Language, Culture And Creativity

The way we speak is not only a result of how we think, but also a cause of certain thinking patterns.
language culture creativity

I often say that not only do I think, but I exist in three different languages. Growing up as a Hungarian in Romania I started off with two languages. From my early childhood it was only natural that if I felt something was easier expressed in Romanian, I would just change the language for a few words. And usually the people I was conversing with went with it, as they were speaking and thinking in two languages as well, and perfectly understood how those exact words excelled at expressing something that we might or might not have been able to express in Hungarian. And we often heard Romanians using Hungarian words as well.

For me, thinking in two languages always meant feeling richer in thinking, expression and creativity. As a writer I very often feel that even if I am writing in my own language, I get inspired from Romanian, and in the past few years even from English. I always read books, articles and watched movies both in Romanian and English, but these past few years I started to get closer to English as well, as I started travelling, and my job always required me to read and write in English. After becoming a literary translator, I got used to a third language becoming an organic part of my thinking and expressing myself, then as an interesting turn of events I ended up having a Hungarian boyfriend who has lived in the UK for 8 years, and this way his communication became bilingual as well. We got used to talking in Hunglish, and more often than not, we were amazed at how both of us felt that we could much accurately convey certain thoughts and/or emotions in English.

Speaking And Thinking

I think the way we speak is not only a result of how we think, but also a cause of certain thinking patterns. There are all sorts of psychological and linguistic researches and studies, not to mention philosophical schools of thought that explore the relation between speaking and thinking, and it is always a thrilling experience to see these links “in action”. During my writing I often stop to think how else would I have written a certain sentence if I hadn’t been influenced by Romanian or English. And what I also often think about is how it would affect my writing if I learned a new language. Now as I am preparing to move to Tenerife for a couple of months, I intend on starting to learn Spanish there, and continue even after I come home, and I am already looking forward to the excitement of learning a new language, together with diving deep into a new culture.

Language And Culture Influence Creativity

Creativity, in my opinion and experience, is strongly influenced by the languages and cultures we know. Of course in writing it’s easier to spot another language’s influences, but by creativity I mean all sorts of creative processes. It’s enough to think about how when analyzing or ”decoding” famous painters’ works, cultural questions always arise, especially when looking at works of artists who during they life have been living and creating in different countries. Immersing in a new, different culture always means opening up and welcoming new paradigms, letting new ways of thinking and relating to the outside world form us. And very often the novelties emerge from the subconscious. It can easily happen that you just get a gut feeling that “hmm something is strange” and a certain reaction or something you say or write takes you by surprise. Then if you give yourself the time to reflect on it, you might easily find that it has its roots in a different language or culture than your own. As it is said, one can only give what they have inside, and this means that the more you have, the more you can give and share. The more languages you know, the more accurately you can express yourself, and the more cultures you know and experience, the more worlds inside you.

Eszter Szűcs-Imre

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