The powerful effect of language on the human brain

It’s Cinco de Mayo, which has us thinking about the fact that more than half of the world’s population is multilingual. Though it may feel second-nature to some, the ability to understand more than one language can deeply impact one’s thoughts, feelings, and way of living. Check out this array of articles that explores the intriguing ways that language makes us who we are today.

How Language Can Affect the Way We Think
Jessica Gross, TED
Gesturing to the right or left doesn’t exist in Pormpuraaw, an Australian Aboriginal community. To speak their language, you’ll have to hone your sense of direction, learning where south, east, north, and west are at all times. This is just one of several fascinating examples, noted in Jessica Gross’ article, of the many ways in which language shapes our experience of the world around us.

The Strange Persistence of First Languages
Julie Sedivy, Nautilus
“Language is memory’s receptacle,” writes Julie Sedivy of her experience re-exploring Czech, her native tongue, in the wake of her father’s death. She dives into the impact of losing touch with one’s first language—feelings of cultural and familial disconnect—and the surprising ease with which she was able to get it back.

Babies’ Brains are Wired to Learn Multiple Language at Once
Naja Ferjan Ramirez, Quartz
All newborns enter into this world with a special gift: the ability to distinguish between the 800 different sounds that make up the human potential for language. This makes them the ideal blank slate for absorption—but, as this article explains, the clock is ticking.

The World’s Most Efficient Languages
John McWhorter, The Atlantic
Some languages are more of a mouthful than others. German, for example, is known for having words for seemingly every possible action and emotion while some languages rely heavily on context, forgoing details like tense, plurality, and gender. Take a look at just what makes certain languages denser than others—and the resulting cultural impact.

Go Easy on Your Brain
Whether you’re fluent in one language or four, your brain needs a calm, relaxing place to take in content, and that’s exactly why we created Pocket. Save these stories and anything else you find online to Pocket and enjoy them when you’re ready. They’ll be waiting for you in a clean, quiet space, free from the distractions of the noisy internet.