Does your language affect your bank account?

benjamin franklin, money

New research argues that the answer is yes. Depending on what language you speak, you are more – or less – likely to save for retirement. Your primary tongue may even affect how much you weigh.

In January, M. Keith Chen, an associate professor of economics at the School of Management at Yale University, published a working paper on his research about the effect of language on economic behavior. Chen zoomed in on one aspect of language: how we deal with time. Each language organizes and describes the future differently. Linguists call this distinction future-time-reference (FTR, for short). Some languages, like German, have a weak-FTR, which means that the distinction between today and tomorrow isn’t very concrete. In his paper, Chen gives the example that in German, you can say, “It rains tomorrow” whereas in English you have to say, “It will rain tomorrow.” English is a strong-FTR language because there are clear, constant grammatical distinctions between today and tomorrow.

Analyzing retirement savings’ patterns, along with health habits, Chen found that people who speak weak-FTR languages prepare more thoroughly for the future than people who speak strong-FTR languages. In fact, weak-FTR countries save, on average, 6% more of their GDP every year. They also smoke less, exercise more, and are less likely to be overweight.

Chen also analyzed the data accounting for variables like gender, age, and religion, to isolate language as the primary factor. Even in these analyses, people who spoke weak-FTR languages outperformed their strong-FTR peers. Read Chen’s very academic and fascinating paper here.

This particular phenomenon is an example of linguistic relativity, or how languages affect how we think. We’ve discussed before how language affects how you see colors and perceive the world around you.

Further research along these lines hasn’t produced conclusive results, and linguists certainly have qualms with these socio-cultural extrapolations. From your experience, do particular languages seem to influence behavior, for better or worse? What are some examples? Share your thoughts with us, below.

Food mag attack

Chicago Sun-Times October 14, 2009 | Janet Rausa Fuller Last week’s shuttering of Gourmet magazine leaves an emotional void in the hearts of many foodlovers, but it doesn’t exactly create a gulf on the newsstand. We counted 36 food glossies clamoring for our attention at the bookstore. Here’s what six of them offer up in their current issues. web site healthy breakfast ideas

Bon Appetit $4.50, 130 pages On the cover: A hunk of unnaturally shiny-looking short ribs.

Inside: Four sugar pumpkin recipes; a German Octoberfest feast for 12; eight menus using fall produce, and a luscious apple dessert spread. The “Family Style” column, appealing in theory as it promises a kid-friendly dinner for four, presents a turkey meatloaf that just looks lifeless.

What to make: Golden Delicious Apple and Cheddar Turnovers with Dried Cherries (page 112.) Why aren’t these on the cover?

Cooking Light $4.99, 204 pages On the cover: Braised beef, carrots and turnips.

Inside: Almost dizzying array of content: six 20-minute chicken dishes, a taste-test of boxed chicken broths, four pages of healthy breakfast ideas and more. We chuckled at photos for a travel story on Chicago that show Thomas Keller (with Alinea chef Grant Achatz) and Marcus Samuelsson. Achatz aside, they’re not exactly hometown talent, but oh well — we’re intrigued by the lightened-up recipes for Ann Sather’s cinnamon rolls, Italian beef sandwiches and deep-dish pizza.

Take-home tip: Stir a few tablespoons of low-sodium soy sauce into homemade caramel sauce, then drizzle over ice cream or pie (page 48).

Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade $4.99, 106 pages On the cover: Sandra Lee in an orange sweater, holding a cake with orange fondant pumpkins.

Inside: Hard to tell where advertising ends and editorial begins, but then, there’s not much need for ads — recipes specify branded products (Knorr Asian Sides, Simply Potatoes). If you like Bisquick, you’re in luck — we counted six recipes using the mix.

Just a thought: Making the pinecone-dotted centerpiece (page 83) seems like it would take longer than making some of the recipes.

Saveur $5, 108 pages On the cover: Perfectly pink lamb chops with salsa verde.

Inside: The usual worldly mix of topics — a book review of chef-of- the-moment David Chang’s cookbook Momofuku; preserving heirloom apples, written by noted conservationist Gary Paul Nabhan; Italy’s craft beer movement; cinnamon’s history and eight recipes ranging from cinnamon hard candies to Indonesian chicken curry. Main feature on lamb is exhaustive — a guide to different cuts, eight recipes and marinade and sauce ideas.

Food porn alert: The photo of an herbed tomato tart (pages 70 and 71) nearly blinded us with its awesomeness.

Food & Wine $4.50, 212 pages On the cover: A rustic pizza and a fat glass of Pinot Noir.

Inside: Everything you ever wanted to know about wine but were afraid to ask. A clever story asks sommeliers to name their bacon, White Castle Slider and coffee equivalents of wine. Travel stories on Oaxaca, French wine country and vineyards by the sea, and a New York chef’s tapas recipes made easier. here healthy breakfast ideas

Must-read: 15 rules for food and wine pairings. The companion recipes (pappardelle with veal ragu, honeyed fig crostatas) rock.

Everyday with Rachael Ray $3.99, 164 pages On the cover: Rachael Ray in an orange sweater, pushing a wheelbarrow full of leaves.

Inside: Surprisingly few photos of Ray. Plenty of loud graphics, and recipe after recipe after recipe. Octoberfest, tailgating and Halloween menus; a comparison of rice cookers (with four smart, quick recipes); five meals for less than $10, and a main spread on pasta by cookbook author Giuliano Hazan.

