Language influences thought…?

One-who-speaks-only-one-language-is-one-person-but-one-who-speaks-two-languages-is-two-people.-Turkish-Proverb.png…’when the linguists Aneta Pavlenko and Jean-Marc Dewaele asked 1,039 bilinguals and multilinguals this question: “Do you feel like a different person sometimes when you use your different languages?”, 65 percent of their respondents said ‘yes’. Judging from anecdotal reports, existing in more than one languages can feel a lot like existing with more than one personality.’

I can definitely identify with that feeling;  I have this strong sense that I’m really not the same person when I’m speaking English as opposed to speaking French. I also have a feeling that it’s far more than just a question of language proficiency.

“To have another language is to possess a second soul”. Charlemagne was a European king in the 700s-800’s

Language influencing thought?…or perhaps Thought influencing language?; ‘The question of how language shapes who you are is a fiercely contested one in the field of linguistics, and has been for many decades’. I admit that I haven’t researched this debate in any great depth but it did come up as part of my studies of Speech and Language Pathology and I do remember reading a few articles at the beginning of this century which tended to support more the idea that Thought influenced Language. However, I’ve recently come across more recent information which tends to support the opposite and which is really quite fascinating:

One piece of research, for example, showed that people’s morals change according to whether they are using their native language or a foreign language  ‘……when people are confronted with moral dilemmas, they respond differently when considering them in a foreign language than when using their native tongue. In your native language, you’re more likely to rely on your gut. In a second language, however, reason takes over.  For example, volunteers read descriptions of acts that appeared to harm no one, but that many people find morally reprehensible—for example, stories in which …someone cooked and ate his dog after it had been killed by a car. Those who read the stories in a foreign language (either English or Italian) judged these actions to be less wrong than those who read them in their native tongue.’

Operating in our second language can have some intriguing psychological effects. We swear more freely and linger longer on embarrassing topics than normal.  According to psychologist Constantinos Hadjichristidis at the University of Trento, a second language discourages us from relying on intuitive thinking.

All of these findings should absolutely be taken into account at international meetings where a lingua franca is being used in order to look for resolutions to problems. Big immoral decisions might be being taken quite unconsciously.

These findings could also go toward explaining my feelings of having a split personality: perhaps my ‘French-self’ is centered in my reasoning head whereas my ‘Anglo-self’ is housed in my sensitive gut (or heart….?) and they could also clarify perhaps why I am more comfortable with my intuitive gut-heart-English-speaking self.

For those of you who are curious, here is a fascinating talk further supporting the idea that language influences thought and behavior (I love Tedtalks!). It looks at how people who use languages that don’t have a specific grammatical form for the future tense – such as Chinese – behave differently (because they  don’t dissociate the present from the future when making decisions).

and this one which explores how the subjunctive mood (which the English language – and the French language use liberally) tend to influence how we experience the world around us. The speaker introduces the idea that the use of the subjunctive (such as ‘should have’, ‘could’…) versus the indicative (or factual – mood) can lead us to live and think in alternative realities rather than in the factual HERE and NOW.

 

 

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Bonjour 2017…where will it take us?

 

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This cartoon sums up how I’m feeling as we start the new year – ‘My desire to be well-informed is currently at odds with my desire to remain sane’.

So instead of ruminating ….my intention here is to write about something obscure: Rebuses. Rebus = a kind of word puzzle which uses pictures to represent words or parts of words. Perhaps they are used as often in Australia as they are here…but I don’t think so.

Children in France are usually very familiar with the concept of rebuses (and other word puzzles….I repeat what I’ve written in the past – May 2016 for example – that the nuts and bolts of language are an extremely important part of the French culture). Rebuses make regular appearances in school lessons, in books and magazines and next week-end, they will show up in my daughter’s 9th birthday party treasure hunt.

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One of the rebus clues that the kids will have to solve in order to find the next clue:  r+oeufs+f+riz+jeux+rat+heure = refrigerateur (refrigerator)

French words lend themselves very well to creating rebuses such as this one above  (which uses pictures to represent each syllable) because the last sound in words is often not pronounced…so that a number of very different words end up sounding exactly the same (such as ‘vers’ – towards, ‘verre’ – glass, and ‘vert’ – green). And also perhaps because French is a syllable-timed language (a language whose syllables take approximately equal amounts of time to pronounce). That being said, I didn’t even try to make my own rebuses but rather I cheated and used this web-site to create the clues for the words that I wanted to represent. Out of curiosity I tried an equivalent site for English words and it generated such obscure puzzles for words that I doubt many adults (let alone 9-year-olds) would be able to decipher them. English phrases (which exploit whole words instead of syllables) rather than single words lend themselves better to rebuses. Here is a picture of one in English:

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can+you+see+well

 

 

 

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Look out! Big changes ahead…..(again).

