To have a second language is to have a second soul
Thread poster: Jacek Krankowski
Jacek Krankowski  Identity Verified
English to Polish
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Jan 3, 2003

Check which one is now in command by asking yourself what adjectives you would use to describe a key or a bridge. Read on:

You are what you speak

New Scientist vol 176 issue 2371 - 30 November 2002, page 34

Alison Motluk meets the psychologists who aim to show that your mother tongue

really does affect the way you see the world

DOES the language you speak influence the way you think? Does it help define

your world view? Anyone who has tried to master a foreign tongue has at

least considered the possibility. And those who have ever had cause to

remonstrate with a foreign lover may even be convinced.

At first glance, the idea seems perfectly plausible. Conveying even simple

messages requires that you make completely different observations depending

on your language. Imagine being asked to count some pens on a table. As an

English speaker, you only have to count them and give the number - let\'s say

there are 11. But a Russian also has to consider what gender the pens are

(neuter), then use the neuter form of the word for 11. And a Japanese

speaker has to take into account their shape (long and cylindrical) as well,

and use the word for 11 designated for items of that form.

On the other hand, surely pens are just pens, no matter what your language

compels you to specify about them? Little linguistic peculiarities, though

amusing, don\'t change the objective world we are describing. So how can they

alter the way we think?

Scientists and philosophers have been grappling with this thorny question

for centuries. There have always been those who argue that our picture of

the Universe depends on our native tongue. Since the 1960s, however, with

the ascent of thinkers like Noam Chomsky and a host of cognitive scientists,

the consensus has been that linguistic differences don\'t really matter, that

language is a universal human trait, and that our ability to talk to one

another owes more to our shared genetics than to our varying cultures. But

now the pendulum is beginning to swing the other way as psychologists

re-examine the question.

This new generation of scientists is not convinced that language is innate

and hard-wired into our brain. \"Language is not just notation,\" says Dan

Slobin of the University of California at Berkeley. \"The brain is shaped by

experience.\" Slobin and others say that small, even apparently insignificant

differences between languages do affect the way speakers perceive the world.

\"Some people argue that language just changes what you attend to,\" says Lera

Boroditsky of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. \"But what you

attend to changes what you encode and remember.\" In short, it changes how

you think.

To start with the simplest and perhaps subtlest example, preparing to say

something in a particular language demands that you pay attention to certain

things and ignore others. In Korean, for instance, simply to say hello you

need to know if you\'re older or younger than the person you\'re addressing.

Even a day\'s difference can matter. Spanish speakers have to decide whether

a relationship is intimate enough to employ tu or formal enough to require

Usted. In Japanese, simply deciding which form of the word \"I\" to use

demands complex calculations involving your age, the age of the person

you\'re speaking to, your gender, their gender and your relative status.

This process is what Slobin calls \"thinking for speaking\" and he argues that

it can have a huge impact on what we deem important and, ultimately, how we

think about the world. To give another example, about a third of the world\'s

languages describe location in \"absolute\" terms: speakers of many Pacific

island languages, for example, would say \"north of the tree\" or \"seaward

from the tree\" rather than \"beside the tree\", as we might in English. In

these languages, you always need to know where you are in relation to fixed

external reference points, says Slobin. \"Even when you are in a windowless

room, or travelling in a bus in the dark,\" he says, \"you must know your

location relative to the fixed points in order to talk about events and

locations.\" So, even if you didn\'t use the word \"north\" in conversation, you

would always know where it was.

Whether your language places an emphasis on an object\'s shape, substance or

function also seems to affect your relationship with the world, according to

John Lucy, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in

Nijmegen in the Netherlands. He has compared American English with Yucatec

Maya, spoken in Mexico\'s Yucatan Peninsula. Among the many differences

between the two languages is the way objects are classified. In English,

shape is implicit in many nouns. We think in terms of discrete objects, and

it is only when we want to quantify amorphous things like sugar that we

employ units such as \"cube\" or \"cup\". But in Yucatec, objects tend to be

defined by separate words that describe shape. So, for example, a \"long thin

wax\" is a candle. Likewise, \"long banana\" describes the fruit, while \"flat

banana\" means \"banana leaf\" and a \"seated banana\" is a \"banana tree\".

