Lost in Translation


I took Russian for a few years about a decade ago, and was impressed with the details the language gives for certain things - such as motion. For example, instead of just saying someone arrived, one often uses the verb indicating the manner in which they arrived - by walking, car, or flying.

Also indicating who did what to whom and who owns things seemed clearer with the addition of suffixes, which seemed to make sentences such as 'she said that her purse was on fire' less ambiguous. Did she say that her own purse was on fire, or someone elses? If I were better with Russian I'd provide an example, but I'm not so you'll have to Google it.

Anyway, the exactness of the language made me wonder if this made Russians more straightforward and to the point. Or perhaps the exactness of their language helps them in engineering, for example. Honestly, I have no idea, just a suspicion that maybe it might be true.

So, I was pretty excited when I found this article from the Wall St Journal the other day:

"Do the languages we speak shape the way we think? Do they merely express thoughts, or do the structures in languages (without our knowledge or consent) shape the very thoughts we wish to express?"

"New cognitive research suggests that language profoundly influences the way people see the world; a different sense of blame in Japanese and Spanish"

via WSJ