samedi 8 mars 2014

The impact of language in culture and business

Language can not be reduced to a simple tool of communication. In fact, language not only shapes communication and its content but also influences the communicating persons.

The impact of language on culture and behavior is a very interesting subject. Here is an article on TED's blog explaining five examples of how our language can affect the way we think. In one of the examples, an expert in linguistic-cultural connections thinks about the English justice that aims to punish criminals rather than compensate victims. The expert argues that this is deeply tied to English language. Indeed, in English, we’ll often say that someone broke a vase even if it was an accident, but in some other languages we tend to say that the vase broke itself.

This subject reminds me strongly of the famous dystopian novel "1984" by George Orwell. The story happens in a country deeply controlled by a tyrant totalitarian political system. In order to better control the population, the ruling party has developed a new language called the "newspeak". Newspeak is a minimalist language meant to ideologically align thought and action to the principles of the party. Newspeak:
  • Removed words referring to dangerous concepts such as freedom, diversity...
  • Minimized dictionary by removing synonyms and words with ambiguous meaning
  • Removed subjectivity from words and gave them strict meaning
  • Created new words illustrating new concepts of the party such as "doublethink"
  • Shortened words length so that people don't get time to think about what they are saying, and speak rather like robots.
Even in programming, the choice of language has a strong impact on the way the programmer designs software. For example, an object-oriented language will drive you eventually to design object based architectures and use advanced concepts such as design patterns paradigms.

Finally, i think that the same dependence exists between the behavior of employees and their company's internal language. In illustration, I will give some examples:
  • The absence of a disparate honorific addressing among employees might help them communicate more easily.
  • The intensive use of internal specific words makes it more difficult for the employees to imagine new ideas requiring other terms in order to be described. For example, when listening to a client expressing his needs, a sales representative might only capture the needs that can be matched with internal words of his company.
  • Another consequence of intensive use of internal words and acronyms is a more significant barrier for quitting the company, thus affecting the loyalty of employees.
The culture and behavior of a company, and thus its success or failure, can be tied to its internal language. Do companies consciously manage this aspect?

Aucun commentaire :

Enregistrer un commentaire