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Linguistic Relativity and its Business World Implications

Garima Namdeo_Purdue KrannertWe live in an age of technology, where geographical boundaries are losing their relevance, our economies are becoming increasingly interdependent, friendships are turning into investments and societies are transforming in record time.

It is important to realize that it is the people who are driving these changes. It is their culture that is ultimately affecting the way people interact and do business.

There is a theory called “linguistic relativity,” which holds that the structure of a language affects a speakers’ cognition and world view. Assuming this theory is true, that means each language then holds a perspective unique to its correlating country.

Now, it is my opinion that "linguistic relativity" is a debatable concept, but I belong to the school of thought which recognizes its significance in this increasingly globalized world. It is especially notable when someone is taken out of his or her comfort zone.

I realized its presence when I came to a new country- one where I saw an amalgamation of cultures and people from all nationalities.

Coming from India, as an international student, there are 3 specific aspects instilled in me by my culture that have enabled me to provide a unique business perspective:

1. A Language of Respect

In “Hindi”, my mother tongue, the language gives us the liberty to talk informally with friends and formally with respect to elders. And so the idea of being respectful to any individual who is elder to me, irrespective of their designation, is ingrained in me. In the business world, this habit helps me to build stronger networks.

2. There's Always a "Jugaad"

The word “Jugaad” is a Hindi word, which when translated in English means "hack". It's a word that every kid catches on to, growing up in my culture. For any given task, we Indians do not take a “no” for an answer. We try to find a “Jugaad” or a hack to complete the task. This entrepreneurial aspect can also be seen in Indian business culture, wherein we are determined to finish a given task no matter how daunting it may appear by using one or more hacks (legally of course!).

3. A Business Culture of Debate

Lastly, I want to talk about this very typical habit mostly all Indians usually have of discussing the last detail of any matter (personal or financial), and this is how Indian business culture also works. Before making a deal, we debate on every single aspect. This is a sharp contrast from other business cultures wherein time is considered as money and too much debate is considered annoying at times.

Personally, I believe these aspects make Indians very competitive. And as the saying goes, the more competitive your surroundings are, the more competitive you become!

Garima Namdeo

MS Global Supply Chain, 2nd Year