Woof: A soup recipe (page 160) — for the dog.

Color Photo: (See microfilm for photo description). ;

Janet Rausa Fuller


  1. Celina -  December 4, 2013 - 11:52 pm

    You are so interesting! I don’t think I have read a single thing like this before. So good to find another person with a few original thoughts on this subject matter. Really.. many thanks for starting this up. This site is something that’s needed on the web, someone with some originality!

  2. Vampyr -  August 23, 2013 - 5:29 pm

    So, why do English people say things like, “What are you doing, tomorrow?” instead of, what will you be doing, tomorrow, or what are you going to be doing, tomorrow? and, “is it raining, tomorrow?” rather than, “will it rain, tomorrow?” or, “is it going to rain?”

  3. roy -  February 28, 2013 - 7:31 pm

    I think what he meant is this: When someone speaking FTR language saves, he is doing so for the unknkown future. Whereas, someone speaking weak FTR language saves, he is also saving for the unknown future which can get confused with the (known)present.

  4. hirahrafay -  January 31, 2013 - 3:21 am

    Nice ..knowledge is pleasure

  5. [...] Hot Word” on Dictionary.com, but today I was confronted by the following ridiculous question: Does your language affect your bank account? If you think that’s odd, check out this headline: Obese? Smoker? No Retirement Savings? [...]

  6. killa-king1 -  March 30, 2012 - 1:48 pm

    puertorican,cuban,Asian,dominican,half chinese.

  7. thomas jefferson -  March 7, 2012 - 7:42 am


  8. Apostate -  March 6, 2012 - 1:48 pm

    Correlation is not Cause-Effect.

  9. J.J.Rousseau -  February 27, 2012 - 11:04 am

    We need a bigger password, Oui?

  10. tomsboat -  February 23, 2012 - 10:22 pm

    Interesting reasearch

  11. lance -  February 22, 2012 - 6:40 am

    what that have to do with people bank

  12. Zayna -  February 17, 2012 - 10:45 pm

    Really, I thought it would be the other way round? I don’t see how that could be possible. This article needs to use more evidence if they want to give more points/explanations. Hah that’s weird we’re doing that at school!

  13. MARY TORRES -  February 14, 2012 - 8:13 am

    happy valintine day :)

  14. Saving for the Future « The Endless Knot -  February 13, 2012 - 8:02 am

    [...] research a while ago, and it’s being widely reported on the web in the past few days (see here and here) as the discussion paper (not yet published in a peer-reviewed journal) has recently been [...]

  15. [...] spaargedrag en gezondheid: in deze paper van Keith Chen wordt de invloed op sparen onderzocht, en indirect op hoe gezond men leeft qua gewicht, roken,… Bij het lezen van het onderzoek wel een bedenking, hoeveel is hiervan ook gewoon niet cultureel bepaald? Abstract van het onderzoek: Languages differ widely in the ways they partition time. In this paper I test the hypothesis that languages which grammatically distinguish between present and future events (what linguists call strongFTR languages) lead their speakers to take fewer future-oriented actions. First, I show how this prediction arises naturally when well-documented effects of language on cognition are merged with models of decision making over time. Then, I show that consistent with this hypothesis, speakers of strong-FTR languages save less, hold less retirement wealth, smoke more, are more likely to be obese, and suffer worse longrun health. This is true in every major region of the world and holds even when comparing only demographically similar individuals born and living in the same country. While not conclusive, the evidence does not seem to support the most obvious forms of common causation. Implications of these findings for theories of intertemporal choice are discussed. (gevonden via @bvlg hier) [...]

  16. mary torres -  February 12, 2012 - 9:54 am

    why are some of you people on here in the moring like davidlloyd?

  17. o -  February 12, 2012 - 8:30 am

    Maybe it’s just because the Americans dominate strong-FTR languages (English). That would make perfect sense to me.

  18. davidlloyd -  February 11, 2012 - 3:38 am

    I suppose one can put emphasis on key words in our own particular language to set the economic alarms off in time and thus falstall some economic misshap in ther future.
    ultimatly the future is created by our attitude in the present so the thing to do is emphersise important things as you think them.
    The words may arrive with more power where they are needed..

  19. 조남주 -  February 10, 2012 - 2:32 am

    I think that learning a new language is like learning how to walk again.

  20. TETO -  February 9, 2012 - 7:50 pm

    Regardless of the language spoken, experience in the formative years will shape your life. A deprived childhood with no people around to ask for help, demands you think ahead and question every thing you do. It forms a life long habit of self reliance which will benefit you many times over. BUT IT IS A TOUGH LESSON TO LEARN.

  21. Jericko Raza -  February 9, 2012 - 5:24 pm

    I think what Mr. Chen is trying to say is about the language barriers between the nations. For those who use ESL (English as secondary language), like India, their competency is increasing because they tend to adapt to their surroundings for them to be understood and they are progressing well in terms of their job, so they put more money on the bank. On the other hand, I don’t get the point why weak-FTR smoke less, exercise more, and are less likely to be overweight. What’s the connection?

  22. ignorant speculator -  February 9, 2012 - 3:56 pm

    Assuming the type of language one speaks can affect spending habits and other behavior as described in this article (though I do not necessarily believe these conclusions), I think many of the people who have left comments are mistaken in thinking that learning weak-FTR languages will improve their habits; the correlation most likely applies to one’s native language (that is to say, the language the speaker thinks in or is most comfortable in), as that is the language that has the most effect on a multilingual person’s way of thinking. Learning a new language may provide insight into how native speakers of that language think, but it does not convert the learner’s way of thinking.

