If you do not have a word for something, can you think about it? I speak Urdu and English, fluently. The term You, in English is translated as ‘aap’ or ‘tum’ in Urdu, where ‘aap’ implies a higher degree of respect and tum doesn’t. Does that mean that some people deserve less respect than others do? What is the meaning behind the need to develop two words when the English language does it so conveniently with one? What does it tell you about that culture?
Let me give you another example: Piraha tribe in remote northwestern Brazil do not use numbers. They merely use relative quantities such as “some” and “more”. What does that tell you about their community and their perception of time? Imagine asking them to arrive for a 9:00am meeting.
How about swearing? All those words that our society uses to express themselves. Hmm. I won’t go there.
How about the term black and white? When did those come about? Did they emerge when language emerged?Were we so compelled to immediately identify that distinction in skin color?
Now, having completed almost 3/4 of my MBA, as a business student, I have been taught hundreds of new words such as ‘opportunity cost’ and ‘economies of scale’. Believe me when I say this, the mere presence of these words in my mind’s dictionary changed the way I think because now I can actually think about these things. See. Language affects your thinking and sometimes the mere absence of words can also enrich your thinking.