Ability to think and express ideas with the help of language is a stunning feature of humans; it unites people in numerous ways. Without communication, there would be no humanity. Even the simplest task would turn into a nightmarish problem if one could not share his thoughts and ideas with another person. Language is a tool for establishment and maintenance of social relations. In any culture around the world, every family is waiting passionately for their child to utter the first word. Every family remembers the word their baby uttered first. Words that the infant hears before it can speak matter much in every community. There are cultures where a baby would hear certain words from Quran, and there are other cultures where babies hear words of love when they are born to this world. Thus, any person from the first moments of his/her life falls under the influence of a language before he/she knows it.
Language serves as a wall of misunderstanding that stands between different nations and cultures. Sometimes it seems impossible to overcome for a person who moves to another country. However, as the right key opens the door to a room full of treasures, a well-learned language and culture of the other nation can do wonders and open a new beautiful world to a person. It is worth mentioning that sometimes the key to understanding a different culture lies in learning the language of its people. Any language is a treasure trove of proverbs, folk wisdom and folklore, the wisdom of the ancients, legends, fairytales and cultural assets of the nation.
Language that people speak forms the way they see the world, the way they think, and the way they live their life. This is one of the main reasons why people who speak different languages think in different ways. Furthermore, learning a new language alters the usual way of thinking. Different languages require different pronunciation skills, way of thinking and intellectual patterns from a person even regardless of the language he/she needs to express the same information in. It means that the speaker’s pattern of thinking will be different every time he/she speaks different language. This will lead to the change in his/her perception of the world. Russian, Turkish, Indonesian and English people speak different languages, which is the main reason for them to have distinct differences in their national mentality, pattern of thinking and way of life. If every culture paid attention to the same things, it would never be difficult to learn a foreign language. In reality, a person has to learn a new set of distinctions if he/she wants to master a foreign language because it is more than a list of words and grammar rules. People who speak different languages have to encode strikingly different word aspects to be able to use their language appropriately.
Different concepts and notions are rendered in a number of various ways in different languages, and sometimes the discrepancies in the interpretation of the same notion are striking. For instance, the notion of time is present in every language. That said, its perception differs from one corner of the world to another. For English people, it is a common thing to talk about duration through the prism of length. People tend to say that they had “a long flight”, took part in “a short meeting” or had “a short chat with a friend”. In Spain and Greece, things are different, and people there measure time by its amount rather than length. People use words like “much”, “little” and “big” when they speak about time (Boroditsky 34).
The notion of gender of nouns is of great importance in every language. Indeed, if a word is of masculine gender, people are likely to describe it with corresponding masculine features. For example, if one asks a German to describe a key, which is masculine in German, such adjectives as “hard”, “strong” and “useful” are most likely to be uttered. If a Spanish person describes the same key, the adjectives would be “shiny”, “tender” and “elegant” because the word key is feminine in Spanish (Boroditsky 3). That is how even one notion of a noun gender can have an enormous effect on the nation’s perception of the world and lead to development of the unique way of thinking, uncharacteristic of any other nation or culture.
If one looks at famous paintings in an art gallery, he/she will be able to see that the universal images of justice, death, victory, love, sin and so on are depicted as male or female based on the fact what gender these words had in the artist’s native language. This is true for most cases in any form of art. If gender is applicable to any noun of the language, it influences the way people perceive anything that they can describe with a noun. This way language shapes the way a person thinks, the way he/she sees the world and the way he/she lives their life. It is the central element of everyone’s experience of being a human. There are also categories of nouns in every language that determine the cultural development of the language over the centuries. This refers to names. They carry historic value through the centuries to the new generations.
Culture influences language directly, openly and strongly, whereas the language, in its turn, influences culture indirectly and subconsciously. Any language intertwines deeply with the value and structural system of the society it is spoken in. With the help of the language a person speaks, one can not only determine his nationality, but also his position in society. People do not use the same language in different situations. Language is variable and it depends on social background, sphere of work and activity of the person, his income level, religious beliefs and priorities. Thus, language of a given individual is a peculiar and unique thing.
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Over time, society formed certain norms for language usage. There is certain language used in business that differs from that of medicine, law or engineering. Criminal world has its own language as well. There are taboos, euphemisms and curse words in the language, the usage of which is strictly controlled by society. Solidarity or group identity is expressed with the help of language; it shows how to distinguish between insiders and outsiders and tell friends from foes. In small groups of people, like peers, roommates, co-workers, couples and families, language gains an inflection of the experience and interests of the group (Wolfram and Schilling-Estes 17). In the workplace, people tend to develop a jargon, which is shorthand that allows them to impress or mystify the outsiders efficiently (Chaika 13). In two-person conversation, language relieves the social subordination of the speakers in the way they talk to each other and address one another; it shows who takes charge and who plays a subordinate role.
Society is a complex integrated system that functions on the basis of numerous factors. Language, as a tool of communication, is one of the most influential ones. It plays a great role in social grouping in a community. It influences individuals and groups, shows a person’s status in society and relieves a person’s background. Society defines language usage based on a person’s gender, age, social status, sphere of activity and ethnic background. Cultural complexity, contact and conflict shape the language as a social and cultural phenomenon.