Critical Thinking and Language
Critical Thinking and Language
Efficient communication implies structural knowledge of a common communication language, but also the understanding, through empathic abilities, of the non – verbal communication: perceiving the gestures, tics, mimic of the face, expressions or even silence as sources of communication. Language is directly linked with critical thinking because in a communication process the actors involved in the process need to think to what they want to say to their communication partners, to filter the information and based on what they understood to create an answer. This process implies structuring words, based on a critical thinking process. The communication actors need to construct their messages that they will transmit to the people they speak to, according to their own rationale. The reply/answer is thought and spelled out in the native language, when the participants in the communication process have the same native language. The communication process becomes more complex when some or all the participants in the communication act do not speak their native language.
In such a situation, the actors involved in the communication process face language diversity. However, they all must establish a common language for communicating. Nevertheless, because of the diversity of the language, the critical thinking process becomes more challenging, because people using a secondary language will have to transform the words received from the secondary language into the words of their first language.
Language diversity implies a good command of the concepts intended to be transmitted and the ability to transfer the information rapidly and with accuracy in a secondary language. It also implies the ability to emphasize the aspects that are significant for the persons to whom the information are transmitted. This aspect requires knowledge about the cultural background of the recipient of the message, an understanding of the specificities of their language, but it also requires emphatic skills for properly integrating the words transmitted into the semantic and social specificities of the recipients.
Therefore, language diversity implies an in – depth understanding of the background of the language, in order to be able to process a critical thinking which to resonate with the recipients, speakers of a different language than the one of the initiator of the message.
How does language empower or limit the expression of our thoughts?
In the translation phase there also involved an interlanguage process, wherein the words captured from the foreign language are transferred into the native language with some consistency from the second language, achieved in the interactive communication process (Edward, 2011).
People using a second language to express their ideas and thoughts might encounter difficulties in transmitting the entire information according to their thoughts, because of the limitations imposed by the language transference process. They might not be familiar with all the words from the second language that they want to transmit and this might turn into frustration for not being able to communicate precisely the intended ideas.
Moreover, although using the correct word in a certain second language, they might not have the same meaning as they have in the native language, and here interferes the cultural differences. All languages are linked to a cultural background, different for each language, and each nationality. Each word has different connotation and is loaded with a special meaning, being entrenched in various traditions and social contexts for each language. Scholars argue that there is no such thing as identical translation, precisely because the words transferred into another language do not capture the full meaning and historical, cultural, social connotation that they have in the native language. When transferring words from a native language into a secondary one, the process is called approximation or adaptation (Raof, 2001). Therefore, in the critical thinking there also appears adaptation when expressing the thoughts and ideas into a second language.
What is the role of critical thinking in persuasion?
Analyzing facts and transposing them into a speech meant to persuade others imply good reasoning, hence good command of critical thinking. The secret of persuasion stays in three old factors, defined by Aristotle: ethos, pathos, logos. Ethos defines the credibility of the speaker. For being credible, the speaker, the persuader needs to have a coherent speech, valid and verified information. Pathos is necessary for transmitting the passion to the targeted audience and for creating emotional bound with it. In this case, also, there is necessary a good command of the audience’s language, in order to use precisely the words meant to sensitize the public. Logos implies logical thinking and argumentation (Gross & Valzer, 2008).
At this point, the critical thinking is most necessary for building strong arguments meant to persuade the public. In order for the message to capture the attention of the audience it has to be comprehensible, to be accurate and explicit, and this again, requires good command of the public’s language. The information presented should be based on clear, demonstrated facts. Moreover, the message should transmit an interpretation of the presented information and facts, and an adaptation of those data to the action requested from the audience, and this requires for critical thinking.
There could be stated that the art of persuasion stays in putting to good use the critical thinking. Having solid critical thinking abilities implies being well informed about the subject, having the skills to structure information and to dress it with a passionate speech, in a credible manner.
Gross, A., G. & Valzer. A., E. (2008) Rereading Aristotle’s Rhetoric. Southern Illinois University: Illinois.
Finegan, E. (2011) Language: its structures and use. Wadsworth Cengage Learning: Boston.
Raof, H., A. (2001) Qur’an translation: discourse, texture and exegesis. Curson Press: Richmond.