To find out if this classification system has any far-reaching effects on

how people think, Lucy asked English and Yucatec-speaking volunteers to do a

likeness task. In one experiment, he gave them three combs and asked which

two were most alike. One was plastic with a handle, another wooden with a

handle, the third plastic without a handle. English speakers thought the

combs with handles were more alike, but Yucatec speakers felt the two

plastic combs were. In another test, Lucy used a plastic box, a cardboard

box and a piece of cardboard. The Americans thought the two boxes belonged

together, whereas the Mayans chose the two cardboard items. In other words,

Americans focused on form, while the Mayans focused on substance.

But how significant are these findings? \"Yucatec people don\'t live in a

world of artefacts,\" says Paul Bloom from Yale University. \"If you could get

these results in the Japanese I\'d be convinced.\" Similar studies with

Japanese speakers, however, have proved inconclusive.

Undeterred, Lucy points to his own studies indicating that all young

children tend to focus on the same qualities - shape in the case of objects

like combs and boxes, and material when it\'s something amorphous like sugar.

Then, at about the age of eight, differences begin to emerge that reflect

language. \"Everyone comes with the same possibilities,\" he says, \"but

there\'s a tendency to make the world fit into our [linguistic] categories.\"

Boroditsky argues that even artificial classification systems, such as

gender, can be important. To an English speaker, the idea that words can

arbitrarily be considered male or female or neutral is peculiar. It makes no

sense that words like \"bra\" and \"uterus\" can be masculine while \"penis\" can

be feminine. What\'s more, there is no agreement between languages. The word

\"sun\" is neutral in Russian, feminine in German, and masculine in Spanish.

Some psychologists argue that these inconsistencies suggest gender is just a

meaningless tag. Boroditsky disagrees. To construct sentences in these

languages, she says, you end up thinking about gender - even if it\'s

arbitrary - thousands of times every day.

To test how this affects the way people think, she presented Spanish and

German-speaking volunteers with nouns that happened to have opposite genders

in their native tongues. \"Key\", for instance, is feminine in Spanish and

masculine in German, and \"bridge\" is masculine in Spanish and feminine in

German. Boroditsky asked the volunteers to come up with adjectives - in

English - to describe these items. German speakers described keys as

\"awkward\", \"worn\", \"jagged\" and \"serrated\", while Spanish speakers saw them

as \"little\", \"lovely\", \"magic\" and \"intricate\". To Germans, bridges were

\"awesome\", \"beautiful\", \"fragile\" and \"elegant\", whereas Spanish speakers

considered them \"big\", \"dangerous\", \"solid\", \"strong\" and \"sturdy\".

\"These are really gender-laden terms,\" says Boroditsky. She confirmed this

by asking a team of \"gender-blind\" English speakers to rate the adjectives

used in these responses as either masculine, feminine or neutral.

Oosative or soupative?

Critics argued that perhaps the classification of objects according to

gender has more to do with people\'s culture than the language they use. So

Boroditsky took English speakers and taught them a made-up language, called

Gumbuzi. In Gumbuzi, words were categorised according to gender-neutral

labels \"oosative\" or \"soupative\". Oosatives included a fork, an apple and a

guitar. Soupatives included a spoon, a pear and a violin. And as well as

remembering the Gumbuzi word for each object, volunteers had to remember

which category they belonged to. She then assigned pictures of ballerinas

and brides, or boys and kings, arbitrarily to either group.

Despite the fact that the English-speaking volunteers had no experience of

gender assignment in their native tongue, when the picture of the violin was

lumped in with the feminine images, they described it as \"artsy\", \"curvy\"

and \"delicate\", whereas when it was with the masculine pictures, people

described it as \"impressive\", \"shiny\" and \"noisy\".

