Do our thoughts shape how we speak…or?


After reading the article Lost in translation by Lera Boroditsky in the Wall Street Journal the other day, about “…cognitive research suggests that language profoundly influences the way people see the world…”, I got an idea to comment on this through this blog post.

Attending the AITI general assembly last week, I had also been thinking in these terms, as I realized again how my mind and thought processes change when speaking in Swedish, Italian or English. And being among translators with many different nationalities, I was more sensitive and tuned in to notice small linguistic differences and ways of speaking that day.

One very clear example that I usually refer to, is to express, after lunch or dinner, that you are ‘full‘. And in Italian you also say, ‘sono piena’, while translating this phrase literally into Swedish rather refers to being ‘drunk‘ (jag är full). And these are errors I often make after living abroad for over 15 years, that is, without thinking saying ‘jag är full’ when I really mean to say ‘jag är mätt’. Because in Swedish you do not use ‘being full’ or ‘essere piena’, but rather to be satisfied/having had enough, that is ‘vara mätt’.

Another thing I have noticed is how also younger people in Italian say for ex. ‘mio marito/mia moglie ha detto…’ or ‘mio marito/mia moglie mi viene a prendere…’ (that is, my husband/wife said…etc) or similar expressions, while in Swedish that would be a quite old fashioned or formal way of speaking. Rather you refer by first name to your husband or wife, for ex. ‘Gustaf sade…’ or ‘Gustaf kommer och hämtar mig sen’. And in case the person you are talking to would not know that Gustaf is your husband, you would clarify that upon a question. The case where you would refer to this more formal expression seems to be when talking about your partner, if you are in a committed relationship, but not married, that is ‘min sambo sade…’ or ‘min sambo kommer och hämtar mig sen…’

A while ago the son of a friend of mine in Sweden also asked me in which language I dream during night, and there I really had to think for a while. As I am still not sure if I still always dream in Swedish, or sometimes perhaps in Italian also…

However, I would definitely say that we are shaped by our native languages, and our way of thinking and reasoning is somehow impacted by our origin and in turn shape our use of a new language and vice versa.

What is your thought on this topic here…?

One thought on “Do our thoughts shape how we speak…or?

  1. Pingback: Does our thoughts shape how we speak…or? | TradurreTranslate - Legal Translations

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