My reply to a question about whether I speak other languages; I wasn’t sure if the asker wanted his question published, but felt the answer is relevant to what I write about here:
I grew up speaking English and Ukrainian, and then learned French as well. I’ve often thought about the differences in a multilingual brain vs. a single-language speaker’s. Not so much physical differences as the way in which we perceive things. For example, when learning a new language, as with French, I’m able to try to understand what a word means in that language as opposed to trying to directly translate it. This is important; as we all know, a lot of things can’t be translated well, so the only way to understand them is to have a grasp of the culture they belong to and their history. That opens up whole other avenues of of communication that aren’t there when we try to simply learn another language at face value, relating it only to our own language, our own experience.
Having said all that, I wonder if this has contributed to my strong dislike of anthropocentrism in general — of the human tendency to try to comprehend the world on uniquely human terms, instead of making an effort to know nature from outside themselves and in its own languages.
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