Has your way of thinking radically changed since you learned a new language?
Thread poster: RafaLee

Local time: 10:37
Spanish to English
+ ...
Jun 14, 2004

Dear my collegues,

An Arabic proverb "New language new human (Lisan Jadeed, Insan Jadeed)" points out that every language has got its unique perspectives and logic.
Do you think your way of thinking has changed since you learned a new language?



Harry Bornemann  Identity Verified
English to German
+ ...
It probably has Jun 14, 2004

.. but I am not aware of it. And I think my way of seeing things has changed a lot with every country and environment I lived in. This has had a much greater impact than learning a language at school.icon_smile.gif


Lesley Clarke  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:37
Spanish to English
yes Jun 14, 2004

Mind you it is so long ago now, and Spanish and English are not a million miles apart, but I've always preferred the Spanish way of referring to a child who is misbehaving as "malcriado" (badly brought up)to the English tendency to say that a child is bad.

Many years ago I read a book about a man from Tajikistan (I think it was) who went to Istambul to study at the university before the first world war, and every subject was taught in the language they considered most suitable for it. Mathematics in one language, philosophy in another. They used four or five languages in all.

Long live differences!


Narasimhan Raghavan  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:07
English to Tamil
+ ...
I remember how I changed Jun 14, 2004

Before 1969 I did not know any foreign language other than English. In those days whenever I saw war movies, I saw the Germans as the bad guys. But within a very short period of just a few weeks after my German classes started, I started feeling sorry, whenever I saw Germany at the receving end. The film "The Sound of Music" made me fall in love with Austria and the city of Salzburg.


Parrot  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:37
Spanish to English
+ ...
There's a very long old forum thread on "Untranslatables" Jun 14, 2004

That could be enlightening for you.


Generally, a word that doesn't exist in another language represents a perception that could well be "new" in the culture of the target language. Once you have perceived the concept, it can't help but change you.

As a child in Germany hopelessly mixing up all the expressive media available, I couldn't help but notice it was difficult to explain feelings so easily encountered in one language and absent in another. Studies on linguistic anthropology seem to bear out your Arab proverb.


Seadeta Osmani  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:37
English to Croatian
+ ...
For me, yes Jun 14, 2004

Every language, I believe, is a reflection of a culture which brought it to life, and each culture has its own perspective, which has been deeply planted in its language, customs, music, literature, etc.

Knowing Croatian, Albanian, English,..., I have noticed that some languages have so very well fitted words or phrases for some feelings or situations, while those words and phrases are missing in other languages—and to my surprize, I have concluded that it is not so because some cultures know some feelings and others don't, but mostly because in some cultures people do talk and recognize them, while in others those feelings or situations are supressed, tabued, ignored, etc. Languages evolve as their cultures evolve. Knowing more languages makes me know myself better, see myself from different angles.

Unfortunately, not all people are open to this change. Some learn a language for business purposes only. And they miss a lot!

All the best,


[Edited at 2004-06-14 23:57]


Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:37
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
You learn a lot of words at school... but do they make up a language? Jun 15, 2004

Harry_B wrote:

.. but I am not aware of it. And I think my way of seeing things has changed a lot with every country and environment I lived in. This has had a much greater impact than learning a language at school.icon_smile.gif

It's hard to learn a language properly at school, though maybe easier nowadays with tapes, videos and ways of experiencing the country and people 'live', not just books.

Over 40 years ago, I started French at 7 and went past over 20 French teachers at five different schools! I learnt a lot of new words and still thought in English until much, much later, when I learnt French as an adult.

German was more of a challenge - you can't just write English sentences with German words!! Besides, I was older, starting at 16. It was a battle, but I remember thinking on new lines and seeing new perspectives.

At 25 I fell in love with a Dane and had to learn Danish in Copenhagen. That changed my perspectives! I learnt the language, not just a lot of words, but the history behind them and how the ideas fitted together. Danish and English are actually closely related, and yet so different, because the people are different. Now Danish is practically my second native language... and I often think the Danish way, not just in Danish.

