WATCH WHAT YOU SAY – YOUR LANGUAGE COULD BE MAKING YOU POOR!
IT SOUNDS A little funky, but let’s face it – linguists have been telling us for years that the way we read, write, and talk shapes the way we see the world. So why shouldn’t our language have an impact on our financial behaviour as well?
This is precisely what behavioural economist Keith Chen is proposing. Chen has published research that suggests speakers of languages without strong future tenses tended to be more responsible about planning for the future.
“After scouring many datasets with millions of records on individual household savings behaviour – along with a number of peculiar health performance metrics like grip strength and walking speed – I find that languages that oblige speakers to grammatically separate the future from the present lead them to invest less in the future,” Chen explained on his TED Blog last year. “Speakers of such languages save less, retire with less wealth, smoke more, practise more unsafe sex and are more obese. Sur- prisingly, this effect persists even after controlling for a speaker’s education, income, family structure and religion.”
According to Chen, language could account for the fact that “Germans save 10 percentage points more than the British do [as a fraction of GDP] while Estonians and Chinese save a whopping 20 percentage points more than Greeks and Indians.”
What then, does that say about South Africans? Eina!