Putting You in Control of Tomorrow
The link between nationality and economic prosperity brings a fresh challenge each time a new set of statistics is made public. We can’t deny that people’s life chances are heavily influenced by their place of birth, their place of residence and the language they speak. Nor can we always reconcile that with our sense of social justice. But what if the language issue goes deeper? What if the grammatical structure of our native language is steering us in one direction or another?
Behavioural economist Keith Chen believes it is. In a wide-ranging study, he found a link between grammatical structure and the tendency to save money and plan for the future. We’re all familiar with the concept of “living like there’s no tomorrow”. Chen’s findings suggest that some of us are saving like there’s no tomorrow.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) monitors financial activity patterns in 37 countries. Chen was intrigued to find that while prosperous and highly industrialised countries shared many social and economic qualities, they showed radically different habits when it came to the simple act of saving money.
Citizens of countries as diverse as Germany and Japan, or Luxembourg and South Korea, resembled peas in a pod when it came to saving habits. South Koreans and Luxembourgers squirrel away over 25% of their Gross Domestic Product each year. The flipside of the coin sees Britain, the United States and Greece barely saving at all.
With no clear geographical pattern, Keith Chen looked for a linguistic one. What he found was interesting.
The languages we speak can be classified in many different ways, and one of these ways relates to their treatment of the future tense. “Futured” languages such as English and Greek make a clear distinction between the future and the present. “Futureless” languages, on the other hand, refer to future action and current action in the same terms. Japanese and German speakers, who use the same verb conjugation for past, present and future action, put up no linguistic barriers to future action, and Keith Chen believes this is a contributory factor when it comes to financial planning.
When we see the future as something far removed from us, there is a built-in temptation to shield ourselves from it. Fans of “The Simpsons” will recognise this pattern of behaviour in Homer Simpson. An early episode of the show confirmed Homer’s date of birth as May 12th 1956. So while he and his family haven’t changed much over the years, tomorrow is officially his 65th birthday. Simpsons fans will doubt that their hero has saved much money for his retirement, though. Time after time we’ve laughed at Homer’s habit of cheerfully signing up for credit agreements that promise to bankrupt him in the future. He does it because in his mind, the future is a long way away. He also does it simply because he’s Homer Simpson, of course, and it may be stretching a point to say his approach to saving is typical of English speakers, but Keith Chen’s research indicates that when our native language allows us to feel that way about the future, we’re more likely to be led in that direction.
At XTM International we know when to follow and when to lead. We listen to our customers, and when they tell us where they want to go our technological leadership takes them there. The future of global communication lies in smart investment in Artificial Intelligence, and we make that investment every day. XTM Cloud enhancements in Inter-language Vector Space technology enable users to calculate the relationship between words from language to language, delivering certainty and control that bodes well for their future success. With the recent release of XTM Cloud 12.7 we’re putting users even more firmly in control of tomorrow. To take just one example, we’ve introduced new linguistic resources to improve the splitter of compound words in languages including German and Dutch. This internal mechanism is used by the Aligner, Auto-inlines, and Bilingual Terminology Extractor, and will add value for translation into all language pairs. But regardless of translation accuracy, will grammatical structure affect the behavioural patterns of German and Dutch speakers? These neighbours share a 350-mile border, but linguistically speaking they don’t share the same view of the future, and Keith Chen believes there are consequences.
The bottom line?
Futureless language speakers:
• Are 30% more likely to save money in any given calendar year
• Finish their working lives with 25% more money saved for their retirement
Applying this nationally, countries where residents speak futureless languages save an average of 5% more of their GDP than their futured-language neighbours.
Is this a coincidence, or do those who speak futureless languages really have that much of an advantage? As contradictory as it sounds, are they saving like there’s no tomorrow?
Whatever the saving and spending plans of our customers, XTM International offers certainty when it comes to multilingual communication.
We’re putting you in control of tomorrow.