A part of travelling is learning new languages. It can be frustrating and hard. But it is not only a whole new world that opens up for you. You actually also make better decisions when you think about them in a foreign language, it is now proved.
I can seriously say that I do not think in my first language anymore. When I first started to travel, I was very shy to even speak English. However, I was forced to do so to make myself understood.
Then I had to learn Spanish, as few know English here in Bolivia. For be able to work, be independent and communicate with my husband’s family here, I had no choice. Today, I think in English or Spanish, and make my decisions thereafter. Which should contribute to that I make better decision now than when I was just thinking in my first language – Norwegian. This, if we should believe the research results from Chicago University.
This findings might surprise you. They surprised me. You would think that you could make equal rational decision no matter which language you think about them in. However, the study concluded that as thinking in a nonnative language takes more effort this causes people to approach the decision making process in a more analytical and less emotional way than when they think about it in their first language.
Besides making your decisions more rational and emotionless, thinking in a foreign language make you a better risk taker.
In the study, each of 54 students that participated in the research was given 15 USD. Furthermore, they were told they were given 15 opportunity to bet one of their dollars on a coin toss. If they won the toss they would get 2.50 USD back. If they lost, they would lose a dollar.
The results found that the students thinking in their native language allowed fear of losing a dollar get in the way of taking a risk to make more (only 54 % did take the risk). However, the persons that thought about it in their second language were better able to analyze the situation more rationally, and 71 % did the bet.
Why it is like this the researchers think is because people cannot disassociate their native language from their emotions, which confuses their logical thinking. On the other side, when you think in a foreign language you have a lack of emotional connection which allows a more rational thought process. Because an emotional reaction could lead to decisions that are motivated more by fear than by hope, even when the odds are highly favorable, like in this experiment.
I noticed that I care less about savings, investments and retirement decisions the last years (when I started to think in other languages). Before I was very focused on this. However, the researchers claim that over time this can be very beneficial. I think so as well, because I have taken some risks which turned out great, that I might not have done if thinking in Norwegian. Who knows?
Do you speak a second language? Do you think that thinking in a second language have helped you take better decisions?