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Whether you’re speaking in your nativetongue, or in another language, being understood and believed is fundamental togood communication. After all, a fact is a fact in any language, and astatement that is objectively true should just be considered true, whetherpresented to you in English, Chinese or Arabic.

无论你是用母语还是用另一种语言讲话,被理解和信服是良好沟通的根本。毕竟在任何一种语言中,事实终究是事实,并且一个客观上符合真实的陈述应该被认为是正确的,无论是用英语、汉语还是阿拉伯语表述给你。

However, our research suggests that theperception of truth is slippery when viewed through the prism of differentlanguages and cultures. So much so that people who speak two languages canaccept a fact in one of their languages, while denying it in the other.

然而,我们的研究表明:经由不同的语言和文化棱镜,对事实的感知是很不可靠的。甚至于能说两种语言的人会用其中一种语言接受某个事实,却在用另一种语言时否认它。

Bilingual people often report that theyfeel different when switching from one language to another. Take Karin, afictitious bilingual, for example. She might use German informally at home withfamily, in the pub, and while watching football. But she uses English for morestructured, professional aspects of her life as an international lawyer.

双语人群常常报告说,从一种语言转换到另一种语言时,他们会感觉不太一样。以Karin这个虚构的双语者为例。她在家与家人一起、在酒吧里以及观看足球时会无拘无束地使用德语。但身为一名国际律师,她会在生活中更体制化、职业化的场合使用英语。

This contextual change of language is notsimply superficial, it goes hand-in-hand with a host of perceptual, cognitiveand emotional trends. Research shows that language linked to experiences shapesthe way we process information. So if someone was to utter the words “Ich liebedich” to Karin, she might well blush, but by the same token, “I love you” mightnot alter her cheek colour at all. It’s not a matter of proficiency: Karin isequally fluent in German and English, but her emotional experiences are boundmore strongly to her mother tongue, simply because she experienced morefundamental, defining emotions as a child.

语言的上下文变化不仅仅停留于表面,它与一系列感性、认知和情绪的走向息息相关。研究发现,勾连于经验的语言塑造了我们处理信息的方式。所以,如果有人打算向Karin表达一句“Ich liebe dich(德语的“我爱你”)”,她的脸可能会变得很红,但同样意思的一句话,“I love you”可能根本不会改变她脸颊的颜色。这不是一个语言精通度的问题:Karin的德语和英语一样流利,但她的情绪体验更紧密地绑定在她的母语上,只是因为在她还是孩童时,体验到了更基本、更起决定性作用的情感。

A substantial number of psychology experimentshave shown that languages shape aspects of our visual perception, the way wecategorise objects in our environment, and even the way we perceive events. Inother words, our very sense of reality is constructed by the confines of thelanguage we speak.

大量心理学实验已经表明:语言塑造了我们视觉感知的方方面面,我们对环境中的物体进行分类的方式,甚至是我们看待事件的方式。换句话说,我们真实感的建构,受限于我们所说的语言。

Less is known of whether language alsoshapes our higher-level knowledge, relating to concepts and facts. Untilrecently, it was commonly assumed that one’s understanding of meaning is sharedacross all the languages one speaks. However, we have been able to observe thatthis is not the case. Bilinguals actually interpret facts differently dependingon the language they are presented with, and depending on whether the factmakes them feel good or bad about their native culture.

语言是否也塑造了我们涉及到概念和事实的高级认识过程,对此我们还了解不多。直到最近才能够普遍假定,一个人对他所说所有语言的语义理解都是共享的。然而,我们已经能观察到事实并非如此。实际上,双语者会根据所呈现的语言种类,并会根据这个事实是否会使他们对自己的本土文化感觉良好,而对事实进行不同的解读。



During one such study from our group, weasked Welsh-English bilinguals – who had spoken Welsh from birth and consideredthemselves culturally Welsh – to rate sentences as true or false. The sentenceshad either a positive or negative cultural connotation, and were factuallyeither true or false. For example, “mining was celebrated as a core andfruitful industry in our country” has a positive connotation and is a truestatement. Another similar yet subtly different example is “Wales exports primequality slate to every single country”, which is a positive yet falsestatement. The statement “historians have shown that miners were heavilyexploited in our country” is negative and true. And finally, “the poor workethic of miners ruined the mining industry in our country” is negative andfalse.

一个我们团队的这类研究期间,我们要求威尔士语—英语双语者把句子评判出真和假,他们自出生起就说威尔士语,并在文化认同上认为自己是威尔士人。这些句子带着正面或负面的文化内涵,而且确凿为真或确凿为假。例如,“在我们国家,矿业被誉为核心和多产的产业”这句拥有有正面的内涵,并且是一个真实的表述。另外一个类似但有着微妙不同的例子是,“威尔士出口最上等的石板到每一个国家”,这是一个正面却虚假的表述。“历史学家已经展示出,我们国家严重剥削矿工”的说法是负面的,但真实。最后,“矿工们低下的职业道德毁掉了我们国家的采矿业”是负面和虚假的。

Our bilingual participants read thesesentences in both English and Welsh, and as they categorised each one, we usedelectrodes attached to their scalps to record the implicit interpretation ofeach sentence.

我们的双语参与者分别用英语和威尔士语读这些句子,在他们对每句进行分类时,我们用贴在他们头皮上的电极来记录每个句子的隐含解读。

We found that when sentences were positive,bilinguals showed a bias towards categorising them as true – even when theywere false – and that they did this in both languages. So far, no surprise. Butwhen sentences were negative, bilinguals responded to them differentlydepending on whether they were presented in Welsh or in English, even thoughthe exact same information was presented in both of the languages.

我们发现,当句子是正面的时候,双语者表现出一种偏见,倾向于将它们归到真实一类,即使它们是虚假的,而且他们在两种语言中都会这么干。到目前为止没有例外。但当句子是负面的,双语者对它们的反应就不同了,而这取决于它们是用威尔士语还是用英语在表达,尽管这两种语言表达出的是完全相同的信息。

In Welsh they tended to be less biased andmore truthful, and so they often correctly identified some unpleasantstatements as true. But in English, their bias resulted in a surprisinglydefensive reaction: they denied the truth of unpleasant statements, and sotended to categorise them as a false, even though they were true.

用威尔士语时,他们倾向于表现出更少的偏见,更加诚实,所以他们通常都能正确地把一些令人不快的表述鉴别为真。但是在英语中,他们的偏见导致了惊人的防御反应:他们否认不愉快表述的真实性,进而倾向于把它们归为虚假,即使它们是真实的。

This research shows the way in whichlanguage interacts with emotions to trigger asymmetric effects on ourinterpretation of facts. While participants’ native language is closely tied toour emotions – which perhaps comes with greater honesty and vulnerability –their second language is associated with more distant, rational thinking.

这项研究显示出:语言经与情绪的互动,在我们对事实的解读中触发了不对称效应。当参与者的母语与我们那可能带来更高诚实度和更大脆弱性的情绪紧密捆绑时,他们的第二语言则和更冷淡的理性思维联系在一起。

Make no mistake, our bilingual participantsknew what was factually true and what was factually false – as revealed by thebrain activity measures – but functioning in the second language appeared toprotect them against unpalatable truths, and deal with them more strategically.

别搞错了,我们的双语参与者是知道哪些为确凿真实,哪些又为确凿虚假,如对其大脑活动的测量所揭示的那样。但第二语言带来的效果,似乎是为了保护他们免受讨人厌的事实影响,并且更富策略性地应对它们。