  23. Jeromy Carpenter -  February 9, 2012 - 3:11 pm

    A correlation between linguistics and socieo-economic status does not prove cause and effect. In other words, saving may have nothing to do with what language you speak, however, the German culture may have a deeply ingrained duty of frivolity which simply isn’t part of American culture today.

  24. sweet dictionelle -  February 9, 2012 - 2:58 pm

    haha, i like these articles more for the comments they provoke…
    laughs with @ Terry, lol doober, i know know u

    Each of us read it for one, and than felt compelled to comment, so thus it served its purpose! Wheather or not we are convinced is irrelevant, right? ;]

  25. Nudge Ride -  February 9, 2012 - 2:37 pm

    There are soo many factors that effect economics personal economics. Your peers can effect what you do (you know that irritating little thing called peer-pressure). They can force you into stupid things, or they can talk you out of equally stupid things. Your family can have an effect on the outcome of your saving habits. Like, if your family didn’t have enough money to save for you to go to college it will take awhile to pay off student loans, which will set back your retirement funds. These are only a two of the social variables that are involved in personal economics (But there are many, many more). And, also in every language there are many ways to correctly to say stuff in every language that Chen didn’t mention in his essay. What Chen needs to do is find out what MAJORLY effects personal savings. Because, saying that ALL (or most) people who speak English as a first language will be fat, smokers who gamble is completely untrue. I believe that language is irrelevant. It is your culture and perspective that defines what choices you will make. I speak English as a first language, and next year I will be taking Latin, (You have to be an 8th grader to take a foreign language at my school. But USA doesn’t have an official, so, is there really such a thing as foreign here?) and I plan to save for retirement. One last thing is that many languages have other languages they are related to or descended from, so how is German much weaker than English when English is derived from German? As my conclusion, I say Chen needs to pull his head out of his butt and LEARN something.

  26. Dylan -  February 9, 2012 - 2:35 pm

    I did not find this topic to have enough information.

  27. Martin Burkard -  February 9, 2012 - 2:19 pm

    I am coming up with my own study: I will collect data to see how language relates to religion. I can’t include all languages, so like the savings study I will have to focus on some key languages. I think I will take those with the most native speakers, like Mandarin, Hindu, and Arabic. My hunch is, the key finding will be that people who speak Arabic tend to be Muslims, while people who speak Hindu tend to be Hindus, and people who speak Chinese tend to be Atheists or Buddhists. Then I relate that to grammatical complexity. The lowest complexity grammar: no religion or anything-goes type religion, medium complexity = polytheistic religion with occasional rituals, high complexity = monotheistic religion with daily rituals. Of course, after the results are published, we will have to adjust school curriculums in California. After all, since we have separation of state and religion, we cannot teaching complex languages anymore, we would be knowingly forcing our children on a path of auto-compulsive religion they can’t escape. Once we have done that, there will be class action suits of former school children against the state. I will feel personally responsible for driving California into bankruptcy. Or, maybe people will ignore the findings because they realize liberal-arts-“sciences” can imply anything and proof nothing at the same time, so are pretty much mental self-gratification for lunch breaks;)

  28. ... -  February 9, 2012 - 2:15 pm

    I think the idea is interesting; however, I would have preferred if the article explained how weak-FTR languages make people spend money less or exercise more.

  29. Sarah M. -  February 9, 2012 - 2:14 pm

    I certainly find when I’m in my German class the language has less distinction and I certainly think different.

  30. yayRay Shell :) -  February 9, 2012 - 2:01 pm

    I don’t think language affects who we are. I think it’s just that that language is associated with a particular culture. For example, we Americans speak English so we learn about American History so we are Americanized. What if a person is an immigrant?

    I honestly don’t think it matters.

  31. sheesh -  February 9, 2012 - 1:48 pm

    i should use bad english!

  32. Raymond -  February 9, 2012 - 1:25 pm

    As with -all- sociological views and opinions, authors individual and collective will take those seemingly in support of their primary mens (whether mens rea or mens acta): the key word in this sentence being, Will: The so-called future-time-reference is not, future, but, Will– will-power: that which is ‘capable of all evil’ [exterior citation goes here] and results in procrastinations and obesities: for will-power also assumes it can handle whatever comes up, its-sheer-self: for will-power is a mockery of receptivity to the right, to doing and being right.

  33. Ron -  February 9, 2012 - 1:03 pm

    In English it is correct to say “Tomorrow I go to the store” although most would probably say “Tomorrow I will go to the store”. I think we can do it both ways. I don’t think we are STRICTLY a strong-FTR language.

  34. Polyglott -  February 9, 2012 - 10:37 am

    Without controlling for culture, this is meaningless. If the results proved true for weak-FTRs (germans) in strong-FTR culture (England), it would be more convincing. Also, does it matter whether it’s a primary or secondary language?

  35. Manfred Rackelhuhn -  February 9, 2012 - 9:45 am

    Could someone help me sort out what kind of language Spanish is as I guess in Spanish everything is manana and it seems it doesn’t distinguish between present and future?
    Is it weak-FTR like German?

