I think it is possible for me to call myself a
multilingual person (I currently speak Polish, English, Spanish and German),
and therefore I decided to analyse the role a language plays on individual’s
ways of knowing and visualizing the image of the world. This topic really
intrigues me as I am an international student and I have contact with people
speaking different languages every day.
On one hand I strongly believe that our experiences
are largely determined by the language we speak, as many different aspects of
thought are in fact influenced by language. Below I present some examples of
the claims on this topic.
Unlike English; Polish, Spanish and German are types
of languages that have grammatical genders associated with nouns (usually these
are feminine and masculine). According to different studies and my own
observations, people who speak with a gendered language tend to see the ‘lifeless’
world through a perspective of various associations and emotions. This can be
one of the reasons that a language we speak can distinctly influence our perception
of the world.
A second thing that I realized speaking different languages
is how we express situations. For instance, we have a case when a glass pot was
broken by someone by an accident. I observed that in English it will often be
said that ‘SOMEONE broke the pot’, whereas Spanish speakers would rather choose
to say that ‘the pot broke ITSELF’ (‘la maceta se rompió’). This proves how the
same situation can be presented from two different points of view – expressed in
different languages. It is noticeable that in these cases the emphasis is put
on distinct elements of the same story, which may lead to diverse ways of
shaping the thoughts on this particular event.
Polish, there are two different words for light blue (b??kitny)
and dark blue (granatowy). Does this mean that
Polish speakers (like me) think of these as ‘different’ colours? What about the
English speakers, who only have one word (‘blue’) to describe the colour? Do
they think of these two colours as one and the same? – I think they might. People
may be influenced by their own language and different understanding of the
words that come up with it – but after all, light blue and dark blue are just
different shades of the same colour. This again proves, how the language can
change the perspective of certain image.
On the other hand I do not agree with the fact that people
who speak different languages see the world differently because of differences
in their language. The fact that there are some variations of expressing
certain phrases or events in different languages, does not mean that the way
someone experienced it was different – just because other words were used to
I think there is much more involved than just a
language in perception of the world. I believe that culture, all the
traditions, and habits that we gain from the environment and society that we
interact with, shapes the final way we think, talk and eventually express
In my opinion, languages we speak do not limit our
knowledge. I believe that even if there were some differences in language, and
eventually an individual would not have some specific expression for certain
idea, the person would still be able to understand the common knowledge and effortlessly
communicate with others.
Another aspect, is the fact that people do not always think
in language – and therefore the language does not necessarily shape the
thoughts. It is easy to imagine different images that would eventually be hard
to describe in words, for instance: melody of your favourite song, or the smell
of a delicious dish.
To conclude, our language and our thoughts are
probably both greatly influenced by our culture. I think that learning a
different language will not greatly influence the way a person thinks. However
it might give you some insight into another ways of living, as languages have
the power to create differences in the perspective of perceiving of the world. Therefore
I think that the language I speak may influence the way I shape my thoughts,
but not fully, as there are also other factors which have an impact on creating
an image of the world.