Language does matter


Somewhere sometime ago I read that language influences the way we think. I have read it in the context of a comparison between Asian and European languages. Meanwhile, I think that this also applies very much so to intra European languages. Even to the ones that belong to the same linguistic family.


I am talking specifically about English and German – both Germanic languages by the way.. so, you’d think that people speaking these languages should somehow think in a similar way. At least more similar than an English native speaker and a Chinese native speaker, or more similar than a German and a Vietnamese.  Theoretically. Hypothetically. Wishful thinking.

I somehow seem to have a language problem with Mr  English.  Naturally, in a first assessment of the situation it occurred to me that the misunderstandings could have also come from gender or cultural differences. After doing some investigations (read: a few first hand experiences), I think that it all goes back to language though.

My prime example is the way Mr English sees the three grades of engaging into a relationship: Dating, seeing someone, being in a relationship (I don’t actually know what comes first, the dating or the seeing thing?)! I have to admit that I stumbled across that to-me-quite-strange concept a few times already. Most probably because in my mother tongue, this simply doesn’t exist. In German there are not even terms for the different stages. You are either with someone or you are not. There is no such thing as in between, at least there are no labels for it! So, obviously I am confused!! In my mind, this whole thing with Mr English has already some sort of exclusivity after the first physical engagements and having seen each other a few times. While for him, he is still in the non-committal, non-serious seeing or dating stage where it is allowed (well, at least according to his definition) to date or see more than just one girl. mmmhh.. nice way out Mr English.

Because I am aware of my lack of knowledge and therefore lack of understanding, I look it up. I search the world of google for answers to this mystery. What I find is all in line with the following 2 examples:  

What is the difference between dating and seeing someone?

1) Dating is more casual than seeing someone. Seeing someone suggests that there is a relationship either beginning or in progress that is exclusive. You can date several people, but when you declare that you are seeing someone, it’s a declaration of a commitment.

2) “Seeing someone” means that you’ve maybe been on a couple of dates but are still in the feeling each other out phase.
“Dating someone” means that you’ve established a mutual liking for one another in that way. The exclusivity talk can occur at the end of the “dating someone” period.
“Having a girlfriend / boyfriend” means that you have established a certain degree of emotional commitment and physical exclusivity towards one another.

Well…this sounds pretty complicated to me! When is stage 1 going over into stage 2 and then into stage 3? Do I wait for Mr English to announce the change of labelling?

Why it is just me who is wrapping my thoughts around this issue? Why doesn’t Mr English do the same? Is it too much to ask for a man to take into consideration  Miss German’s mindset? Don’t expect me to understand your way of thinking. Just because I do speak the language doesn’t mean I get the concept. Not out of ignorance, but simply because language determines the way we think and if we don’t even have words for certain things, then they simply don’t exist my mind.

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