As of today, I speak two languages fluently (French and English), one poorly but enough to understand and be understood (Spanish) and I try to learn a new one (Arabic). French is my native language. I’ve learnt English and Spanish at school (I have a BA in English) and my husband teaches me some Arabic. Though I am no expert, I’d like to share some of my experience with language.
And as I don’t have as much time for blogging as I’d like, I’ve decided to post my thoughts on language in four parts.
Language sets the way you see the world
English is centered on the action and its consequences, whereas French focuses on the subject that does the action. Therefore, the way you see and describe a situation will vary accordingly. Spanish has two words for “there”, one being closer from the subject than the other. French has a very rich cooking vocabulary, borrowed by English speakers.
All these examples and many more, show that the world we see is influenced by our language. Language is what stands between the intangible idea in our brains and the outside world. Depending on the words and rules in your language, the idea you’ll convey will appear differently. Obviously, it also applies from one person to another in the same language (think of the telephone game) but is amplified when different cultures and idioms are involved.
So next time you speak with someone whose first language is different than yours and feel frustrated, keep in mind that the feeling is most probably mutual and due to incomprehension.