The Gumbuzi speakers showed all the same effects as the German and Spanish

speakers, says Boroditsky. And she has an idea why. Afterwards, when asked

how they remembered which items belonged in which category, the volunteers

admitted they\'d focused on male or female attributes. \"If you can make

something meaningful, you can remember much better,\" says Boroditsky.

She suspects that this same process may be happening, albeit less

intentionally, while we learn real languages. \"The private mental lives of

people who speak different languages can be very different,\" she argues.

\"This is incredibly important if you are interested in the way people


But critics, including Lila Gleitman from the University of Pennsylvania,

are unconvinced. She says the questions that Boroditsky asks her volunteers

make no sense, so people just guess at an answer. It\'s a bit like studies

where people are asked: \"Which is the better example of an odd number, 7 or

15?\" and most people answer \"7\". \"If you can\'t make head nor tail of the

question,\" says Gleitman, \"you do the best you can.\" Bloom, too, has

reservations. He believes that for gender influences to be significant in

altering our world views they would have to spill out into other domains. To

test whether this does happen, Boroditsky is currently analysing bridge

design in countries that speak Spanish or German.

The general consensus is that while the experiments done by Lucy, Boroditsky

and others may be intriguing, they are not compelling enough to shift the

orthodox view that language does not have a strong bearing on thought or

perception. The classic example used by Chomskians to back this up is

colour. Over the years, many researchers have tried to discover whether

linguistic differences in categorising colours lead to differences in

perceiving them. Colours, after all, fall on a continuous spectrum, so we

shouldn\'t be surprised if one person\'s \"red\" is another person\'s \"orange\".

Yet most studies suggest that people agree on where the boundaries are,

regardless of the colour terms used in their own language.

But it\'s not as simple as that. Some studies - including one of

hunter-gatherers from New Guinea called the Berinmo - do suggest that

language affects our interpretation of colours. Other findings are open to

debate. Besides, Boroditsky and others argue that colour is not the best

example to test their idea because it can be observed directly. They believe

language may wield its strongest influence in abstract domains, such as

concepts of time, love, numbers and political ideas, where sensory

information can\'t really help.

Consider time. Many languages use spatial terms to describe it. In English,

we say things like \"The best is ahead of us\" or \"We\'re behind schedule\" or

\"Let\'s move the meeting forward\". To English speakers, in other words, time

is horizontal and the future lies ahead. In Mandarin, however, time is

vertical, springing up from the ground like oil from a well, and this is

reflected in the phrases that Mandarin speakers use to talk about it. Point

to the future and it\'s down, not straight out. But does this little

distinction matter?

To find out, Boroditsky took Chinese volunteers bilingual in Mandarin and

English and had them watch fish swimming on a computer screen - in some

cases vertically, and in others horizontally. In English, she asked

questions like, \"Does March come earlier or later than April?\" She reasoned

that if her volunteers were thinking about time vertically, then the fish

swimming straight up the screen should speed up those thoughts, and the

opposite should be true for other volunteers who spoke only English. This is

indeed what she found. Boroditsky sees this as evidence that people think of

time in fundamentally different ways depending on their native tongue. But

Gleitman is quick to counter that we can be taught very easily to think of

time in different ways - and that Boroditsky\'s own follow-up studies confirm


Perhaps more compelling is the idea that the language you speak

systematically influences your interpretation of events that you don\'t

witness yourself, but only hear about. \"Almost everything we know about the

world comes through language,\" Slobin points out. Speech allows us to

experience the world vicariously in a way that no other animal can. We tend

to assume that a description conveys the same message whatever the language.

But if Slobin is correct, the language we use may alter our understanding of

everything from current affairs and history to politics and celebrity


He wanted to know if the way languages convey action could have a bearing on

how we visualise events and what we feel about them. We all live in the same

objective world, but different languages focus on different aspects of it.

