Fascinating article, ICO. This monolingual speaker once thought of studying linguistics. Never happened. But, I did end up with a mostly Spanish-speaking family and faced my own inability to learn a language that I heard daily.
I see how language affects thought even within my family. My husband is Argentinian with a strong influence of the Native American Guarani language that his parents spoke in addition to Spanish and the street language of Lunfardo. My adopted Honduran daughter speaks Spanish that is similar, but also quite different, than my husband’s Argentinian Spanish.
I can see that their ways of thinking is influenced by these different lingual influences. My husband’s conversational language is fluid and varied, allowing for differing ideas, encompassing more than one culture. So, is his thinking. He is open to different expressions and isn’t easily offended by words.
In contrast, my daughter’s language is more constrained, less inventive, less organic and so is her thinking. She is easily offended by language. Miscommunication is a problem with her in both Spanish and English. She has less imagination when it comes to verbal communication.
I’ve noticed similar differences in Spanish-speakers from other countries. One language has so many different influences that affect the cultures and mindsets of the people.
Because of what I saw in regard to Spanish-speakers, I began paying more attention to English-speakers. It was enlightening. I am still trying to process what I’ve learned by simply paying attention to what is said and how it is said. The English language is violent and isolating — no wonder we are so worried about being “politically correct” when we speak! In fact, our language is confusing and disconnected — much like our culture. We don’t have a language that is truly “American” — it is a discordant hodge-podge that reflects our society.
Language is so much more than the words we speak.