Multi-Linguistic Thinking…

Thinking consumes a lot of my time, for example this post has been rambling around in my head for months; however this thought was a special “thought”.  Why you ask would this “thought” be different than any other?  The answer is, because this one was about thought itself, sort of like thinking about thinking by using the same word to describe itself.

However here, the one thing which made this extra interesting is this “thought” was in English and while those who read this who are also first language “English” speakers will be scratching their heads and saying “so what“?  The “what” here is language defines us; it also defines our contexts as words bound our thoughts.  So the axiom must be if our words are “bound” then so must our thoughts.

Ok, some of you “visual” thinkers out there might be saying, “hey, I think in pictures” and that may be the case (as an aside I too am a visual thinker).  However if you really look at your “thoughts“, even the pictures in your minds are bound by “words“.  For example, think of the word “car” what do you see? Ok, now ask yourself and be honest, what did your “self speak” say?  Yes, that’s right it said the word car, now it’s not my intent to psychoanalyze all of this, the point is to explore the potential implications.

So let’s for a moment explore the idea if your multilingual, how does this all work?  In many of my multi-lingual colleagues whom I’ve talked to about this say that they switch to their native language for thought.  As a side bar, all have mentioned to dreaming in their native language also.

With this said, I wonder if ambidextrous thought is possible, mixing the best or most if you will of multiple languages to form a hybrid thinking frame work.  As where a single word in a language may frame a concept in a far too rigid fashion.  Maybe a similar (word) in another would lead to a breakthrough due to its “expanded” meaning.

A working example of this maybe our mathematic friends who spend their time thinking in terms of numbers and by the fact of their “thinking base” being numbers means the combinations are limitless.  However us English speakers are limited to only the sounds created by 26 letters, which if you think about it is a rather small “base” to operate from.  As even compare that to Mandarin with its 40 letters (25 consonants and 15 vowels) with its 414 phonics, and you can see the rote expansiveness compared to only 26 simple letters.

So one of the add-on questions might be, is the extra complexity worth it?  Many times, the simpler is better.  As in Occam’s razor which says the simplest solution is the best solution.  As when we add more signal, more noise is a natural byproduct, thus at a certain point one begins to experience declining returns on their (thought) investment.

One of the other challenges which I pounder is what about the result?  As the idea of thought is to create “communications“, therefore if an idea is created from a “mash up” of languages.  Would it not lose a portion of itself in re-translation to a single language?  What are you thinking, or should I ask what “languages” are you thinking in?


About Joseph Campbell

As a strong believer in the fact that "people work for people", it has been a life driver to better to understand the complexities of the various aspects which drive efficiency within this axiom, especially the concepts of leadership. Supporting this, I have been fortunate enough to having experienced this as leader on a global basis over the last decade and half. During this time it has been clear there are three core drivers being Life, Leadership and Economics.
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One Response to Multi-Linguistic Thinking…

  1. Pingback: Whorfian Hypothesis… | The Viral Loop…

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