  36. sonia_herrero -  February 9, 2012 - 9:15 am

    Totally agree with the egg-chicken problem. It is really hard to affirm as something true that Language is the one that influences the culture and not the other way around. However, all of the statistical information is very important to help us see the correlation that definitely emphasizes the Sapir-Whorf’s Hypothesis.

  37. Adityanugraha -  February 9, 2012 - 8:33 am

    Is that the effect of linguistic on economic behavior only 6%? Aber es ist doch eine gute Forschung. I’ve learn German since 3 months ago. And I think that the research about correlation between linguistic and economic behavior is so hard to do because there are many external factors affect the variable, for example culture, region, education, economic conditions, geographic, etc.
    Zum Schluss, ich finde, dass Ihre Forschung schwer ist und Sie sehr klug sind um diese Forchung fertig zu machen. Gratulieren.

  38. sweet dictionelle -  February 9, 2012 - 8:25 am

    okay! studies like this are interesting in that you could try saying almost anything when trying to make a correlation and based on your argument and the data you decide to collect, it makes sense! Ah haw! True??

  39. susan -  February 9, 2012 - 8:24 am

    Oh come on. There is no concrete evidence of causality here. It’s a fun exercise, but only that.

  40. Polemyx -  February 9, 2012 - 7:30 am

    “very academic”?

    That’s the way parents talk about their kid’s school project that they don’t understand: it’s a red herring for populist pseudo-science.

    It is almost impossible to separate cultural norms from the languages used by those cultures. So this “research” is essentially saying “these apples and pears act just like pomaceous fruit!”

    Wer hat doch diesen Dreck geschrieben?

  41. Umm... -  February 9, 2012 - 6:50 am

    Interesting article but not very well explained…Also, what about the thrifty people that speak all (or almost all) of the languages?

  42. Hable -  February 9, 2012 - 6:15 am

    He realizes he’s an idiot tomorrow

  43. PVM -  February 9, 2012 - 5:05 am

    Thai is probably the weakest FTR language (no tenses at all), but I don’t see those supposedly consequential behavior.

  44. bob -  February 9, 2012 - 4:27 am

    My maternal grandparents came to America off the boat from Germany in the 1920s. I was lucky enough to know them for twenty-five years. Indeed, they were stereo-typical Germans in their thrift and work habits. I, however, as a good corporate employee and attorney, could never save a dime, can’t find a thing on my desk and am as lazy as a state or federal employee. Alas, it must be the Irish in me.

  45. Trini -  February 9, 2012 - 4:21 am

    This paper while interesting highlights the danger of further encouraging wrong stereotypes, which influences people with no understanding of other factors. I agree with the FTR differences,this is valid. However, it is definitely culture (Hyperinflation in Weimar and the consequences which have influenced West German habits). Why is savings from the former East Germany less than that of the West? (across all income groups?). Regarding health, walk around ANY town in Germany and you will see cigarette vending machines in public, Smoking is much much much more prevalent in Germany than the West? One thing to consider… why would a future thinking country, enter into a war/s, killing of some of the greatest contributors to its society, destroy its neighbours? thus burdening their future??? DON’T USE ACADEMIC ‘RESEARCH’ to promote Stupidity.

  46. Loren -  February 9, 2012 - 3:51 am

    As it turns out, I came to dictionary.com to check out the definitions of a word that just happens to apply perfectly and succinctly to Prof. Chen’s theory: hokum.

    Let it be supported first by credible sociologists and/or linguists, then maybe I’ll consider giving it further thought.

  47. GB -  February 9, 2012 - 3:36 am

    Correlation mistaken as causation perhaps. Strong-FTR nations, like the US, have had impressive savings rates in the past.

  48. Modowan-chan -  February 9, 2012 - 1:12 am

    Cool article! THANKS FOR THE IDEAS! Wow! Check it out, I’ve been going on the HOT WORD everyday! Thanks guys, you taught me a lot! :D

  49. mike -  February 9, 2012 - 12:36 am

    Weak research. . . nonsense analysis. . .

  50. RV -  February 9, 2012 - 12:10 am

    Couldn’t it be the other way around?
    If language is an expression of the culture of a peoples…
    maybe low- FTR is a linguistic result of a tendency to save.

  51. Kathleen -  February 8, 2012 - 8:46 pm

    I don’t get it.

  52. Gio -  February 8, 2012 - 7:30 pm

    Like how white people (Americans) weigh more than others? I agree(;

  53. CE -  February 8, 2012 - 7:27 pm

    An interesting concept, but not enough was done to just isolate language. Eliminating gender, age and religion effects is a good start, but that isn’t enough to eliminate the rest of the cultural factors.
    How about the effects of diet? Or education system? Amount of internet usage? Location? Stories told during childhood? There may be a correlation between language and how much money one spends, or how much they weigh, but correlation doesn’t imply causation. I mean, 100% of people who drink water die. That doesn’t mean water causes death.
    When language is more isolated in making this correlation, I think it will hold more potential. However, as I said, this is still interesting to think about…

  54. christine -  February 8, 2012 - 5:55 pm

    I think that countries with strong FTR don’t save as much because people think, “Oh, that’s in the future, I don’t need to do that right now.” Perhaps that’s why they don’t save money ahead of time. I’m really just guessing, but I think that’s what the article meant.

  55. commenter -  February 8, 2012 - 5:34 pm

    your language has nothing to do with your efficiency. that is just a coincidence that weak ftr countries excercise more

  56. Luv and Laughs -  February 8, 2012 - 5:21 pm

    I know four languages…. I’m rich!