In languages such as English, Dutch, Russian, Finnish and Mandarin, for

instance, verbs are very expressive in describing the way action takes

place. Other languages, such as Spanish, French, Italian, Hebrew and

Turkish, tend to use simpler action words, such as \"go\", then perhaps add a

few words to indicate how the subject moved, for instance, \"while running\".

The former languages provide manner \"for free\", while the latter have to

append it - and often don\'t even bother.

Bilingual people report that news seems much more dynamic, full of energy

and violent when written in a language like English. Examples in newspapers

appear to bear that out. Describing a confrontation between Greenpeace and

the authorities, one British paper, The Guardian, described how French

troops \"stormed\" the boat and \"clambered\" aboard, and how Greenpeace

\"breached\" the exclusion zone to \"power\" across the lagoon in dinghies. Le

Figaro, a French paper, wrote that French authorities \"took control\" of the

vessel and that activists were \"crossing the limits\" into French territorial


This led Slobin to wonder whether speakers of languages with prosaic verbs

compensate somehow, perhaps by mentally embellishing simple words with extra

action. To test this idea he gave English and Spanish monolinguals passages

to read from Spanish-language novels. English speakers read direct, not

literary, translations. So, for example, a passage from Isabel Allende\'s

novel La Casa de los Espiritus read in English like this:

\"He picked up his bags and started to walk through the mud and stones of a

path that led to the town. He walked for more than ten minutes, grateful

that it was not raining, because it was only with difficulty that he was

able to advance along the path with his heavy suitcases, and he realised

that the rain would have converted it in a few seconds into an impassable


Afterwards, Slobin asked the volunteers to describe the way the protagonist

moved - and found the opposite of what he had predicted. The English

speakers reported rich mental imagery for the way the character \"stumbled\"

and \"trudged\" into town. Very few of the Spanish speakers, from Mexico,

Chile and Spain, did so. Most of them said nothing at all about the way the

protagonist moved and in fact reported seeing \"static images\".

What\'s more, Spanish-English bilinguals showed the same dichotomy. After

reading the Spanish version, they reported clear images of the man\'s

physical surroundings but said things like, \"I don\'t see any sort of

detailed action.\" Yet a typical response from the very same people,

answering the same question about the same passage written in English, was:

\"I can see more concrete walking and can sort of make out a pace... The

story feels different.\" So, far from embellishing, people using languages

like Spanish that lack colourful verbs apparently don\'t pay much attention

to motion. \"I find the Allende findings really puzzling,\" admits Slobin.

For the moment, Slobin and others are scratching their heads trying to

understand some of their findings but, if it does turn out that the language

we speak influences the way we think, the implications are far-reaching. We

already know that each language is unique and provides its own insights into

human history and culture, but if they also provide different ways of seeing

the world then they are even more valuable than we had assumed. \"We need all

of this kind of data to understand human nature,\" says Slobin.

And with at least half of the world\'s 6000 languages likely to disappear

over the next century, scientists are racing to learn what they can about

them. When languages become extinct, warns Slobin, so do some of their

unique insights. Boroditsky agrees. \"Some languages may have invented

certain ways of thinking that could be useful to us,\" she says. \"We don\'t

even know what treasures there are.\"

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Antonella Andreella  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:53
German to Italian
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Agree agree agree! Jan 3, 2003

Happy New Year


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Jacek Krankowski  Identity Verified
English to Polish
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Another article by Dan Slobin Jan 3, 2003

Buon Anno anche a te, Antonella, e a tutti quanti!

Language and Thought

by Dan Slobin of the University of California, Berkeley

No one would disagree with the claim that language and thought interact in

many significant ways. There is great disagreement, however, about the

proposition that each specific language has its own influence on the thought

and action of its speakers. On the one hand, anyone who has learned more

than one language is struck by the many ways in which languages differ from

one another. But on the other hand, we expect human beings everywhere to

have similar ways of experiencing the world.

