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Found in Language – Lost in Translation


We know that our culture affects our language, even down to tiny regional differences in local customs and phrases. But does language affect our culture? Does it constrict our ability to express ourselves or define our means to? Does it shape our thoughts and create a mould for our personalities?


One of my favorite articles put out by the Wall Street Journal – Life and Culture is called Lost in Translation. It is a fun article that provokes some really interesting questions about the language you are brought up with and how that shapes you as a person.


Aside from interesting facts such as Australian aborigines defining all positions of things in absolute cardinal directions (Never Eat Shredded Wheat) and therefore having incredible navigational skills, this article provides further examples relative to the business and education world.


When I first read this article I asked myself, as and English speaker, how has my language enabled, limited, or shaped my ability to communicate. How does the english way of saying 20 (twenty) verses the chinese way of saying 20 (er-shi or literally 2-10) change the way a child learns numbers.


This article has been a debate topic, a reading assignment, and a speech topic for many of my students due to its powerful thought provoking contents. Try using it to begin a class discussion. Do your students feel passionately about their native language and its pros and cons? Do you?


I am really interested in reading your comments. If you enjoyed this article please visit my blog at Enjoy!

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Tags: ESL, Journal, Street, WSJ, Wall, culture, language


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