In order to communicate, people have to use language, and the link between perception and language affects how people understand one another. Perception of language is affected by age, the cognitive ability and prior information.
Throughout the years, many studies and researches were done to clarify the relationship between how people see the world and how they communicate their personal views of what they see. It is already established that the connection between perception and language can be deep or subtle. Stakeholders may argue about the finer details but it is a fact that the words people speak shape a person’s perception by providing a means to experience what someone is saying. At the same time perception gives to the language a new vocabulary if the current language in use is not enough to describe the experience. For example, instead of just saying something is blue, you can give it a different image by saying that it is light blue, sky blue, indigo blue or navy blue.
How do you perceive?
Perception needs someone or something to perceive or process it to create an image that will make it easier to understand. When there is raw or new experience, it is filtered via the mind and the senses. A sensory experience given directly usually receives an intellectual response. But at its most significant form, the response to a sensory experience is immediate, instinctive and thoughtless. For example, when you smell something delicious, your usual reaction is for your mouth to water. If you touch or get near something that is hot, you instinctively jerk away.
Your mind plays a major role when you have a sensory experience, which is when the relationship between language and perception is often seen. For many people, language is the basis of thought and without language, it is impossible for a person to think. Others believe that the initial thought is possible by associating it with grammar and vocabulary.
But it is better to leave the in-depth discussions about the intricacies of the different schools of thoughts to the professionals. What is vital is that language is the basis for an analysis and it is going to be hard to look at something without using any words.
Words have the capacity to break up the continuum of the ongoing experiences into understandable sounds that exemplify qualities, actions and things.
All of us have experienced this – coming across an item that is beyond the vocabulary you know. What do you usually do when this happens? You attribute it to the closest word possible. For example, when you hear the word “orange,” what is the first thing that comes to your mind? It can be a color or it can be the fruit itself. An artist may assign a variety of tints for the color orange, with tinges of yellow all the way to red. In this case, the language determines the perception.
Language needs modification when the things in the environment become significant enough that the existing words you know do not suffice. This scenario often occurs today as technology has touched the lives of most people that new words are created and shared until they become part of everyday parlance. Examples of these are the words email, websites, WiFi, Internet and more.
Perception of time changes with the language you speak
It is interesting to learn that different languages have a variety of ways to define time. Research on the subject was done since the 70s. Greek and Spanish speakers usually think time in relation to volume, so they often say that their day is full. On the other hand, time correlates to distance for English and Swedish speakers, so you’ll hear them say that they had a long day. The British perceive time linearly, so they are inclined to say from left to right or right to left. The idea of time for the Chinese is over and under while the Greeks correlate it to volume, so time can be small or large.
Researchers noticed that people often speak in metaphors. Instead of saying they are sad, they say that they are down and when they are happy, they express it by saying that they are up.
A researcher, linguistics professor Emanuel Bylund from Stellenbosch University said that people have the tendency to speak of time in spatial terms, but he wonders if people also think of time in the same way.
Perception of color is affected by your language
There are suggestions that your perception of color is influenced by your language. In a previous study of the University of London psychologists, they gathered speakers of Himba and English. Himba (Otjihimba) is a northern Namibia language spoken by the Himba people. In the study, they were asked to categorize colors. The way English and Himba speakers group colors is not similar. The English language differentiates blue from green, while in the Himba language only buru is used. However, Himba have different words for various shades of green. Light green is dambu and dark green is zuzu.
What the study revealed is that the difference in language leads to a difference in perception. When the Himba speakers were shown an image with a blue square and 11 squares colored green, they found it hard to differentiate the green from the blue. However, when they saw 12 squares in varying colors of green, they were able to identify the differences in the shades of colors, while the English speakers failed to do so. This means that if there is an existing linguistic distinction about something in the language a person speaks, the person does not have any trouble in identifying the item. If the distinction is lacking in the language, the speaker will find it hard to do it.
Perception and language and how you view the world
UCLA Associate Professor of Economics, Keith Chen, who is a behavioral economist of Chinese American descent, discovered that people have a different approach to economic and financial issues based on the language they use. For speakers of languages with specific times, such as Portuguese, Spanish or English, where the grammar has past, present and future times, they put off saving now because, for them, the future is still far away. For those who speak what Chen termed as timeless languages such as Chinese, their tendency is to save today.
Language is also essential when people think of space. The orientation of the world can be described by several expressions such as right and left in English. But there are other languages that use geographical directions. The Aboriginal tribe of Pormpuraawans in Queensland, Australia uses the cardinal directions north, west, south and east as well as the in-betweens to signify directions and location. This special training is essential to them, as it helps them define their orientation and direction, making it difficult for them to get lost even if they are in an area that is unfamiliar to them.
Language has an effect on the descriptive articles used by different languages. Many languages assign feminine or masculine articles to subjects and other objects, including inanimate ones.
For example, Spanish speakers consider a bridge a masculine object, so when asked to describe a bridge, they use adjectives such as powerful, long or tall. German speakers, on the other hand, consider a bridge as a feminine object, so the adjectives they often use are slender, peaceful, elegant or pretty.
From the examples given above, it is clear that language and perception are interlinked. Language is important to communication. Your knowledge about languages and the speakers of these languages will greatly help you to understand how various societies function.
The discussion about the link between language and perception continues. It even reflects the current situations, which makes it very vital to choose the right words. For example, when someone says the economy is ”stalled,” the implication is that a quick solution should be found. It indicates that the problem is short-term. But if the term ”ailing” is used to describe the economy, it indicates that it needs long-term care. Do you see the difference based on the word choice?
Grammar and vocabulary in various languages
Grammar and vocabulary in various languages shape the way you think and the way you perceive the world. This has an effect on translation as well. Thus it is essential that you only work with professional translators who are experts in the source and target languages you need.
The translators of Day Translations, Inc. are fully aware of the importance of language in communication and cognition. They are always after the highest quality translation to convey the intended message as accurately as possible. They are native speakers working in over 100 languages. Our translators are located in-country, assuring you that the nuances of the language and the cultural preferences are carefully considered and included in the translation. For your translation and interpreting needs, contact us via email at Contact us or give us a call at 1-800-969-6853. You do not have to wait for the next working day to contact us, as we are open 24/7, every day of the year. You can get in touch with us anywhere you are in the world, in whatever time zone. Give us a call today.
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