Comparisons of different languages can lead one to pay attention to

\'universals\'--the ways in which all languages are similar, and to

\'particulars\' --the ways in which

each individual language, or type of language, is special, even unique.

(...) Because it is so difficult to pin down effects of a

particular language on a particular thought pattern, this issue remains

unresolved. It comes in and out of fashion and often evokes considerable

energy in efforts to support or refute it.

There are two problems to confront in this arena: linguistic relativity and

linguistic determinism. Relativity is easy to demonstrate. In order to speak

any language, you have to pay attention to the meanings that are

grammatically marked in that language. For example, in English it is

necessary to mark the verb to indicate the time of occurrence of an event

you are speaking about: It\'s raining; It rained; and so forth. In Turkish,

however, it is impossible to simply say, \'It rained last night\'. This

language, like many American Indian languages, has more than one past tense,

depending on one\'s source of knowledge of the event. In Turkish, there are

two past tenses--one to report direct experience and the other to report

events that you know about only by inference or hearsay. Thus, if you were

out in the rain last night, you will say, \'It rained last night\' using the

past-tense form that indicates that you were a witness to the rain; but if

you wake up in the morning and see the wet street and garden, you are

obliged to use the other past-tense form--the one that indicates that you

were not a witness to the rain itself.

Differences of this sort have fascinated linguists and anthropologists for

centuries. They have reported hundreds of facts about \'exotic\' languages,

such as verbs that are marked or chosen according to the shape of an object

that is being handled (Navajo) or for the relative ages of speaker and

hearer (Korean). Such facts are grist for the mill of linguistic relativity.

And, indeed, they can be found quite readily in \'nonexotic\' languages as

well. To cite a fact about English that is well known to linguists: It is

not appropriate to say Richard Nixon has worked in Washington, but it is

perfectly OK to say Gerald Ford has worked in Washington. Why? English

restricts the present perfect tense (\'has worked\') to assertions about

people who are alive. Exotic!

Proponents of linguistic determinism argue that such differences between

languages influence the ways people think--perhaps the ways in which whole

cultures are organized. (...) [\'The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis\']

How can such bold claims be substantiated beyond examination of individual

languages themselves? If one takes the hypothesis seriously, it should be

possible to show that Turks are more sensitive to evidence than are

Americans, but that Americans are more aware of death than Turks. Clearly,

the hypothesis cannot be supported on so grand a level. Rather, experimental

psychologists and cognitive anthropologists have sought to find small

differences, on controlled tasks, between speakers of various languages.

Maybe Navajos are somewhat more sensitive to shapes of objects, for example.

The results have been mixed. In most cases, human thought and action are

overdetermined by an array of causes, so the structure of language may not

play a central causal role. Linguistic determinism can best be demonstrated

in situations in which language is the principal means of drawing people\'s

attention to a particular aspect of experience. For example, if you

regularly speak a language in which you must pick a form of second-person

address (you) that marks your social relationship to your interlocutor--such

as Spanish tu (\'you\' for friends and family and for those socially

subordinate) vs. usted (\'you\' for those socially above in status or for

those with whom you have no close connection) or French tu versus vous--you

must categorize every person you talk to in terms of the relevant social

dimensions. (As a thought experiment of linguistic determinism, think of the

categorizations of social relationships that would have to be made if

Spanish became the common language of the United States.)

Going beyond thought experiments, some of the most convincing research

demonstrating some degree of linguistic determinism is being conducted under

the direction of Stephen C. Levinson at the Max Planck Institute for

Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Levinson and his

collaborators distinguish between languages that describe spatial relations

in terms of the body (like English \'right/left\', \'front/back\') and those

that orient to fixed points in the environment (like \'north/south/east/west\'

in some aboriginal Australian languages). In a language of the second type

one would refer, for example, to \'your north shoulder\' or \'the bottle at the

west end of the table\'; in narrating a past event, one would have to

remember how the actions related to the compass points. Thus, in order to

speak this type of language, you always have to know where you are with

respect to the compass points, whether you are speaking or not. And

Levinson\'s group have shown, in extensive cross-linguistic and cross-cultur

studies, that this is, in fact, the case.