My husband organized a nice vacation in a converted wind mill in Brittany for a few days between Christmas and New Year. He was able to ‘recharge his batteries’ which is just what he needed before heading off to Toulouse to start his new job in his own company (yes, he ‘received’ his Christmas wish!). Toulouse is about a 5-6 hour-drive south from where we are currently living. He plans to come back most weekends and then at the end of the school-year (in July) the kids and I will join him…..providing we find housing and schooling.

More about this to come as we discover the south of France.

More on French food

For the first time since I began this blog I missed posting for a whole month! Why? I think that it is probably due to a number of factors: La Rentree (the back to school routine and with that the extracurricular activities etc… ), the sadness of saying goodbye to Summer (and with it warm weather, long days, stone fruit!), the arrival of a work project that I’ve been given by a local training company (trying to build a full-time, month-long English training course from scratch and without materials), missing Shanghai wonton soup and lots of other stuff (blah blah blah) and then finally, feeling the full weight of mum not being around anymore. I miss her so much. And so, in her memory, I dedicate this post to French food which she enjoyed so much. This might also encourage dad to come across to visit and to eat!

‘The passion for food is one of the most lovable, enjoyable aspects of France. Culinary failures are not treated lightly in this country, not turned into jokes, no more than a barbecue without beer would amuse Australians’. (Almost French, Sarah Turnbull)

It is true, that food is as common a topic of conversation here as the weather is in Britain.

In France ‘Dinner parties are the main way of entertaining … follow the French example and serve entree, main, salad, cheese and dessert’ (Sarah Turnbull)

While it is true that dinner parties are popular and often follow a predictable, and delectable order – entree, main, salad, cheese and dessert – there seems to be a little more flexibility these days:  It is not uncommon to skip the cheese and/salad dishes, or to invite people  ‘chez-soi’ for an ‘aperitif dinatoire’ – which is basically a collection of ‘mise en bouche’ (finger foods) eaten around the coffee table and accompanied by champagne and wine. This is quite a change from the past and perhaps reflects a generation who wants to spend less time in the kitchen or who wants less washing up, or to go to bed earlier…or simply who wants to spend time with friends in a more casual setting.

There are often little ‘toasts’ served (toasted bread topped with smoked salmon, tapenade, tomato salsa….), ‘cakes’ (savory loaves cooked in log-tins baked with eggs, cheese, flour and choice of vegetables/fish/ham ),   but by far the most popular offering at the moment are ‘verrines’: small glasses  filled with ingredients such as pureed beetroot, avocado mousse, tuna…..etc.  Interestingly, dips (which are ever so popular in Australia) haven’t really taken off here…yet.83bbb16b8e76386f76b4a97bdae5c193apericube

 

 

And then there are the infamous ‘apericubes’ that have apparently been around for over 50-years  . Each little cube is individually wrapped and there is a riddle written on the inside of the wrapper (which are good conversations starters!). I’m not exactly sure what is inside the wrappers. It is supposed to be some kind of cheese, but it can be stored out of the fridge! It’s not exactly high quality fare, but it seems to be an institution. There are even special editions released during the year to celebrate football events, the olympics etc. The one pictured above is a special edition for autumn and includes flavors such as mushroom, pumpkin and cumin, and walnut and blue cheese.

2639615c9163ec95b8553e72021e3762Dessert at such a ‘dinner’ is optional, but might include a home-made seasonal fruit tart, ice-cream, apple crumble (very ‘a la mode’ at the moment) or a pretty dessert from one of the local patisseries.

IMG_7090Like the schools in China, the school canteen offers students a complete hot meal, but unlike China it offers a dessert in addition to the entree and main course. The week’s menu is systematically posted in front of the school gate at the start of the week for parent-scrutiny and to avoid repetition of dishes on the dinner table at home. One Tuesday earlier in the year for example (see menu), my kids ate an entree of beetroot with cheese sauce, spicy beef with bulgur and vegetables followed by a choice of chocolate mousse or a pear for dessert.

There is more and more interest by the canteen in sourcing the products locally and in including a number of organic ingredients.

The children sit around small tables of 6-8 students and serve themselves from a collective dish – which I think is a wonderful means of sharing, discussing and generally enjoying their meal! They have time to eat because the lunch break is 1h30mins long.

That’s quite a change from the warm squashed sandwiches and bruised fruit eaten at my school desk as quickly as possible before going out to play – which is what I recall from my school days.

The school canteen menu on offer is much better than what is offered to children in restaurants – which is typically minced beef with french fries, or chicken nuggets with fries or a toasted cheese sandwich (‘croque monsieur’) followed by ice-cream. The latter is what the kids chose to eat last weekend in a restaurant located right on the beach in Brittany while we enjoyed plump fish in a creamy pumpkin emulsion with tender seasonal vegetables topped with crispy bacon. It is more common than not to find such quality dishes being served in the most unassuming establishments for very reasonable prices – much cheaper, for example, than in Australia.

We enjoyed our fish dish in the company of our friend Delphine whom we hadn’t seen since her visit to us in England eight years before. Thanks Delphine. And thanks mum for giving me an unquenchable interest in food 🙂

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