The accumulation of wealth sometimes depends on the person but an interesting research revealed that the language you speak has an effect on your gaining wealth.
According to the study done by behavioral economist and economics professor Keith Chen of the UCLA Anderson School of Management, people from countries who speak futureless languages save about five percent more of their GDP compared to people speaking futured languages such as English, Portuguese, Greek, Polish, French, Spanish or Italian.
In the chart he had provided, it showed that residents of Luxembourg, Norway, Switzerland and Japan, among others, were able to save about 25 percent of their GDP annually. He said these countries had futureless languages. Residents of countries such as Greece, the UK, the United States, Poland, Israel and more barely save about 10 percent of their annual GDP.
Different savings behavior
Professor Chen’s study focused on the 34 countries that the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development or OECD has been monitoring. The world’s most industrialized and richest countries have several similar characteristics but Professor Chen was intrigued by the different behaviors the population displayed when it comes to savings.
Futured versus futureless languages
The professor explained the grammatical differences between futureless and futured languages. He said that when speaking a futured language like English or Spanish, the future is stated differently from the present. In making sentences in a futured language, you make the distinction on the timing of the event, such as yesterday, today or now and tomorrow. In a futureless language like Japanese, German, Norwegian or Swedish, the future is expressed in the same way as the present, where the past, present or future tense use the same conjugation of a verb.
Professor Chen correlates the subtle grammar differences to the saving behaviors of the different countries in the OECD report. He said that it could explain the reason why the U.S. saves less than other countries. He hypothesized that if the present is quite distant from the future, saving money becomes harder whereas in countries with futureless languages, the present and the future are spoken similarly and thus saving money in the present is the same as saving in the future.
Testing the theory
He tested his theory by looking at several data sets from around the world and found supporting evidence. He explained during his TED talk that there are several groups or communities of futureless language speakers located around the world and when he analyzed their data deeply, these speakers proved to be some of the best savers, with an annual average savings difference of about five percent of their GDP.
He also applied this theory on other behaviors, like smoking, which he said is like negative savings. According to Chen, saving money in the present is current pain, while accumulated wealth is pleasure in the future. Smoking on the other hand works on the reverse – the current pleasure today becomes pain in the future. And as he expected, people from countries with futureless language are also 25 percent not liable to smoke.