Poll: Does being multilingual help you understand the human condition any better?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
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Local time: 06:26
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Aug 30, 2009

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Does being multilingual help you understand the human condition any better?".

This poll was originally submitted by ryancolm

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Caro Maucher  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:26
Member (2005)
English to German
+ ...
Wonderful question Aug 30, 2009

I believe every time we stumble into the situation of wanting to express something that we know can be expressed perfectly in another language, but not in the one we need at that moment, we get a little bit closer to an understanding of pure meaning, of the truth behind all words. I guess that is the realm of the 'human condition'.

The more languages we know, the more we can express in one or the other of them, the more thoughts we can think, and the better we can understand people. I wonder if we were able to speak all languages there are (or ever have been), would we be able to express everything?
(I reckon probably not...)


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xxxLatin_Hellas
United States
Local time: 15:26
Italian to English
+ ...
More perspectives Aug 30, 2009

Perhaps understanding the human condition is like the blind men touching the elephant.

Different people and different cultures, both contemporary and across time, have both common and unique ways of understanding and expressing the human condition, and language is a tool of such expression; being multilingual, both ancient and modern, can help in understanding the human condition because it provides more perspectives on both common and unique ways of tackling this age-old question.

[Edited at 2009-08-30 12:25 GMT]


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Kemal Mustajbegovic  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:26
English to Croatian
+ ...
Excuse my ignorance but... Aug 30, 2009

... I do not understand what "human condition" means in this context.

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Jenn Mercer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:26
Member (2009)
French to English
What a delightful question for a Sunday Aug 30, 2009

I will say yes, although I think that the strongest effect has come from studying more than just my first 2-3 languages. Finding words that were similar in English and Spanish could be seen as just a coincidence. And of course, when Spanish and French proved to be fairly similar, there was no big surprise.

The real enlightenment came when I started to study Irish. I am barely even a beginner in this language, but I can tell you that it sounds like no other language that I have studied - so when one word comes out clearly from hundreds of other words, I get shivers. It has inspired me to learn more and made me think of what language I might study after Irish.


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Lesley Clarke  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 08:26
Spanish to English
Yes, definitely Aug 30, 2009

Though I wouldn't it is a universal effect. As with travel, where some people can travel around the world seven times and return home totally unchanged, the same with every opportunity that life affords it.

But Spanish gave me access to Mexican cultures that has so much in common and so many differences with the culture I grew up in that I have had to question values that, until then, had seemed self-evident, particularly in respect of family and community life.


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Alexandra Goldburt
Local time: 06:26
English to Russian
+ ...
Travel + knowing languages Sep 5, 2009

Lesley Clarke wrote:

Though I wouldn't it is a universal effect. As with travel, where some people can travel around the world seven times and return home totally unchanged, the same with every opportunity that life affords it.


It's a good point, Lesley, but - isn't the reason that these people weren't changed by their travel precisely because they did not speak the languages of countries they visited? Can it be that visiting a country whose language you don't understand is indeed like a blind man touching an elephant?

But how enriching it would be to visit many different countries - and at least to some degree understand their languages... This would definitely open your eyes and your soul.


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Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:26
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Absolutely! Sep 8, 2009

Languages mirror their cultures, and different cultures see the human condition from different perspectives. That's what it's all about.

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Poll: Does being multilingual help you understand the human condition any better?

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