“The Perils of Linguistic Relativity” Article Review

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By Ian McKamey (CMI,CHI,WA DSHS MC/SC Vietnamese)

Director, Spoken Language Interpreting Services

As a linguist with over 17 years in the interpretation and translation fields, reading “The Perils of Linguistic Relativity” by MasterWord’s Solutions Architect Ben Chai had my neurons firing like Albert Einstein!

This was a pleasantly superb take on how language is experienced and used in the course of multilingual/multicultural interaction and how it potentially influences behavior over time. Chai, a Mandarin speaker raised in the heart of Texas, sets the tone appropriately and playfully when he starts by saying “Sure, you could argue that language is a part of culture and thus the conundrum has more to do with the latter rather than the former – but where’s the fun in that?”

I felt a personal connection to this piece as a Vietnamese speaker because of the many similarities it shares with Mandarin; especially in the grammatical syntax, lack of tense markers and manner in which things are culturally expressed. But for ANYONE who reads this, bilingual or not, Ben’s masterful use of imagery helps to breakdown a number of complex cultural and linguistic phenomena through a simple, consumable and entertaining delivery. 

Broccoli anyone? 

Read it to find out what this relatable green has to do with “The Perils of Linguistic Relativity”.


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