the company of english speakers.Writing in English-on the other hand is much more simpler.

  7. Daniela Daljac profile image61
    Daniela Daljacposted 10 years ago

    Once u start think in language u spoke u will be ok! If u speak one language and think in other it's not good!!! Try u will notice huge deference!!! I spoke couple languages my self but only 3 I read speak and write!!! Others just speak !!!

    1. saleheensblog profile image61
      saleheensblogposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      agreed, thinking in a language and trying to express it in another language hampers the beauty of the expression. it also narrow down the thought process.

  8. saleheensblog profile image61
    saleheensblogposted 10 years ago

    Bangali is my native language. I can understand Hindi and speak a bit also but can't write in Hindi.I am also learning English and it has given me much opportunity to explore the world of infinitive information.

    Learning a language  not only enables us to communicate in a new way but also integrates us with a new culture and thought process though not necessarily change the view point when thinking in the native language.

  9. Davorunner profile image78
    Davorunnerposted 10 years ago

    alqx is right. Thinking is possible without language.

    The reason we have languages is to be able to understand each other, and to express ourselves to one another. The question of if it would affect our subconscious thoughts depends on a lot of things. Largely how much time you spent learning, and how interested you are in your native language. You could be raised in a country and pick up that language, and then move to another where you are more interested in THAT language. Then you would see you'll naturally gravitate towards that way of speaking/thinking.

    Our brains naturally try and allow us to do something in the easiest way possible. Hence, how much time and energy you personally have invested into learning those modes of communication will influence the neuro pathways in your brain. After that your brain will start using the methods or rules of expressing its thoughts that is the most comfortable for it.

    Hope that helps tongue

  10. Bill Manning profile image70
    Bill Manningposted 10 years ago

    I once learned sign language, since I was dating a deaf girl. I'm 90% deaf myself but don't use sign language, since nobody else does around me.

    Anyway it did affect my thoughts, so to speak. With sign you get right to the point, not using all those "filler" words we do.

    It felt harsh and clunky, like I was talking like a little kid. It seemed harder to really express the finer points of what I was trying to say.

    I would feel better when switching back to spoken English and being able to put all those "fine tuning" words together, so to speak. smile

  11. Evan G Rogers profile image61
    Evan G Rogersposted 10 years ago

    learning a new language and a new culture (the two are mildly intertwined) does indeed change the way you think.

    You see new ways of saying the same thing. You see majority vs. minority issues differently. and numerous other things.

    You realize what a language is, and what humans have in common: why is it that every language uses nouns and verbs (at least, in some form)? You start to see how racism and slang and dialects are all interconnected.

    Yes. It does.


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