What Influence Does Your Language Have?

April 26, 2013 by admin

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My father used to say, “If you know Chinese, Spanish, and English, you can communicate with one third of the world!” Whilst this may be an exaggeration, the growing numbers don’t lie! What we speak seems to be a great factor upon the influence we have.

However, as we know, greater numbers do not always equate with greater power.

The degree of a language’s influence often depends on one’s purpose. For example, taking into account current global economic impact, Bloomberg respectively ranks Mandarin, French, Arabic, Spanish, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese, German, Italian, Korean, and Turkish as the top languages of the business world–aside from English that is. Romance often carries French to the top of its list; however, Italian and Spanish seem to vie for this spot as well. Diplomatically speaking, the UN granted their 6 official languages to be Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), English, French, Russian, and Spanish. The world however changes, and so does its languages, thus, these lists are constantly evolving.

Aside from the fact of being able to communicate with people, knowing a language, or languages for that matter, influences others through many means. As it is very much tied together, learning a language often entails furthering one’s knowledge of a culture–the understanding of such can open many doors when networking or simply connecting with people.

Our own language, as shown by research, even affects the way we think. For example, in English we often think of direction in accordance to right or left, but Kuuk Thayorre, an aboriginal Australian language, indicates such in relation to north, south, east, and west. Also, many words in one language often cannot be substituted in another, simply because such a description does not exist in the latter. Such trends of thought influence the way by which we perceive the world.

On a more negative note, just as what you speak can produce a connection with others; it can also lead to a division. Linguistic discrimination is found all over. The moment a person opens his or her mouth, judgment on wealth and status often quickly follows–this includes the pivotal issue of terrorism perception as well. So much can be misunderstood. In being open to learning different languages, one develops a better understanding towards the unfamiliar, which can greatly influence our effectiveness in the world today.

My conclusion is that no language tops all the rest. However, given the circumstances of the day, certain languages can serve one better according to one’s purpose and geographical location. True influence dwells in how open we are to understanding others and how we choose to use our language whatever it may be out of the approximate 7,000 in use today!

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