Can how we speak affect how much we save?
If you’ve been looking around a few personal finance sites, a while back you might have noticed a lot of posts about money beliefs: old sayings, myths, truths, misconceptions, and the like.
They’re fun to read, especially the authors’ takes. But when one of the blogs I read posted the different Chinese proverbs about money, my first reaction was I didn’t realize there were that many. And I thought about looking for all the salawikains we Filipinos have regarding money.
But in the course of doing so, I came across this very intriguing video from TED. And it raises a very intriguing question: Could our language affect our ability to save money?
In this 12-minute video, the speaker – Keith Chen – raises some interesting points: people speaking a “future-less” language apparently save more. I’d like to ask you to watch the video before getting back to rest of this post.
Interesting isn’t it? Of course, as some have noted, it’s hard to prove.
But the point he raises about language is at least somewhat true. In English, we say “brother” and we’d have to make an extra effort to qualify it as either younger or older. Similar to the point he raises about the Chinese words for uncle, in Filipino, we can say “kuya” and it already communicates seniority without having to add another word to qualify it. And in fact, in traditional Filipino, there are different words to call the oldest sibling (kuya/ate), second oldest (diko/ditse), and even third eldest (sangko/sanse).
And as we know, seniority plays a big part in Filipino culture. In fact, we’re very respectful of our elders. And this in turn is demonstrated by the fact that we have the words po and opo, which are very hard to translate to other languages, if we even can.
So it’s very demonstrable that the language we use is tied very much to our culture, and by extension the way we think.
Of course, that only demonstrates correlation; it doesn’t tell us which is the cause. Either we have those words because of our culture; or our culture evolved into what it is because we had those words.
But what it does tell us is that the two are most likely linked. But this isn’t a culture or linguistics blog, so what’s the point?
Well our financial future is based primarily on our spending, saving and investing habits. And those habits are in turn based on what we know and what we feel about money. And what we feel and know is based on our mindset. And if we think about it, our mindset is at least partly based on our culture. And if culture is linked and even impacted by our language…
Could it be that simple? Could our financial future be affected by something as simple as learning new terms and concepts?
Well, that’s going to be impossible to prove. But what do you think? How much financial literacy have you gained lately? Did it make a difference?
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