Language, mentality and reality

Language gives us some mental structure. Our thoughts are structured by the language that we use. That means that what we think depends on how we think. But there is another side of the coin: how we think depends on what we think. The culture, our environment provides natural materials for our thinking: in certain cultures people may think, for example, about cars and computers but in others this may not be a custom. Therefore any language, on the one hand, forms people’s mind and perception, but on the other hand, it is shaped by their mind and perception. That is why any language is a unique cognitive tool and there are always some limitations for translating from one language to another. We may say that people with different languages live in different worlds. In English one differentiates “translation” and “interpretation”. Obviously, not all interpretation is translation but all translation is interpretation.

 

8 comments

  1. Let me speak from my own experience. I have studied in Uzbek school for 10 years. Then I did Bachelors degree at the Westminster International University in Tashkent (WIUT), where, as it is commonly known, all modules are instructed in English language. after graduation I have joined the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, where the main working language is Russian (which is true also for other gov. organizations like ministries and gov. agencies). As a result, now it is easier for me to speak Uzbek, write in English and read in Russian. And I am totally not satisfied with it. Therefore, I am a little bit skeptical about switching all Masters level studies into English language. Instead I would propose to add 1 or 2 compulsory subjects in languages other than main language of instruction. For example, if evropotok then 2 subjects taught and examined in Uzbek and English languages.

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  2. Whether we like it or not English is a language of modern education. It is not only pertinent to US, UK or other English speaking states. Any country, university (think-tank) or scholar wishing to be heard (respected) should use English. It is not only about speaking the language, it is more to the way of communication, conduct, set of rules, even way of doing business on international level. Moreover people who don’t understand English, unfortunately considered as less educated. So the sooner students and teachers of UWED or other Uzbek Universities shift to English the better. Yes, it is a challenge for Uzbek students who don’t have qualified English speaking teachers. But what I like about English is that as a truly international language it tolerates deviations and imperfection. You can hear Indonesian English, Japanese English, South Asian, Russian and other types of English. Yes it is OK if Uzbeks create “Uzbek English”, so what. I thinks hesitation has been acquired from the experience that those who don’t speak Russian perfectly are considered as “churka’s”. English is a different domain, with different culture, so I urge Uzbeks to start speaking English and embrace themselves for the whole world, at least it is so enjoyable to watch movies in original English.

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    1. I agree, we need to use English more intensively in our Universities, especially in UWED and the alike. I would even support the idea of making English as a main language of instruction at the Masters level in many our Universities. Hoverer, I as mentioned earlier, we should take care about our national language and support its development as a language of scholarship, to develop its scholarly/scientific terminologies. That is important for the future of our native language. And also taking into account of the important role of Russian in our current educational system, we need to support this language too (since nowadays many students and teachers could find some appropriative materials/textbooks only in Russian). So we really need to have a three-language (trilingual) strategy for our Universities. Of course, that is easy to say but hard to do. So that is why we need to have some kind of national debate and to develop a special strategy which will include the language vision and policy for different specialities/professions, educational levels and Universities. The part of this strategy can be the support of scholarly publications in English, especially in international refereed journals. The development of “Uzbenglish” might also be a part of this strategy.

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  3. I am taking your points to the extreme, so please, consider my text as a kind of “thinking out loud”.

    I always thought that we should gradually ban so called ‘evropotok’ in our universities, at least in social sciences, because otherwise we are doomed to have two different discourses in Uzbekistan. By separating into ‘nats’ and ‘euro’potoks we are re-producing university graduates (future ‘elite’) with two distinct patterns of thinking. And these two ‘streams’ co-exist in different (parallel) realities. So, for example, typical nats potok graduate is more conservative, with stronger community feeling, while typical euro potok graduate is rather liberal and mobile. They even have different points of references. For europotok it is Russia mainly, and Europe and US to the lesser extent, while for natspotok it is Islam or Orient. If europotok reads Pushkin mainly, natspotok reads Fuzuliy (if at all 🙂 ). I am a bit exaggerating, of course, but these different discourses might lead to potential conflict cleavages which threatens to divide our nation.

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    1. Agree. There is one more challenge: using English as a main study language at our Universities, especially at the graduate level (like in such countries as the Netherlands, Singapore and others) or to develop and study in our native language (obviously we need to develop it a scholarly language, its scientific terminology, etc). Now everywhere more and more scholars try to publish their articles and books in English, the most respectable scholarly journals with the highest “impact factor” exist in English. So orientation to English in Universities is quite natural in our globalised word. But on the other hand the development of the local language is also very important. So how to combine these two trends? I am sure we need to develop a special strategy in this respect (also keeping in mind Russian as an important for us language).

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