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The power of language: How words shape people, culture

Other languages inform our own

There are about 7,000 languages worldwide. Each language reflects the culture of the people who speak it.

Studying other languages and how they develop over time can help scholars understand the unique ways we communicate with one another.

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IDEA EXTRACTED FROM:

The power of language: How words shape people, culture

The power of language: How words shape people, culture

https://news.stanford.edu/2019/08/22/the-power-of-language-how-words-shape-people-culture/

news.stanford.edu

4

Key Ideas

Language: a primary tool for understanding human behavior

Language is integral to how we express and communicate in everyday life.

Understanding how people use language - what words and phrases they choose to combine - can give us insight into ourselves and why we behave the way we do.

How language is interpreted

According to research, slight differences in language can reveal biased beliefs of the speakers.

For example, saying "girls are as good as boys at math" can imply that being good at math is more common for boys than girls.

Other languages inform our own

There are about 7,000 languages worldwide. Each language reflects the culture of the people who speak it.

Studying other languages and how they develop over time can help scholars understand the unique ways we communicate with one another.

Language informs behavior

Speech patterns correlate to particular behaviors. This includes how language can influence people's buying decisions or social media use.

When we understand what groups of people say and why, it can help to bring those people together.

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Constructive engagement
Constructive engagement

Constructive engagement involves cultivating goodwill between the parties involved.

Fishbowl discussions

This exercise involves members of one party sitting in a circle with the other group sitting around them. The outside group listens quietly while the inside group answers a set of questions.

After each side answered and listened, the moderator brings them together for conversations about what everyone learned. Data suggests that despite strong views, participants change their attitude toward one another for the better.

Disagreement

We regularly find ourselves engaging with people whose core beliefs and values differ from our own. We might want to convince them to adopt our point of view, but this can lead to unproductive conflict.

However, people who disagree passionately can be easily trained to have productive interactions.

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Feeling Offended

Taking offence is an experience of negative emotions triggered by a word or deed which conflicts with what is expected or believed to be correct, suitable, moral and acceptable behaviour.

Kinds Of Expectations
  • Foreseeable expectations are those which we assume others will know based on our interpersonal relationship with them and feel offended when we see it is breached.
  • Reciprocity expectation is a hope that our favors and kind deeds towards someone are repaid by them.
  • Equity expectations happen when we want to be treated fairly and equally.

These expectations, values and beliefs are all based on our past experiences.

A Sense Of Entitlement

Believing in our values forms our identity and provides us with a sense of entitlement to feel offended because we feel these 'sacred' values should be respected. 

This is amplified by being exposed to a lot of different points of view on social media.

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Leadership literature

Leadership failures in government, business, and nonprofits have created a demand for leadership studies and literature.

Unfortunately, these materials describe u...

The morality tale

Leadership has become a kind of morality tale: Leaders are supposed to be authentic and truthful, paying attention to their employees' well-being and building trust.

Oversimplification

The moral framing of leadership does not consider the real complexities and difficulties that leaders face.

Sometimes, being pragmatic necessitates doing seemingly bad things to achieve good results. This means that leaders may have to act in strategic misrepresentation, contrary to their own feelings.

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The Best Strategy
  • Go to a country that speaks the language.
  • Get a phrasebook and learn a few basic expressions.
  • Commit to only speaking in that language from Day One.
  • Use a ...
  • If You Can’t Travel to Learn

    Pick a friend who also wants to learn the language. Agree to talk in the target language at least once per day or whenever you do talk.

    The friend does not have to be a native speaker. Whenever you are stuck, use a dictionary or Google translate. But, 10% of your time should be speaking with an advanced or native speaker.

    You Can’t Find a Partner

    If you cannot find someone willing to commit to only speaking that language, hire a tutor.

    You can also opt for language exchange with people who want to learn your language.

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    Artificial divisions

    We make artificial divisions everywhere.

    Being human means there’s a wall-builder in each of us. Our minds naturally divide the world into me and not-me, us and them. 

    Why we build walls

    • We evolved this way. For thousands of years, our ability to band together against a common enemy (weather, wild beasts, other tribes) was life-saving.
    • Knowing who we are makes us feel secure. With countless labels, we build up this creation we call our self. And it’s easy to ignore things we don’t like about ourselves and even easier to locate those qualities in others.
    • (False) certainty about others is reassuring. Putting labels on entire groups of people makes things much simpler.

    The costs of walling ourselves off
    • Once we slap a label on others, we don’t bother to look more closely, and our fears grow.
    • We are actually less safe. Labeling entire groups of people as good guys or bad guys is dangerous, because we end up accidentally putting white hats on bad guys and black hats on good guys.
    • We waste precious resources. Trying to wall ourselves off from entire groups of people is exhausting and inefficient.

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    Forgetting the First Language

    While our brains are flexible and adaptable as children, we tend to start having more rigid learning and relearning skills as we grow old.

    There have been some extreme cases when the mother t...

    Trauma associated with a Language

    One of the reasons for forgetting a language is the trauma associated with speaking a particular language: The mind recalls the bad experiences while the language is heard or spoken.

    The Switch Mechanism

    Once a person is able to speak two or more languages, the mind has to create a mechanism to switch between those seamlessly.

    Switching a language is not like forgetting, but if there is too much back and forth, the competition starts between the two languages.

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    Languages

    Scientists have few clear answers about what caused the start of thousands of languages.

    Collectively, people speak more than 7,000 distinct languages, with more languages spoken in tropi...

    Language creates boundaries

    There are many theories of how the world's languages might have diversified. The common thread is that languages are markers of social boundaries between human groups. People with a common language share a common means of communication.

    Any factor that might create or weaken the social or physical barriers between groups may also influence the start or end of languages.

    Factors that influence language diversity

    One research group tried to understand which factors had the most influence of language diversity in different areas, using statistical techniques that combined ideas from linguists, ecologists, evolutionary biologists, and geographers.

    They found that the most important variables associated with language diversity varied from one part to another. There is not one single factor that can explain patterns of language diversity everywhere.