When we think about foreign language acquisition, the most commonly cited benefit is the often most obvious -- the ability to communicate with other cultures in either a social or professional capacity.
The second benefit which is often cited is the ability to understand, appreciate, and think more deeply about our native language such as the structure of sentences and the selection and accuracy of words used.
For instance, what are the differences between rock, gravel, pebbles and stones?
Or the differences between a cathedral, church, shrine and temple?
How about a stream, river and creek?
Beyond all of these benefits, however, is the concept of the Foreign Language Effect. This is related to the degree to which thinking in a foreign language impacts (positively or negatively) our emotional involvement and cognitive biases.
For instance, when we learn a language natively, we most often do so through daily living and life, in a highly charged and emotional environment. As would be expected, acquiring a language in such a manner results in the words and verbs being heavily laden with emotion and psychological triggers.
By contrast, second language acquisition (unless you were raised in a bilingual culture or household) is traditionally done in a far more clinical, emotionally neutral or sterile environment and as such the words and nouns are far more devoid of emotion and psychological triggers.
Even if you don't speak a foreign language or only speak a foreign language at a basic level, you can easily test this by thinking about various emotional issues and changing the nouns, adjectives or verbs used.
Pro-life vs Pro-abortion? Or Pro-life vs Pro-choice as just one example of an often extremely emotional issue with emotionally laden words.
We often seen this in military parlance as well, where concepts such as "dead civilians" or "dead children" has a far great impact than than using the term "collateral damage".
Fratricide among our military (that is, accidental killing of one's troops by one's troops) is reframed as "friendly fire" - and yet there is probably nothing friendly about one's troops planting one or several 1,000 lb gravity bombs in your mess hall tent, even if the troops are from your same country.
The science is quiet solid on this subject, and using it properly, it helps us understand that by changing the way we speak (nouns, pronouns, adjectives and verbs) we can greatly improve the clarity of our decision making by removing ourselves emotionally from the decision, thus, creating emotional distance.
And in other situations, this helps us influence or persuade others by either triggering their emotions to our advantage or side stepping them and avoiding certain emotional or psychological tripwires.
With the increasing interest in psychology, found not just in the business community but among the general public, it's always beneficial to share some of the major figures in the field from decades past.
One major figure in particular was Vance Packard (May 22, 1914 – December 12, 1996). Packard was an American journalist and social critic who authored a number of very insightful and prescient books including The Hidden Persuaders (1957) which was a exploration of the advertising industry and its use of psychology and persuasion.
In 1959, Packard wrote The Status Seekers which described American social stratification and behaviors.
And in 1960, Packard's The Waste Makers illuminated and criticized planned obsolescence describing the impact of American productivity, especially on the national character.
His 1964 book, The Naked Society clearly articulated the real threats to privacy posed by new technologies such as computerized filings, modern surveillance techniques and methods for influencing human behavior.
Reading Packard's works which were written decades ago and seeing how accurate his prognostications were (and, if anything, they were vastly understated - Room 641A, anyone?) shows what a genius he was.
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