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"What Does it Mean to Think in a Second Language?"

Date: 10 March 2015

Aneta Pavlenko:

One of the favorite questions about bilingualism in the media and bilingual forums is whether learning a second language (L2) makes you think differently. This question is linked to the ever-controversial Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, commonly understood as the idea that “the languages we speak affect the way we think.” Heated debates about such effects have pitted scholars and laypeople against each other for more than a century, with answers ranging from “we do not think in language” to “we think differently depending on the language”. But what if, instead of trying to answer the question, we reflected on the question itself: Can a language make us do anything? And what do we mean by ‘thinking in the L2’?

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  • Australian Government
  • The University of Queensland
  • Australian National University
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Western Sydney University