  57. Luv and Laughs -  February 8, 2012 - 5:19 pm

    Gutentag,Bonjour, and ola! I know 4 languages,

  58. Taylor -  February 8, 2012 - 4:43 pm

    No…I think the reason why Germans are thinner and save more money than Americans is not because of the language they speak, but because of the culture…not to mention countless other variables…

  59. dcb -  February 8, 2012 - 4:29 pm

    I wonder if it is a chicken or egg situation. Does our language influence our behavior or is it a reflection of our way of thinking and our values?

  60. Vicaari -  February 8, 2012 - 3:51 pm

    Interesting article.

  61. RM -  February 8, 2012 - 3:42 pm

    Ich werde kein Geld im nächsten Jahr sparen.
    Ich werde zu viel Essen essen.
    Und am wichtigsten – ich werde beginnen, wieder zu rauchen!

    So da!

    Seriously, I have always wondered at the possibility of correlations between the German language and the German tendency towards orderliness and perfection, and also whether certain behavioral characteristics (German obsession with orderliness) might be heritable. I am three generations removed from my German immigrant forebears, yet their sense of structure and the way things should be done persists in me.

  62. clancy -  February 8, 2012 - 3:17 pm

    I guess learning Español is a good thing for more reasons than one!

  63. Socrates -  February 8, 2012 - 2:20 pm

    “Does your language affect your bank account?” Certainly not.
    However, if the question is re-phrased: “Are there demonstrable and consistent relationsships between peoples languages and financial behaviours?”, interesting observations may be forthcoming

    Because certain common denominators of ethnic/linguistic entities may indeed affect both their spoken languages and financial behaviours. So, based on his initial observations, Dr M K Chen might ask the question, what are those common denominators and what might be their significance.

    A priori, one might be surmising that people speaking a grammatically more structured and precise language might also be more organized in their financial dealings, compared to those (people) that use a more “sloppy” language.

    Apply for your next research grant to Wall Street, Dr. Chen. You may be onto something here.

  64. kenya anderson -  February 8, 2012 - 2:12 pm

    i neva new dat ur own language can affect ur own bank account

  65. I. M. Alves Wright -  February 8, 2012 - 2:09 pm

    If a stronger linguistic emphasis on the future causes one to feel a stronger sense of frustration in an event that is, while not out of reach, separate and distinct, it seems plausible that one may not feel the urge to acknowledge the future as more important than the present. However, this is assuming that language strongly influences major objective decisions like managing your money, and not just minor subjective decisions like what colors one prefers. I find the major problem with this article is that discrimination is encouraged based on language only. This borders on bigotry while under the guise of “scientific” and light-hearted discussion. Money is far too contentious an issue. This whole article is totally reprehensible. Shame on you!

  66. tahlia -  February 8, 2012 - 2:07 pm

    Interesting. i think it’s trying to say that because languages wit weak-FTRs are more certain of the future, which may lead them to believe that they should prepare for casualties. This causes their need to save.

  67. Madcom -  February 8, 2012 - 1:35 pm

    Did he reference Hofstede?

  68. CND -  February 8, 2012 - 1:33 pm

    This is really cool, but I think it has to do more with the culture than the language they speak :O

  69. Elizabeth -  February 8, 2012 - 1:10 pm

    Economics professors need to stay away from linguistics. Theories like this have been proven to be incorrect. Just because a language has a different way of expressing a concept does not mean that it cannot express the same concept as another language. Also the color study they cited, which was by Berlin and Kay if anyone wants to read it, found that although certain groups of people may not have a name, for, say, the color purple, they can still identify it, “The color of grapes.” Again, different way of saying the same thing. Whether or not your language has a more verb tenses than another will not affect whether or not you do or don’t save. That’s an environmental influence from your family upbringing and culture.

  70. sherryyu -  February 8, 2012 - 1:01 pm

    are u serious, hot word?

  71. lester -  February 8, 2012 - 1:01 pm

    correlation vs. causation. This guy is stretching it. Fun article though.

  72. sherryyu -  February 8, 2012 - 1:00 pm

    omg i never new that

  73. Terry -  February 8, 2012 - 12:26 pm

    The main point is that the paper was written in English, so if you speak English and waste your time reading that paper (which I skimmed over for a few seconds) and/or other pointless theoretical ones like it, you will have less time in your life to work and earn money for the future and for retirement. :-)

  74. ARS -  February 8, 2012 - 12:12 pm

    I found this article to be quite interesting, to say the least. It’s further evidence that words have power. Nevertheless, it appears that many, who commented on this article, either don’t have an understanding of Quantum Physics or hadn’t connected the dots. On a Quantum level, the only thing that exist is “NOW”. The past and the present is all intertwined in the “NOW”.

    When the example was given that Germans will say “It rains tomorrow”, it is definitive that rain is already in process and happening on a Quantum level. Whereas, when it is said in English, “It will rain tomorrow”, Universal Laws, conducive to manifestation, do not recognize future tense and as a result remains as a future tense and therefore, never comes to fruition.

    Therefore, regarding saving for retirement, weak-FTR language speakers have programmed their minds, from speaking and hearing their language, to think and act in the “NOW”. On the other hand, strong-FTR language speakers have programmed their minds to think and act in the “Future”, which actually never comes.

