I’ve often felt that I act, think and even feel differently depending on the language I speak. I’ve often heard from other bilinguals that they feel this way. Recent research, published in the March edition of Psychological Science, suggests that there really is something to it.
British, German and Swedish researchers – linguists and psychologists – immersed themselves on the question of how language influences the brain. Does a German speaking person have a different take on reality than an English speaking person? And does that world change when switching from German to English? The researchers found that, yes, language does determine how you see and interpret events.
An example of this is given on the website – The Conversation:
“We showed German-English bilinguals video clips of events with a motion in them, such as a woman walking towards a car or a man cycling towards the supermarket and then asked them to describe the scenes.
“When you give a scene like that to a monolingual German speaker they will tend to describe the action but also the goal of the action. So they would tend to say “A woman walks towards her car” or “a man cycles towards the supermarket.” English monolingual speakers would simply describe those scenes as “A woman is walking” or “a man is cycling”, without mentioning the goal of the action.
“The worldview assumed by German speakers is a holistic one – they tend to look at the event as a whole – whereas English speakers tend to zoom in on the event and focus only on the action. (…) When it came to bilingual speakers, they seemed to switch between these perspectives based on the language context they were given the task in.”
You can read the entire article on: How the language you speak changes your view of the world.
As a writer, my next question is: If a bilingual writer has a story idea, would the story end up completely different in plot, characters and all that, depending on the language they decide to write it in?