It’s happened to all of us more than once; you hear a song in your own language and feel your whole body stir. It also happens when you hear words like “I love you” or get a message of encouragement such as “Come on!” Translators have always wondered how language influences emotions and that is precisely what we’re going to unpack in this post.

The emotional meaning of language

After several studies, experts have come to the conclusion that people are more emotional in their mother tongue than in a foreign language. Our mother tongue, the language we learnt in early childhood, furnishes us with emotional factors which influence us in one way or another depending on what kind of person we are.

For example, the words ‘grandmother’ or ‘grandma’ trigger our stimuli based on what we’ve called our parents’ parents from an early age. Likewise, there are words such as ‘school’, ‘beach’, ‘mountain’, ‘sun’ or ‘summer’ among many other examples which, if they were said to us in another language, would lose the charm conveyed by saying them in our language and which in most cases leads us to happy situations. For all these reasons, a Spaniard and a Latin American, for instance, will not always share the same feelings when hearing particular words.

Not every word touches the heart

We might say that when we learn a language, the words get to our brains and we can process and understand them. However, as we have seen, many words in our native language directly touch our hearts and it is precisely here where our emotions are always stirred. This is why the service provided by translators is so essential, apart from for understanding each other.

Nonetheless, we should be aware that these emotions are also engaged when we learn other languages and that they have a number of features:

  • Cognitive: ones which determine the meaning of what we feel, i.e. what we perceive and at what exact time this emotion emerged.
  • Physiological: they have to do with the biological changes we experience, i.e. what we feel in our body in response to this emotion.
  • Behavioural: methods we use to respond to the emotion. For instance, hesitating, motivating ourselves or reproaching ourselves.
  • Expressive: the body signals we use to express ourselves such as stammering, speaking more softly or blushing.

Some Spaniards love Italian, others Chinese, and others English. So we recommend studying the language which most appeals to you. However, you should always leave room for learning, in other words, turning on the four factors we’ve talked about to make way for emotions and, ultimately, emotional intelligence.

In a nutshell, it’s crucial to understand how language influences emotions in order to get to know each other a little better and achieve our goals more easily.