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  • So, do we think differently in different languages?

  • Okay.

  • (Speaking Russian)

  • Sorry, it's like a tongue twister.

  • [Do we think differently in different languages?]

  • That's a brilliant question.

  • [There are over 7000 languages in the world.]

  • [Does that mean there are 7000 ways of seeing it?]

  • The Whorfian hypothesis as it's known, which is the idea that our language affects our thinking, has been debated for decades, even centuries.

  • There's a growing amount of experimental evidence that differences across languages have an influence on the way speakers of those languages conceive of the world.

  • We can see that different languages structure the world in different ways, they carve up the various continua and different types of relations in the world.

  • The way that different languages chop up the world almost can vary, and that does actually influence how you see that world.

  • I think language changes everything about the way you think.

  • I go into a certain mindset, I sound deeper.

  • I don't know why.

  • I perceive situations differently, I react differently.

  • I think I'm more grounded and more in touch with my emotions in German.

  • Yeah, it makes me feel more assertive when I'm speaking Dutch because you just get straight to the point.

  • It's not just for talking.

  • Language is for organising an otherwise messy world into identifiable categories.

  • It gives us ready labels.

  • It's like Lego, you add another word to the word and that makes it more precise.

  • Language in French is super gendered so everything has a masculine or feminine.

  • And it just makes everything feel a bit more one or the other.

  • If you have a word like bridge, if it's in a language where it is carrying a masculine gender then bridges will be described by people slightly differently.

  • So, it might be its usefulness or its power might be more associated with the feminine gender, whereas its strength and its size might be more sort of associated with the masculine gender.

  • The structure of a language forces us to attend to certain aspects of a language... certain aspects of reality that are relevant for a language, at the moment of using that language.

  • It's known as the "thinking for speaking" hypothesis.

  • There's evidence that language involves some kind of image simulation and that that has a consequence for how we perceive of certain events.

  • Color is quite a complex property of a visual world.

  • Your brain is decoding colour in quite a complicated way.

  • So you have many languages that have a term to denote both green and blue and typically we call this a grue term.

  • You find this in languages like the Himba, for example, in the Namibian plains.

  • In this experiment, we asked participants to look at the color tile.

  • And then after 30 seconds we show them the full array of colours and we say: "Now, pick the one that you just saw."

  • And it's a very difficult task if you're an English speaker but a Himba speaker can do it like child's play because that colour is central to them.

  • You simply cannot recognise colours that are not easily encoded in your native language.

  • I think by virtue of being born into a particular culture and the language that goes with that culture we're almost certainly given to think in a particular way.

  • The human brain doesn't work out of the box.

  • You grow up and you're growing up learning languages in particular environments, so you've got...

  • By the time you're dealing with an adult, you're dealing with a brain that has been trained up to be an expert along a number of quite specific dimensions.

  • There's actually another very, very good reason to learn a language.

  • That's simply to gain another perspective on the world.

  • You can actually say a lot more, a lot quicker, in Uzbek than you can in English which is quite interesting.

  • They used to be nomadic which meant that the language has to be a lot quicker because you were speaking to people while moving around and all this kind of stuff.

  • But in a sense, language is culture and culture is language.

  • Speaking a different language is almost a gateway into a completely different cultural understanding.

  • (Speaking Korean) Do we think differently in different languages?

  • (Speaking Russian) Do we think differently in different languages?

  • (Speaking Portuguese) Do we think differently in different languages?

  • Cognitive diversity I think is at the core of human nature.

  • It is probablyif you are looking for universalsdiversity is probably the one true universal of humanity.

  • Thanks for watching.

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So, do we think differently in different languages?

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Do we think differently in different languages? | BBC Ideas

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    Annie Huang posted on 2020/07/01
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