Language is a concept used for communication. There are roughly 6,500 different languages spoken around the world, however 2,000 of them have fewer than 1,000 speakers. Nevertheless, there are huge differences in many of those languages, and these differences in language change the way we think.
Language is a result of sense perception, as the concept of communication requires different senses like hearing, and often sight (non-verbal communication). As we were discussing sense perception in class, we said that the result of sense perception is influenced by interpretation. Does this mean, that language, a concept resulting in the interaction of different senses, is also influenced by our interpretation, and, if every human being interprets things differently, or at least everybody who speaks a different language interprets things differently from people who speak a different language, think differently?
As the article ‘How language shapes thought’ says, there is a connection between the native language we speak and our perception of the world. This is particularly interesting for me, since I am not a native english speaker, and although German and English are quite similar languages, they have their differences. So I wonder now, whether I, even now that I have learned to speak the language better, can think like my english friends and whether, although I might understand the literal meaning of what they are saying, I can really say that I can speak English due to the differences there may be in the interpretation of their speeches.
As I have said before, German is quite close to the English language, therefore I don’t think there are going to be major differences in the interpretation of what is being said. However, at my school, there are also many students from Hong Kong and China, and there are big differences between English and Mandarin/Cantonese, which implies that their interpretation is very different.
The article I have mentioned earlier, which we were discussing in class, language has a huge impact on how we perceive our surroundings. For example, people that speak a language where there is no left or right, only north, east, south and west in general have a better orientation because they need to know the cardinal direction just to be able to speak properly. This implies they have a better perception of their surroundings simply because it is required by their language.
Language can also influence the way we think about concepts like time. There were experiments investigating the effect of language had on the speakers perception of time. For example, British and German speakers would always regard time going from left to right; and show the process of ageing using pictures starting left with the picture which shows the object when it was the youngest at the left and finishing at the right showing the object when it is the oldest. This is due to the fact that both of these languages are written form left to right, i.e. processes from left to right. However, a Hebrew speaker would arrange the pictures from right to left because he regards time as advancing from right to left. Hebrew is written from right to left which explains this phenomenon.
This shows that language has an impact on our interpretation of different languages, but also on our interpretation of the whole world and concepts as time.