I came back to French and German and learnt a lot more - in much the same way as Narasimhan. The words I already knew took on new shades of meaning.

A language is so much more than words and grammar - and if it doesn't start you thinking in new ways, then you have not learnt it properly.


Monique Laville  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:37
Italian to French
+ ...
I wonder Jun 15, 2004

how I was before I knew two languages! I have two mother tongues, french and german and when I was a child I used to speak french with my parents and german (a dialect used in Lorraine) with my grandmother, mother's sister, cousin and friends. My father would never be able to learn any other language than french and my grandmother would never learn french. So I became an interpreter when I was a child, taking care of interpreting only what I considered as necessary, avoiding to interprete words which had an offensive meaning, stupid french (my grandmother to my father), yes my commanding officer (my father to my grandmother) and so on. My grandmother and my father would of course understand each other's offensive words but pretended not to. When we lived at my grandmother's place I would speak german all the time, except at school where it was forbidden. I don't speak german any more.
Even if my father would not be able to learn another language, he wanted to see the world. I was 6 when we went to central america, 9 when we went to Madagascar where we stayed a few years. There I learned and spoke Malagash with my malagashian friends and would, when requested, serve as an interpreter for the adults. I would also learn a few words of english, and would hear it from time to time.

I then learned english at school and happened to have an exceptional english teacher when I was at the grammar school (in France). A trip to Italy was the opportunity to learn italian. I have now been living in Italy and trying to learn italian for nearly 20 years.

Surely learning another language changes you. You not only learn words, you unconsciously learn something which goes beyond the words you learn, a sort of unspoken view of the world. Any culture has it's own way of seeing the world, there would be no war otherwise. Anyway, I think that you never really penetrate another culture if you are not born with it. You learn a new language, a new culture measuring it from your own mother tongue and culture.

If knowing more than one language surely is an advantage, I find it quite confusing sometimes and have the feeling of not having any roots.


Harry Bornemann  Identity Verified
English to German
+ ...
Epiphytic Jun 15, 2004

Monique Laville wrote:
...If knowing more than one language surely is an advantage, I find it quite confusing sometimes and have the feeling of not having any roots.

Maybe you have air roots?
Epiphytic plants are among the most fascinating of all tropicals. Epiphytes include most orchids, many bromeliads, all staghorn ferns and other amazing plants.

Amazing because they do not require soil to grow. Because there is no soil, watering is, in the main, via humidity.


[Edited at 2004-06-15 09:22]


Monique Laville  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:37
Italian to French
+ ...
Thanks Harry Jun 17, 2004

I will do with my air roots.icon_smile.gif


Nathan Pitman
I find this to be an interesting topic Nov 29, 2004

I am a native English speaker (and high school student). I have always wondered whether my French teacher (whose mother tongue is either English or Welsh) actually thinks in French or English (i.e. in mathematics and everyday life).
I am learning French and Latin and I am in my third school year of Latin (the first year was truly only and introductory half year of Latin) and I've fallen in love with the language because I like learning the peculiarities of languages (and, to be honest, I'm quite pedantic regarding words). Rather than just learning new vocabulary, I see an interesting etymology behind words and an insight into history. Since learning a new language, I am happy that I've learned to look at the history behind words.


Local time: 00:37
Latin & Greek Jan 12, 2005

I started to learn Latin at 15. I liked this language so much that for the next two years I decided to take Latin & Ancient Greek as optional courses, and then I got a BA in Classics. I couldn't hardly imagine how could I think rationally before I had studied Latin. When I face a problem (translating, writing an article or a report, organising a large database, analysing a dodecaphonic piece of music, organising a party, facing a job interview - things I usually do, or used to do), I proceed just as if I had to read and understand a Thucydides' test - calm and analysis.

[Edited at 2005-01-14 11:42]


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