How Your Brain Thinks Differently On Different Languages

Science has a lot to say when it comes to telling us about the benefits of learning a foreign language, and even assures us that anyone is capable of picking up a new tongue. But just because your brain becomes healthier every time you learn a foreign language, does that necessarily mean your brain thinks differently than it usually would when you’re speaking English? Amazingly, yes. Your brain shifts gears according to what language you’re speaking and an English speaker and a French speaker can actually think in very unique and different ways. Want to know what happens when you’re using another language? Read on to get a glimpse of your brain on German, French, and Mandarin:


Imagine that a group of monolingual German speakers and monolingual English speakers are shown a video of a boy running towards a house. Since English features the –ing morpheme which indicates an ongoing action and German does not, people who only speak English tend to focus on the action occurring (the boy is running) as opposed to a German person who will focus on the goal of the action (the boy is running home). When you learn German and achieve the ability to think in German, your brain will automatically pick up on the tendency, affecting the way you view, and express yourself, about certain situations!

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French, like several other languages, features the characteristic of assigning gender to everything, even inanimate objects. This has been the bane of many an English speaker because it is a difficult concept to translate from one language to the next. However, can gender assignation change the way a speaker thinks? Definitely! A monolingual English speaker will look at all inanimate objects the same. If you were to ask whether a talking table would be a man or woman, they are just as likely to choose either one. French speakers, on the other hand, will automatically imagine a table speaking with a high-pitched, more female voice because in French, table is feminine. The same applies for other objects as well! As a French speaker, you are therefore more likely to not only imagine objects with male or female voices, but also talk about them as if they are male or female. Fascinating!

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Mandarin may be considered one of the most difficult languages in the world, but grammatically it is extremely straight-forward and this can have an effect on how you think. As you know, Mandarin is a language which has a weak future tense and verbs aren’t changed to indicate past, present, or future. English, on the other hand, has an extremely strong future tense and speakers can make a distinct difference between something they are doing now and something they plan to do. As a result, Mandarin speakers are reportedly more future-orientated, meaning that there is a greater likelihood they will spend less and save more than your average monolingual English speaker. Who knew your brain on Mandarin could mean more money in your bank account?

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Without a doubt being multilingual has its benefits, bringing with it a wider worldview and a myriad of possibilities. Now, knowing what you know, you are probably more than ready to get started learning a new tongue today. But get off on the right foot first by signing up for some excellent language classes and take advantage of free online placement tests in order to find the right level for you. Then, you can watch your brain develop a whole new way of thinking through the foreign language lens!