How Languages Shape the Way We Think

Language is an integral part of human existence related to the way people think. In most languages, the location of objects is indicated in relation to a person or other object. In other languages, absolute designations are used: “in the north-west,” “to the southeast” (Boroditsky, 2018). Native speakers of these languages determine where they are relative to the cardinal points. Language also influences our understanding of time: for example, people who speak Mandarin, Estonian, German, or Norwegian imagine the future almost as tangible as the present. These languages ​​allow people to talk about future events using the same grammatical constructions as for the present tense (Simpson, 2019). Foreign languages also ​​ affect the functioning of the brain and transform the way of understanding reality. For example, Simpson (2019) states that English-speaking people perceive time horizontally, and those expressing themselves in Mandarin perceive time vertically. In addition, the Chinese, who began to study English in early childhood, were much less likely to put different time events along the vertical axis. Therefore, language significantly affects the formation of various characteristics of a person.

Language is often influenced by the culture: for instance, in the student environment, particular words and expressions related to education are common. In most professional settings people use specific terminology to simplify communication. There are also notable differences in the speech of the representatives of the scientific community and manual workers because these people exist in entirely different cultural areas. Thus, on the one hand, human life largely depends on language, and, on the other hand, it also affects it.

The power of languages is often discussed by well-known public figures, such as, for example, David Peterson or John McWhorter. There are TED lectures, books, and articles related to this topic. People speak and write about the relation between the human brain and language use. There are many interesting features of communication that people discover and discuss. The technical development of humanity allows researchers to study these issues in greater detail, which makes the process of learning languages ​​and their functioning exciting and full of discoveries.


Boroditsky, L. (2018). How language shapes the way we think [Video]. Web.

Simpson, A. (2019). Language and society: An introduction. Oxford University Press.