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To What Degree Might Different Languages Shape In Their Speakers Different Concepts Of Themselves And The World

1109 words - 4 pages

To What Degree Might Different Languages Shape In Their Speakers Different Concepts Of Themselves And The World? What Are The Implications Of Such Differences For Knowledge?

     The difference in languages can cause different perceptions of various cultures leading to distinctions or possible clashes. When I lived in France I faced some of the problems a language barrier can cause. The most common and at the same time most irritating problem of language is the inability to translate word for word as some words just don’t have a direct translation into another language. These are normally colloquialisms for example “up the apples and pears” does not translate into “monter les pommes et les poires.” This would cause people to look at you in a very strange manner wondering what on earth you were talking about and it’s not only verbal language which creates different perceptions of people. Body language, such as hand movements and voice intonation can determine or change someone’s perception of a culture. The following paragraphs will illustrate the way language can be misconstrued.

     The first point I would like to illustrate is the way body language can have different effects on people. For example, in England the use of hands when you are speaking is quite rare, the odd movement of the hand may be seen but the most common use of hand signals or motions is when someone is making an insult. I will use the Italians as an example of at times exaggerated and frequent use of hands. The Italians often use their hands as a way of secondary communication. As they speak they dramatise their conversations which can be mistakenly perceived by some people as confrontation when in fact they are having a simple conversation. This is where the lack of knowledge of a culture can cause a misunderstanding. Another example of communication which can cause raised eyebrows is the way the French acknowledge one another is doing something called the “bises.” This is where they give a kiss on each cheek. (Depending on the region this could be two, three even four kisses.) It is considered rude to just verbally greet someone so the “bises” is the norm for them. However when they are out of their country they could receive strange looks because people don’t understand their reasons and therefore could be perceived that French men are homosexual.

     Humour is a subject which is very difficult to judge when you go abroad as every country has their own sense of humour which means they may not understand another persons reason for laughing which could cause offence. The English humour is mainly based on self humiliation or mocking others. To most people this is hilarious and is the focus point of a fun night. On the other hand, the way people perceive this can be different as the speaker will not intentionally offend anyone but if he/she is not aware that someone of another culture is present...

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