  75. Haga -  February 8, 2012 - 12:11 pm

    We need an amendment making it mandatory that everyone in Congress must speak German…as in “Stewardship, the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care “

  76. Anne -  February 8, 2012 - 11:28 am

    I’m working now. And I’m working tomorrow. Then I’m going shopping, having dinner and going to bed. Does that mean I’ll save less money?

  77. Bob Schmob -  February 8, 2012 - 11:11 am

    Worst ever!
    “Morgen regent es” would be a predictive statement, “Morgen wird es regnen” is the future tense (yap Mathew, you got it wrong…)
    Anyway, the Chinese guy is full of it, ignoring all cultural aspects of the Germans and focusing on 1 idea only, having a gazillion independent variables…

  78. wilma federici -  February 8, 2012 - 10:50 am

    I’m Italian.
    This is interesting, but reality may be different.
    We too have a weak FTR.
    We say tomorrow rains, next year I retire.
    Italians are savers by nature and are not fat; nether less we think that Germans are.
    Our thriftiness and thinness may be just related to our history.

  79. Smit Sharma -  February 8, 2012 - 10:40 am

    @Giridhar: Tamizh???????

  80. jeth -  February 8, 2012 - 10:08 am

    that really tru german are really thrifty

  81. katrica -  February 8, 2012 - 9:50 am

    I think this is true, as my grandma is German and she and her family our great with their money, as they are always saving. Also, when she goes shopping she always looks for bargains. My dad is the same, so I suppose it has been passed down the generations, even though we don’t speak German. Maybe it’s your heritage which changes everything, not just the language you speak?

  82. Puddleglum -  February 8, 2012 - 9:36 am

    For the sake of argument, I’m willing to accept the author’s conclusion that German speakers are, generally speaking, better at saving money for retirement than others. But as for the cause of that reality, I doubt if it has as much to do with linguistics as it has to do with extreme economic uncertainty the German people lived through between WWI and WWII, as well as during WWII. Now, they seek security to compensate for the insecurity many of them felt as children.

  83. Lewis Klausner -  February 8, 2012 - 9:34 am

    English a strong FTR language? I’m going to school tomorrow: present continuous to indicate the future.

  84. Doom -  February 8, 2012 - 9:32 am


  85. Matthew -  February 8, 2012 - 9:32 am

    Ok. I disagree with his terrible example of the German language. I studied 4 years of German grammar (1 of those years in Germany). His example is ludicrous.

    In English you can say, “It is going to rain tomorrow.”

    You can be just as specific in German, “Morgen wird es regnen.”

    “Wird” means “going to”.

    This guy obviously has no idea about how the German language works. German has so many tenses. You can be extremely specific with what you want to say. German not only has a present tense, which is used as future as well (“going to”, “to become”), It also has 2 (count them 2!) future tenses that actually can make things pretty convoluted. Let’s cut to the chase:

    “Heute regnet es” = Today it is raining.

    “Morgen regnet es” = Tomorrow it rains.

    “Morgen wird es regen” = Tomorrow it will rain.

    While I believe that there is a strong correlation between our language and what we do (the language defines our words, cultures, and the meanings– therefore our actions). He needs a new example.

    Hope this helps.

  86. DooBer -  February 8, 2012 - 9:20 am


  87. Kevin -  February 8, 2012 - 8:59 am

    Pretty cool.

  88. I don't know you -  February 8, 2012 - 8:34 am

    Great read, just not sure if it is useful.

  89. Henry C -  February 8, 2012 - 8:32 am

    At best, FTR is an instrument for the behavior… Though, it might be better in explaining why some people can learn a certain language better and not others… but by no mean it should be causing factor… Take Chinese (weak FTR), and Hebrew (weak FTR), the observation for saving are… well rather interesting… I do not claim to have data on Chinese’s and Jews’ MPS, but, heh, they should be pretty high. Further, I may be no linguist, but it seems reasonable to speculate that the composition of language, in terms of FTR, may have something to do with how old a language has been around… (not always true–Hindi…). And last but not least, how do we reason that languages with more vivid distinction of time, result in the lack of perspectives in the long run. Wouldn’t it make sense to say that, because one thinks/talks with distinction of time, namely that the present (short run) and future (long run), one would be able to reason with one’s self on planning (thinking) for the future more easily than one without?

  90. liron -  February 8, 2012 - 8:01 am

    that is for me that great <3

  91. dishey -  February 8, 2012 - 7:59 am


  92. LANGUAGESAVINGS | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  February 8, 2012 - 7:57 am

    [...] ‘Savings Language’ or the other Way around — Publish or Perish is, Frankly, — the only reflective sound. — Printing and staring blankly — at thirty-five pages — shrink wrapped Omnibus. — Academia tends to complicate the matter: — Relativity in stages. — Mad they are, — Madder than the Hatter. — Prod us Poke us; — Gag us with a Spoon. — Time to get  priorities Straight. — Before the Wealthy here among us, — Run off to the Moon. –>>Rupert L.T.Rhyme [...]

  93. Aaron -  February 8, 2012 - 7:51 am

    I speak German fluently as a second language. Though I know exactly what he means about the weak versus strong FTR, it had absolutely no bearing on how much money I spent. Though it is true speaking certain languages can limit what you can effectively say. For instance there are things in German, which you simply cannot say in English, and vice versa (there are close translations, but nothing that will substitute perfectly.

