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The Way Languages Design the Reality Essay (Book Review)


At the present stage of development, the unprecedented scale of globalization has become a matter of concern. The prevalence of the English language is one of the most discussed issues in terms of its influence on different cultures. Many scholars address the contradiction between the necessity to choose a globalized language and the urge to save the cultural diversity; they also scrutinize the mechanisms of how a language exerts an impact on people and their activities. This paper examines two articles by Boroditsky and Traves and explains the authors’ opinions about the way language design reality.

In her article “How Does Our Language Shape the Way We Think?” Lera Boroditsky explores the phenomenon of language as “a uniquely human gift, central to our experience of being human” (135). It is the language that makes people who they are because perception depends on it to a large extent. As the author claims, while visual or hearing loss cannot prevent a person from having a social life, language conveys their thoughts and emotions and simultaneously constructs them. This ambiguity is thought-provoking because one can hardly tell the beginning and the end of this process apart. Thus, this correlation becomes the main idea of the article.

Boroditsky emphasizes the question of whether linguistic utterances translate a part of the same information that people have or individuals pay attention to various facts and details (138). In other words, it is necessary to comprehend if all speakers, regardless of their languages, perceive the environment in the same manner and include only a small amount of it into their statements or notice different things because their language encourages them to do it.

This issue is significant because it helps understand how people of different backgrounds think. The author supports the idea about the influence of language and provides vivid examples, such as the Kuuk Thaayorre and the reflection of space in their language, which prove the existence of various approaches toward space, time, colors, and objects. Boroditsky arrives at the conclusion that linguistic processes are ubiquitous because languages shape the way human beings perceive the world around them.

The author’s ideas are appealing to me. In relation to globalization, this article singles out a potential challenge that refers to the natural barrier: people fundamentally tend to notice and underline different characteristics of the setting and themselves. Nevertheless, communication is possible. Language is more than vocabulary: it is a unique set of values and a certain mode of perception. In order to establish contact, one should not only learn the rules of the language but also get an insight into the way of perceiving the world. Boroditsky’s findings demonstrate that cultural education should become an integral part of the training.

One should change one’s status from an outsider to an aware person. Throughout different cultures, people tend to be suspicious of outsiders, especially if they tell them what to do (Banerjee and Duflo 455). Indeed, strangers are not to be trusted because they do not know traditions, habits, lifestyle patterns, and so on. One should remember this fact and try to integrate it into the culture.

The second article is “The Church of Please and Thank You,” by Julie Traves. The author concentrates on language as the means of power and underscores that present-day language imperialism constitutes a pressing problem. The promotion of English as the global language, Traves argues, is often associated with the cultural invasion of the British and American cultures. She asserts that English words become “the secret passwords to safety, wealth, and freedom” (Traves 173).

Alternatively stated, English is the instrument to obtain security and well-paid employment and act independently. This idea illustrates the first step to power because only prosperous and self-sufficing individuals can implement their plans. Later, English transforms from a kind of survival device to the means of exercising one’s power.

In this context, the role of teachers becomes significant. The author insists that teaching people English, and its appropriate usage does not convert them to ideal English persons but makes them good specialists nowadays (Traves 175). It means that education is not aimed at transforming people and changing their cultural values and habits. Teaching English implies knowledge about the peculiarities of the English culture and, more broadly, the Western lifestyle.

In this respect, one does not have to forget one’s background: Western behavioral patterns only become a tool that helps in the globalized world. The author concludes with the idea that English has assumed prominence, and people have to adapt to the current situation, whether they like it or not.

In terms of the decisive role of the instructor, I agree with the author and believe that cultural studies are a must. However, I assume that the integration of different regions in the world community is more complex. Developed countries often do not understand the needs of the developing areas. People in need often receive what they do not want (Kenny 254). To put it bluntly, wealthy countries tend to send unnecessary things and keep requisites.

It is another side of the same coin that should also be discussed. One more example of the wrong perception and actions in the context of globalization is to treat developing countries as if they were unable to cope with obstacles. For instance, portraying a very stereotypical image of Africa that allegedly needs pity is not relevant (Watkins 259). What each region needs is respect. Thus, one should remember that problems with globalization are not only connected with acceptance or denial of modern tendencies but also pertain to the contents of the interaction.

In this context, a central language for communication is needed, but it should not be considered supreme. In my opinion, such global power may be dangerous for the majority of cultures because the younger generation will not be interested in saving them. Progress should not be associated with a particular language because all people have equal rights to develop. Local cultures and languages also should be given this opportunity; otherwise, people will not only lose a significant part of their cultural heritage but also start thinking in the same way.

As Boroditsky’s findings demonstrate, languages prescribe some patterns of thinking and perception. If people all over the world started speaking one and the same language only, they would hold almost the same opinions. For me, this outlook is appalling because people might become similar to machines.

The effects of the global language may be mitigated by law, as in France, and cultural diversity propaganda. One possible solution is that justice systems, schools, and mass media should concentrate on the usage of local languages. Overall, learning languages should come with appropriate cultural education.

Works Cited

Banerjee, Abhijit, and Esther Duflo. “More than 1 Billion People Are Hungry in the World.” Globalization: A Reader for Writer. Ed. Maria Jerskey. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. 447-461. Print.

Boroditsky, Lera. “How Does Our Language Shape the Way We Think?” Globalization: A Reader for Writer. Ed. Maria Jerskey. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. 135-144. Print.

Kenny, Charles. “Haiti Doesn’t Need Your Old T-Shirt.” Globalization: A Reader for Writer. Ed. Maria Jerskey. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. 252-255. Print.

Traves, Julie. “The Church of Please and Thank You.” Globalization: A Reader for Writer. Ed. Maria Jerskey. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. 172-179. Print.

Watkins, Tate. “How Oliberté, the Anti-TOMS, Makes Shoes and Jobs in Africa.” Globalization: A Reader for Writer. Ed. Maria Jerskey. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. 256-260. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2020, October 14). The Way Languages Design the Reality. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-way-languages-design-the-reality/

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1. IvyPanda. "The Way Languages Design the Reality." October 14, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-way-languages-design-the-reality/.


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IvyPanda. "The Way Languages Design the Reality." October 14, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-way-languages-design-the-reality/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "The Way Languages Design the Reality." October 14, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-way-languages-design-the-reality/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'The Way Languages Design the Reality'. 14 October.

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