Can Our Language Influence Our Future and Behavior?

language-influencesLanguages are the backbone of any civilisation. Since the beginning of time, languages defined us and were immortalised for millennia to come. But what if I told you that languages have a deeper impact on us then we like to believe?

It’s a known fact that a person that is forced to learn a new language, especially later in life, will feel a lot smaller and with less personality when communicating in the new language. However, a new study by M. Keith Chen, an Associate Professor of Economics with tenure at the UCLA Anderson School of Management, shows that our languages might define our actions.

His work tells how languages can be split into two categories, the strong FTR and the weak FTR. FTR means future-time reference. This means languages that require the user to grammatically mark an event, or the use of words like “will” or “going to” to show the future tense. So a strong FTR language is English, where you need to use future tense when referring to future events. The weak FTR languages are German, for instance. When they refer to the future, they don’t use future tense. Here’s an example: Moregn regnet es, which means It rains tomorrow.

Notice how they didn’t use “will” or “going to” in the sentence, like the English language does. This shows that English natives see the future as something really distant, because their language dictates it so. Thus they don’t really want to save money for the future or eat healthy to live longer because the future is really far away and not an immediate problem.

Germans, on the other hand, see the future as something really close by, because of the language, so they make sure they save money and live a healthy life so they will benefit from these at older ages.

This goes to show how much language can influence our lives. What does your language tell about the future?


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