  94. Matheus -  February 8, 2012 - 7:39 am

    It seems to me that the reason why Northern Europeans save more money is more related to socioeconomic conditions than to language itself. Since they generally earn more money, what they need to satisfy their basic needs is relatively few in comparison to the whole amount earned, which enables them to save money. Not to mention that they do not have expenses with health care and higher education (i.e. university/college), which are provided by the State through general taxation.

    On the other hand, English-speakers and Southern Europeans generally earn less (in comparison to Northern Europeans) and need to spend a bigger amount of money to satisfy their basic needs, which means that there will be fewer money left to be economised. English-speakers will also face the need to pay for health care (in the United States) and higher education (in most English-speaking countries).

    But, yes, the comparitive analysis between time perception is very interesting.

  95. Milos -  February 8, 2012 - 7:39 am

    The way we speak and think about future affects our plans for the future? This is an interesting idea.
    But i think it has to be seen in a wider context – which may end up being too complicated. ;0)

    It is already proven that “efficiency of communication” in some language has slight effect on efficiency of business and business habits within a certain region, and these slight differences multiplied by the population create measurable impact, but some studies i’ve read actually identify German language as less efficient than English.

    So if we presume that both theories are correct effect of this FTR-factor would sometimes be canceled out by “efficiency of communication” (and other factors) so i think this results of this theory are just a generalisation. It’s a bit like saying that height of your dineing table affects your shoe-size. ;0)

  96. Bader -  February 8, 2012 - 7:36 am

    Funny, I wonder where the author of the study gets his information from. I studied and lived in Germany (speak german) in the ’90s, for 4 years. Everyone I knew there smoked (smoking was everywhere); whereas, smoking was not that common in my hometown in the USA. Additionally, there was no such thing as a gym in Germany, and running was seen as bizarre. You had to really look hard to find a place to workout. Gyms are still not that common in Germany, and although you see joggers there now–it is still uncommon. I lived in three of Germany’s largest cities, and was there for years. As a non-smoker and workout fiend, I was really aware of these two aspects of german culture. Thus, the information provided here seems very odd.

  97. Evan -  February 8, 2012 - 7:32 am

    Correlation does not imply causation.

  98. J -  February 8, 2012 - 7:28 am

    Firstly, no one EVEN IMPLIED that only people who speak certain languages can save, stop being so ignorant. All they are point out is that language seems to correlate in some ways to spending habits.

    Secondly, What seems to be missing in both this and the referenced article is any mention of correlation vs. causation. What this subject seems to point out in my mind is a chicken and egg problem. For instance:
    @RAH, is are culture and values an outflowing of language, art and architecture or is the reverse true? Is language, art and architecture an outflowing of culture and values? The same question applies to the issue at hand. I submit that language is the last piece of the puzzle. That is language is developed based on the way people in certain places and of certain values and cultural personalities think.

    In short, I can see a correlation possibly, but I don’t think one can argue for causation…

  99. bjvl -  February 8, 2012 - 6:22 am

    Sounds like FTR and financial conservatism are kissing-cousins but hardly parent and child.

  100. Leeser1968 -  February 8, 2012 - 6:20 am

    Interesting! It certainly makes sense to me that the way a culture speaks about the future affects the way its members think about and prepare for the future. Obviously, this study deals with broad generalities and trends, and would be difficult to apply to individual, unique people. Fascinating.

  101. Fatguymark -  February 8, 2012 - 6:12 am

    Finally I can prove that my inability to quick smoking, lose weight AND save for retirement are all products of my native language and in no way the result of poor personal choices and/or will-power or lack thereof.

    But seriously, everyone complaining and saying “upbringing, culture, blah blah” – please read the paper or at very least the article. That is the point. He has aggregated this information and compared it based solely on language. He’s not saying there is no personal accountability but rather that there are surprising tendencies.

    This is a copywriter’s dream come true.

  102. Susan -  February 8, 2012 - 5:48 am

    In response to Rah’s comment, I could not agree more. In fact, Spanish-speakers sometimes use a present-tense verb to talk about the future. I wonder how prone to saving money our Latin American neighbors are. Seems like superficial research, interestingn on a pop level.

  103. pam -  February 8, 2012 - 5:44 am

    It’s probably not the language they speak, but the culture they grew up in.

  104. Alyssa -  February 8, 2012 - 5:05 am


  105. Steve -  February 8, 2012 - 4:29 am

    This is interesting, for more reason than one. It also points out how the minds of other tongues have alterations to basic concepts. Such as time.
    But yeah, it makes sense. I have little to no concept of tomorrow when it comes to finances. But that may be because we are being robbed blind at increasing intervals.

  106. Gimmy A. Break -  February 8, 2012 - 4:11 am

    Finding a statistical link between two things is a million miles short of discovering the cause-and-effect relationship between them. There are always dozens of possibilities for what such a link really means but that would take in-depth research and intelligence to work out… And why bother, when you can get your scientific name in the media by doing some high-school level research and then offering up a little random speculation as scientific discovery.

    Then again, maybe the sun really does rise because I wake up…

  107. Eduardo -  February 8, 2012 - 3:33 am

    I think it makes sense! My mother tongue is portuguese, a language in which you can tell the FTR in each verb. Using the example of rain, in the past we say “choveu”, in present “chove” and in the future “choverá”.
    Coincidence or not, Brasil, Portugal, Angola, East Timor, Cape Verde, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau all face deficits and most citizens do not have a straight retirement planning culture. In Brazil, government struggles with a multibilionaire deficit in official retirement, which risks to collapse in less than 20 years if not solved now.

