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1 minute reading

Being multilingual can open your world to alternative perspectives

Being multilingual can open your world to alternative perspectives Being multilingual can open your world to alternative perspectives
Source : Artist unknown via mercari
Story of Your Life
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Story of Your Life
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#Language

After a race of aliens, known as heptapods, initiate contact with humanity, the military hires linguist Louise Banks to discover their language and communicate with them. She says:

More interesting was the fact that [the language] Heptapod B was changing the way I thought. For me, thinking typically meant speaking in an ‘internal voice’ as we say in the trade, my thoughts were phonologically coded. My internal voice normally spoke in English, but that wasn’t a requirement. The summer after my senior year in high school, I attended a total immersion program for learning Russian; by the end of the Summer, I was thinking and even dreaming in Russian. But it was always spoken Russian. Different language, same mode: a voice speaking silently aloud.

The idea of thinking in a linguistic yet non-phonological mode always intrigued me. I had a friend born of deaf parents; he grew up using American Sign Language, and he told me that he often thought in ASL instead of English. I used to wonder what it was like to have one’s thoughts be manually coded, to reason using an inner pair of hands instead of an inner voice. With Heptapod B, I was experiencing something just as foreign: my thoughts were becoming graphically coded. There were trance-like moments during the day when my thoughts weren’t expressed with my internal voice; instead, I saw semagrams (symbols associated with a concept) with my mind’s eye, sprouting like frost on a windowpane.

As I grew more fluent, semagraphic designs would appear fully-formed, articulating even complex ideas all at once … I found myself in a meditative state, contemplating the way in which premises and conclusions were interchangeable. There was no direction inherent in the way propositions were connected, no ‘train of thought’ moving along a particular route; all the components in an act of reasoning were equally powerful, all having identical precedence.

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