Insightful piece by Lera Boroditsky in The Wall Street Journal,
"Lost in Translation
New cognitive research suggests that language profoundly influences the way people see the world; a different sense of blame in Japanese and Spanish"
Emphasizes things my mom discussed with me growing up...
"Dear, you have to realize Korean language is indirect and not descriptive, so this affects the culture and people. Which is why Koreans are vague and indirect at times."
Also when my cousin was an officer and translator for the South Korean army, he told me that it was frustrating translating from Korean to English because there were multiple ways to translate various sentences. If he didn't know the writer's intent then it was 4 or 5 ways. Of course, there are certain words and descriptions not in English that are in Korean, but he was referring to the general structural differences between Korean and English.
UPDATE: There was a pretty interesting thread on my Facebook page, so I asked some of the people if it was cool to repost their comments here. Good comments and insights from various sides of this topic.
Mike Lanza: A Japanese friend used to work at Microsoft in Tokyo. The working language among employees in the office was Japanese, but whenever a disagreement emerged, they would spontaneously switch to English. Apparently, they felt the Japanese language was a hindrance to resolving disputes efficiently...
Bernard Moon: Reminds me of Malcom Gladwell's "Outliers", which I didn't read but Christine told me about. She discussed with me the chapter on Korean Airlines pilots and how they use to have the highest crash rates in the industry. A study found that it was a combination of Confucian hierarchy and language that led to grave mistakes in the cockpit. A junior pilot wouldn't want to challenge the authority of the senior pilot and would make vague, non-challenging statements, such as "hmm, it seems a bit foggy... it might be difficult to land...". So the resolution was that Korean Air pilots speak English in the cockpit and the result was a dramatic decrease in crashes.
Bernard Moon: Han, Korean has more adjectives and more descriptive words in certain categories, but the structural differences create the indirectness.
I know when my cousin was an officer and translator for the South Korean army (liaison between the Korean and U.S. senior staff), he told me that it was frustrating translating from Korean to English because there were multiple ways to translate various sentences. If he didn't know the writer's intent then it was 4 or 5 ways.
Mike Lanza: When I studied Japanese, I found at least 15 or 20 different words that translated to English as "feeling." My first reation was to think the Japanese can articulate far more nuances of feeling than we English-speakers. This is akin to the discussion about Eskimos having over 500 words for our word, "snow."
After reflecting on the feeling question more, I'd say that Japanese gives many more options than English for obfuscating or lightening a strong feeling. So, I'd venture to guess (I haven't researched this) that they have more subtle "feeling" words, while we have more strong feeling words like "fabulous" or "shitty" or "stupendous" or "horrific".
Paul Y. Ahn: we'll be qualified to make statements like some of the ones made in this thread's comment section once we've attained a native to near-native proficiency in Korean.
as of now, none of the people that have shared their opinions in this thread, including the TS and me, have that level of proficiency, thus, the opinions are inherently (and unbeknown to the communicator) heavily ethnocentric ("englishcentric" or "englishlanguagecentric" may be a better words but i doubt they exist).
for example, the story about Bernard's translator cousin: for every one story about a person's frustration stemming from translating Korean to English, there is another about a person's frustration stemming from translating English to Korean
Bernard Moon: paul, actually it was a common frustration discuss among my cousin's fellow translators in the army. and i don't think you get more concrete proof than crashes decreasing when the language was changed. i believe this was a similar issue among japanese airlines too.
and my wife is a native speaker :)
Paul Y. Ahn: I'd bet on two things:
A. your cousin and his fellow translators are predominantly more comfortable speaking English than Korean and/or have been educated in the States even for a limited period (as are almost all people that play that role in the Korean army). thus, the opinions of their social group also showcase one side of the equation.
B. changing the language spoken in the cockpit from Korean to English was merely one of many significant changes that were made after the results of the study were published. probably one of the more significant changes that were made which decreased crashes and has nothing to do with the language spoken was that now first officers fly the plane and the captains run through their inspection process checklists which is the other way around.
tangentially, I think Malcom Gladwell, the pop sociologist, sucks