"Es sprach zum Mister Goodwill
ein deutscher Emigrant:
„Gewiß, es bleibt dasselbe,
sag ich nun land statt Land,
sag ich für Heimat homeland
und poem für Gedicht.
Gewiss, ich bin sehr happy:
Doch glücklich bin ich nicht.“
(Mascha Kaléko 1907-1975, "In meinen Träumen läutet es Sturm")
The linguist Guy Deutscher (in his book ‚Through the Language Glass‘) claims that our mother tongue serves as an expression of our perception and deeper sense, as exemplified in Mascha Kaléko’s poem, in which the vocabulary used, despite being seemingly precise translations, takes on a different meaning.
This phenomenon can be seen in various elements of language, such as articles. Taking the word ‚bridge‘, German (in which the word is feminine, die Brücke) speakers tend to associate the term with adjectives with a feminine connotation (elegant, slim), whereas in Spanish (masculine, el puente) speakers would connect it with attributes associated with masculinity (strong, powerful).
Occasionally, the importance of language within culture and perception is even clearer. In more hierarchical societies, such as Japan or China, there exists a variety of honorifics used when addressing an interlocutor, depending on relationship and status, amongst other things. Furthermore, speakers of languages which differentiate between different shades of a colour perceive the contrast of the colours in a more pronounced manner.
These are only a small selection of the elements of language which can show differences between cultures, and we would like to focus on more in the coming weeks. Which words, expressions, or particularities do you find interesting? We have put some thought into it and would like to start with the following:
- The year of the Rat
- Problem - issue
- Voller Hoffnung - hopeful
- Zweifel – doubt
by Dr. Barbara Geldermann & Matt Brundell, language expert, great teacher limba sprachen
Mascha Kaléko. In meinen Träumen läutet es Sturm. Gedichte und Epigramme aus dem Nachlaß (Deutsch). dtv 1978
Guy Deutscher. Through the Language Glass: Why The World Looks Different In Other Languages.2011