How Language Changes How We See the World

Hidden Brain, a podcast that "helps curious people understand the world - and themselves", is, in my opinion, one of the best shows that NPR produces. It's so fantastic that I'm absolutely addicted to it (just ask my husband!). Earlier this year I came across a perfect episode for our Dual Language families, and I'm excited to share it with you all.

In"Lost In Translation", Shankar Vedantam - a host with the coolest name - shares stories about the incredible power of language to shape the way we think about the world around us. It really helps listeners visualize language in a way that I promise you have never considered.

In this episode, they go over a number of powerful examples to showcase the power of language. Including:

1 - An Aboriginal community in Australia that doesn't "use words like left and right, and instead, everything is placed in cardinal directions like north, south, east and west."

2 - How people rely on space to think about time and how language impacts that. If you asked English speakers to organize pictures chronologically, they would do so from left to right. But Hebrew and Arabic speakers would do so from right to left while those from the Aboriginal community would do so in relation to east and west depending which way they are facing.

3 - And -- very important to those learning Spanish -- how languages in which nouns are gendered (as in Spanish), the language influences how we see the world by attaching feminine or masculine qualities to everything around us.

The podcast also covers an interesting language study done of a database of several artists’ work. They found such a profound impact on the artists’ language, and how they gendered their subjects based on what language they spoke. It is a very powerful example how language can impact the way we perceive the world.

If you have 35 minutes on your commute, please do give this episode a listen. It is worth every minute. Alternatively, try reading through the transcript here. So much to learn in this awesome episode.

Let me know what you thought!




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