Much more research needs to be done, but it is not likely that the

Sapir-Whorf hypothesis will be supported in the strong form quoted above.

For one, language is only one factor that influences cognition and behavior.

For another, if the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis were really true, second language

learning and translation would be far harder than they are. However, because

language is so pervasive--and because we must always make cognitive

decisions while speaking--weaker versions of the hypothesis will continue to

attract scientific attention.

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Jacek Krankowski  Identity Verified
English to Polish
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Some advantages of having a second language, hence a second soul Jan 3, 2003

A combination of studies support the idea that bilingual children (as opposed to monolingual) show advantages in the domain of cognitive flexibility. Lambert urges the development of additive forms of bilingualism and biculturalism as a means of easing pressure on ethnic groups.

He presents four possible effects of becoming bilingual which may play on the individual:

Identification with one\'s own cultural background

Identification with the host culture

View self as having dual allegiance; socially competent and accepted by both groups

View ethnic labeling and identification as irrelevant

Bilingualism/biculturalism is not synonymous with identity loss, and there are rewards in holding a dual heritage. To foster this condition, however, a strong educational exposure to one\'s mother tongue initially, and an additive bilingual program throughout schooling must exist.

Lambert, Wallace E. 1977. “The effects of bilingualism on the individual: Cognitive and sociocultural consequences.” Bilingualism: Psychological, social, and educational implications, edited by Peter A. Hornby. New York: Academic Press. 15--27.

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Francesco Barbuto  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:53
English to Italian
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Wonderful, indeed. Mar 16, 2003

Valued Jacek,

I am really interested in Linguistics and Semiotics.

I have found your posting on these subjects very interesting.

It is indeed a thorny matter to tell apart language from mind; however

I think there must be a basic connection and connotation between mind and language.

I can venture to the conclusion that languages do indeed give form to

the way people think and, consequently, express themselves.

However, among many diverse languages (codes) we find some \"languages\"

really particular and characteristic, shared almost in the very same form

by all human beings: mathematics, for instance, is one of such languages (codes).

Regarding these same languages, what must we come about to? Can we assert

that even mathematics is characterized by the native language a mathematician is fluent in?;

because, a mathematician thinks in his own native language about entietis, such as: numbers, relations, etc.,

that are fairly universal, apart from the way they are \"coded\" (spelled) in a particular language.

What is your opinion?

[ This Message was edited by:fbarbutoon2003-03-17 16:31]

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Neon  Identity Verified
English to Russian
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But a Russian also has to consider Apr 11, 2003

>But a Russian also has to consider what >gender the pens are

>(neuter), then use the neuter form of the >word for 11

I don\'t want to let anyone sin against the truth!

pen is feminine (not neuter)

There\'s no neuter form of cardinal numerals in Russian. They have no gender. They change by case only.

When you say in Russian how many pens are on the table you use 11 (unchangeable here) and than genitive case of \'pens\'

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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:53
English to French
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My two cents May 4, 2003

I am Hungarian born and have lived in Quebec, Canada since childhood. My REAL native language would be Hungarian, but since I have lived more in Quebec than in Hungary, and most importantly, since most of my cultural and intellectual growth happened in Quebec, I should rather say that my native languages are French and English.

I practice all three languages on a daily basis and one of my main motivations to speak to family members every day is - this will sound so insensitive - to keep my original native language alive in me. I also browse the net in different languages, switching languages every few days, depending on my mood - (proof that language IS closely related with mind). I have three separate MSN explorer profiles on the same computer, one for each language.

The way I see it all, the fact that I actively use those languages affects my mind tremendously. In fact, I go as far as believing that knowledge of several languages can raise a person\'s IQ, thereby allowing them to have a broader, more complete view of things. I have been monitoring my IQ and it has steadily been rising as I built up my linguistic skills. Another thing I noticed is that the more linguistic abilities I acquire, the smaller the difference between IQ test results in different languages.