    Likewise, spanish speaking countries are affected while Japan grants comfortable retirement for all workers. Japanese is painfully complicated with a very rich vocabulary but the verbs are in second plan, the phrases give much more importance to the subject than to the actions, relegating the time to a third plan…

    Personally, I do speak portuguese, english and spanish (all strong FTR languages) and a bit of japanese. Maybe I should invest in mastering German and Japanese in order to assure my future….

    Regards to all readers

  108. Cornelius Lambshank -  February 8, 2012 - 1:32 am

    Though I disagree with this article’s assertions, it raises an interesting theory. Could perhaps the chemical topography of the human brain be somehow wired so that frugality is akin to linguistics, as for example dyslexia is to creativity? Does brevity of language lead to financial ruin? Unlikely, yet I find myself hoarding words as eagerly as I save money. If only words were wealth…

  109. Giridhar -  February 8, 2012 - 1:23 am

    Most of the Indian languages are strong FTR languages. Tamizh, a classical south Indian language follows strict grammatical rules. Native Tamizh speakers of south India have more forethought about money and save nearly half of their income. This evidence is in contrary to what the paper reports!

  110. Paolo -  February 8, 2012 - 12:51 am

    I’m not fully convinced by the paper’s argument. However, I see that many ctitics here seem to misunderstand the goals and methods of scientific research.
    The purpose of a scientific paper is NOT to establish an absolute truth (we leave that to religion), but to shed light on interesting empirical results and suggest a possible interpretation, thus spurring a discussion on the topic. The discussion may well end up in “it’s all wrong”, that doesn’t mean it was not worth investigating.
    Also, some people should get more familiar with the concepts of “average” and “variance”. Nobody said “if you speak English you will never be able to save money”, so do not use “I know a German who’s broke” as a counter-argument, it’s not.
    PS: I think that the measurement of the main variable is inaccurate: in Italian (and in many other latin languages) it is perfectly common to say “I go to England next year”: that would make it a very weak FTR language, yet it is classified as strong. They shouldn’t have measured what grammar rules dictate, but the usual way common people speak.

  111. Simbuwa Dickson -  February 8, 2012 - 12:08 am

    I think it all depends on personality ,habit and behaviour,factors deeply
    rooted in culture,but can also be acquired through interaction. So language
    is not enough. i have seen people who never even went to school doing very well economically, better than most of us. Managing your finances is a skill that can learned.

  112. Modern English Speaker -  February 7, 2012 - 9:36 pm

    Very interesting, and perhaps true, but I have a quick question regarding this info.

    If the German language is a weak FTR, and “today and tomorrow” are not discerned directly, then how does that correlate with MORE savings? If one does not separate today from tomorrow, does that not produce a more lackadaisical society? If there is a weak reference to the future, then how can one instill a premonition to save more money and have a better lifestyle?

    Just my thoughts. But, as I said, this is an interesting concept!

  113. Kevin Martin -  February 7, 2012 - 7:35 pm

    Wow, I absolutely love this post. I didn’t know that one’s language could impact how he or she prepares for the future. Great information!

  114. sherrisse -  February 7, 2012 - 6:28 pm

    no sense

  115. flalalala -  February 7, 2012 - 6:26 pm

    Yay! i take german as my high school language

  116. yoen -  February 7, 2012 - 6:21 pm

    Weak-FTR Japanese rules? Having only present and past tenses builds character? Awww, come on.

  117. ashley -  February 7, 2012 - 6:06 pm

    Do you have to a specific foreign language so that can affect your bank account? Like for example you have to speak German to get a certain job then you get chosen in this company and you get $250,000?

  118. why do you want to know -  February 7, 2012 - 5:34 pm

    wait, so… what?

  119. J-Wu33 -  February 7, 2012 - 4:59 pm

    I speak English. So does that mean I’ll really be worse off after I retire? :(

  120. James -  February 7, 2012 - 4:55 pm

    I find the correlation of language FTR and savings rates to be interesting but inconclusive. There are spendthrifts and misers who speak every language. My intuition leads me to think that one’s financial habits have more to do with upbringing and acquired skill at setting goals.

  121. Commenter -  February 7, 2012 - 4:49 pm

    That makes no sense.

  122. Theo -  February 7, 2012 - 3:56 pm

    Although I think it is tricky to connect these trends to language alone, since they often accompany other variables (culture, etc.), I find this to be very interesting.

  123. Me -  February 7, 2012 - 2:08 pm

    I certainly “have qualms with these socio-economic extrapolations.” Past experiences, wealth, circumstances (the context of one’s life and the resources are available to that person in his or her life), personality, how people think, &c all may have an influence on how one saves money.

    What about people who speak more than one (like me)? For example, I will be thinking in my native language, and sometimes I just start to think in another (usually when I was thinking about the non-native language and then stopped).

    I also believe that culture has a big impact on the topic of this article. Many countries (that have cultures that differ greatly) speak English for example.

  124. RAH -  February 7, 2012 - 2:05 pm

    Though effects of language on human behavior is an interesting topic, I did not find the paper to be thorough enough to make this case. According to the paper most languages of the world are “strong” FTR languages with the exception of some European and Malay etc. However the data discussed is between European states only and Malaysia is not contrasted with India / Indonesia and other countries of similar background/issues. I have long held the idea that language and its script along with art and architecture affects the culture and values of a certain group of people, however in this case more data needs to be presented to make the case.


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