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Off topic: The language of a nation reflects its nature
Thread poster: lingomania

Local time: 15:03
Italian to English
Apr 17, 2007

I have had many talks with colleagues, experts, friends and pub pals about this topic. I have always wondered if the native language of a nation reflects its true natuire and origins. Just to give an example: French reflects the romantic side of France and the French people, English reflects the 'aplomb' aspect of the British, etc. What are your thoughts about this.
Thank you.



Jan Willem van Dormolen  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:03
English to Dutch
+ ...
Nonsense Apr 18, 2007

I don't believe that at all.
What's romantic about French? What's romantic about the French for that matter? Etc.


Angie Garbarino  Identity Verified
Member (2003)
French to Italian
+ ...
Interesting question Apr 18, 2007

Generally speaking I think it is true,
with the exception of Dutch which is avery very harsh language, while Dutch people are very nice, in this case language does not reflect their nature.

Am I right? am I wrong?

Please let me knowicon_smile.gif


Niraja Nanjundan (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:33
German to English
It's about individuals, not nations Apr 18, 2007

I would say that the way individual people speak a language or express themselves in it reflects their own personality and nature, no matter which language it is. Angio finds Dutch a very harsh language, but it could probably sound very sweet too, depending on how a person speaks it!

Best regards,


Özden Arıkan  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:03
English to Turkish
+ ...
Exceptions abound Apr 18, 2007

For example, Turkish is possibly the most rule-respecting languageicon_lol.gif


Henrik Pipoyan  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:03
Member (2004)
English to Armenian
Hi Apr 18, 2007

It does reflect the nature of a nation, like everything else, history, culture, literature, architecture, color of hair, even the climate and landscape of the country, but it doesn’t justify hasty and one-sided conclusions. Note that half of the world, a whole diversity of nations, speak Endo-European languages, so you need a really through and comprehensive analysis to see the differences, which is almost impossible today, otherwise we’ll go back to the times when the form of the skull determined the place of the nation in the world.


Angela Dickson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:03
French to English
+ ...
don't think so Apr 18, 2007

There are many reasons why this can't be the case. It might make for fun pub talk, but the idea won't stand up to any kind of inquiry. For instance:

nations that speak the same language will have to be shown to be similar in ways that can only be caused by the language spoken there. Can you do this? (UK+US+Australia, for example).

National and linguistic origins are very rarely exactly the same thing, though they are often closely intertwined. The French only started speaking French after the Romans arrived, as it seemed like a good idea to adopt the invaders' tongue, and now there are remnants of previous Celtic/Frankish languages in current French, but the language is in essence a Romance one (which, of course, does not make it 'romantic' - what does this mean, anyway?). The history of English is, in many ways, even more complicated.

Language is an essentially arbitrary way of conveying meaning, in any case. I doubt you can demonstrate that there is anything essentially romantic about French, or that English can be shown to possess 'aplomb' in any meaningful way. Or can you?

Am I taking this all too seriously?icon_smile.gif


Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:03
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Of course Apr 18, 2007

Those languages that are spoken deep in the throat, like Portuguese, German, Dutch, especially Swiss German, reflect a deep, philosophical nature, whereas those spoken at the tip of the tongue reflect a superficial way of thought.
Its obvious, or is it?



Anne Koth  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:03
Member (Feb 2018)
German to English
I agree with Jan and Heinrich Apr 18, 2007

Those languages that are spoken deep in the throat, like Portuguese, German, Dutch, especially Swiss German, reflect a deep, philosophical nature, whereas those spoken at the tip of the tongue reflect a superficial way of thought.

Of course, English is a Germanic language spoken way down in the very back of the throat.

I have heard this sort of thing before, usually from people who don't know the language in question that well , à la Murders in the Rue Morgue. I'm always slightly baffled that people think French sounds especially romantic, with its rather staccato rhythm, to be honest. In my experience, people who complain that German sounds gruff or harsh usually don't actually know how to pronounce it!


Local time: 06:03
Language vs nation vs state Apr 18, 2007

Moreover, what is "the language of a nation"? Is French, German, Italian or Romansch the language of Switzerland? Is Spanish the language of Spain (where, at the same time, there are other 3 official languages), Argentina or Mexico? And -to complicate the situation even more-, a nation is not always defined by political borders... Or by linguistic borders, for that matter...

However, I do think that, to some extent, some languages are more adequate for certain subjects than others, but I believe that this is rather a consequence of historical/cultural development rather than some kind of "essentialist" quality (for example, the thing about German being the best language for philosophy and so on).


Juan Jacob  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:03
French to Spanish
+ ...
Languages and horoscope. Apr 18, 2007

If I speak French, I'm romantic.
(I speak French, I'm not romantic).
If I'm Virgo, I'll have a lot of work this month.
(I am Virgo, I'm on holydays this month).
This is nonsense.
400 millions Spanish speakers just can't have the same "nature".


Local time: 06:03
Royal sayings Apr 18, 2007

By the way, this reminds me slightly of a saying which is commonly attributed to Charles I of Spain (who was at the same time the Emperor of Germany and a polyglot). He is reported to have said that English was the best language to do business, French for diplomacy, Italian for love, German to talk to horses (?) and Spanish to talk to God.

[Editado a las 2007-04-18 19:09]


Local time: 09:03
Arabic to English
It is a complex "chemistry"... Apr 18, 2007

I mean, the language of a nation not only reflects its nature, it is itself a factor that moulds its people's nature towards a certain type of thinking, behaving etc. Ultimately, it is the culture that shapes the language, that will lead to words and expressions that better reflects that particular culture. But at the same time, someone growing up within such a culture will, through the language, be influenced towards a certain way of thinking. Nevertheless, changes in culture do occur over time, and eventually its language, words, idioms and ideas will reflect that change, and will contribute to that change too..that's my opinion!

[Edited at 2007-04-18 21:20]


Local time: 15:03
Italian to English
Thank you very much Apr 18, 2007

I think I have come to the right language forum/site. The kind replies here can only help me to see this topic from all points of view. The other day, I was listening to "99 Luftballons" (sorry for any German spelling mistakes!), a very nice song by Nena which was released in her native German language and later in the English version. Before listening to the English version, I loved...and still do.... the mellow arrangements and sounds of Nena's sweet voice in her original German version without knowing the meaning of most of the lyrics. Then I listened to the English version sung by Nena too and was surprised to notice that the German version seemed more 'romantic' than the English one.



Cilian O'Tuama  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:03
German to English
+ ...
tangent (?) Apr 18, 2007

"The Unfolding of Language" by Guy Deutscher at least touches upon this interesting subject (the print is so small in my copy, and I only read it in bed ... zzz).

He postulates/contends that the complexity of a language is directly proportional to the primitiveness of the speakers. At least that's how I understood the following (hey, I found the quote):

[If technology was always an indication of linguistic prowess, then one would expect the simplest and most technologically-challenged hunter-gatherer societies to have very simple, primitive languages. The reality, however, could not be more different. Small tribes with stone-age technology speak languages with structures that sometimes make Latin and Greek seem like child's play. ]

I'm only on page 40.


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