As you all know, IQ tests are supposed to be done in your native language. By age 16, I had a lot of trouble identifying my native language and did not quite know what language to take the test in. So I took it in all three languages (at different moments in the same year) and found out that although I knew my French and English perfectly well, my result in Hungarian was visibly better. English was my \"worst\" language. This would mean that I was still thinking in Hungarian more than in the other two languages.

As I revisit this issue time after time (redoing tests in different languages), I seem to notice that the gap between the languages was gradually filled over the years. Test results in Hungarian have risen slightly, while French has increased steadily and English is almost catching up with the rest with a significant improvement.

Another observation of mine that leads me to think that there exists a strong link between language and mind is the following. When I think, sometimes I use one language, sometimes another and the choice of the \"thinking language\" seems to be random and out of my control. Also, the intervals at which I switch thinking languages vary between a matter of seconds and entire days. I will want to say something to someone and the first word sometimes comes in a language that the other person doesn\'t understand. I surprise myself thinking in a language not related at all to the conversation I am having at the moment, yet I am thinking about what the person just said to me in their language. But half the time, I will think in the language of the person I am talking to. The same thing occurs when I dream. It is especially dreams that hold the most clues to me in this matter. My mother does not speak a word of English, yet she speaks to me in English in my dreams, and sometimes she does in Hungarian or in French. It still is always her voice, even if my MEMORY cannot recall her speaking English. And she sounds perfect. Obviously, I am not fooling myself. Also, when I tell someone about a movie I saw three weeks ago and they ask whether I saw the English or the French version, most of the time, I simply cannot give an answer. I remember the subject of the film, the characters, specific things that have been said by characters, colours of objects, etc. I can sometimes recount the whole movie. But I can almost never tell which language I saw it in. My mind seems to disregard the language as long as it is one I understand.

I think that this realization in itself is a relevant clue for the subject.

I too believe that the native language will influence the logic and patterns of thinking of a person, the same way culture will. After all, language is a part of culture. But when a person speaks several languages, I find that the logic acquired from the native language and the one acquired from the second language are fused together. If French is a zoom and English is night vision, I could say that I see things through a zoom and night vision at the same time. Simply put, the knowledge of several languages, in my opinion, provides their speaker with a broader view on everything in general.

A skill I noticed I have started to improve at a significantly higher speed since I have started in linguistics is the association, in my mind, of things that at first sight seem unrelated to each other. Finding the missing link. I feel that as my linguistic skills develop, so does my sense of understanding. It is true that with the languages I speak (those mentioned above and others spoken with less proficiency) give me a chance to travel and be understood in most countries of the world. I can converse with residents of 80% of the planet, whereas unilingual people can only communicate, in average, with 20% of the citizens of Earth.

I esteem that knowledge of language contributes to a person\'s intellectual abilities the same way mathematics do. You will most likely never consciously use your knowledge of algebra again after high school (unless you want a career in science), but you will subconsciously apply its principles to most everything you touch until you die. Often, it is this knowledge that will help you to succeed whereas you wouldn\'t have succeeded had you missed your algebra classes.

Conclusion: language and mind are interrelated. Language, among other things, shapes a person\'s mind. Of course, this is just my humble opinion, and I am not a scientist. But my personal experience suggests that language is much more relevant to the capacities of the mind than it seems.

Any other people out there with several native languages are welcome to comment. Anybody else feels like me?

P.S.: I perfectly agree with the above example of 11 pens. It is true, in my opinion, that, depending on your language, you will use a different process to get to the same answer.

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Except for Aug 8, 2003

Neon wrote:

There's no neuter form of cardinal numerals in Russian. They have no gender.

Except for the numeral "one" which does have 3 genders. Could that have misled the author with respect to "11"?

Also "two" has genders.

[Edited at 2003-08-11 07:57]

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