Make Better Economic Choices by Learning a New Language

This all started when Kenneth Chen, an economist, decided he wanted to look at whether the language you spoke determined your economic decisions.

His study confirmed that it does. According to Chen, people who spoke “Futured” languages – such as English – which incorporate different phrasing for past, present, and future were 30 percent less likely to have reported saving in any given year. “Futureless” language speakers (such as Chinese), reported to having saved 25 percent more by retirement in contrast.

Why would the language you speak have anything to do with your economic decisions? Chen explained it as having to do specifically with the tensing of those languages. For instance, because in English we have different phrasing for yesterday, today, and tomorrow the future appears further away and therefore a less motivational incentive for saving.

Pretty cool, huh? But wait, there’s more!

Another study cited Russian speakers being able to pick out different hues of blue better than English speakers. While English speakers have different words for tones of blue –Teal, Navy, Sapphire, and Indigo – Russian has different words for dark blue (siniy) and light blue (goluboy), allowing them to differentiate between shades better.

Besides these studies being super interesting, what we’ve learned is that basically everyone else is better at stuff than us English speakers. However, there’s a silver lining as far as we can tell: As an English speaker there is a clear route to bettering yourself!

Let’s say you are a painter; to better understand Picasso’s Blue Period, simply learn how to speak Russian!

If you are a younger person looking to save up for your future or a down payment on a house, a dialect of Chinese is for you. See where we’re going with this?

We’re full advocates of learning new languages in general in order to understand other cultures better or pursue interests, but what if we learned new languages with a different purpose in mind?

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