CM 173: Katherine Kinzler on How Language Shapes Us
We recognize the biases we hold around race, class, and gender, but what about language?
Katherine Kinzler, author of the book, How You Say It: Why You Talk the Way You Do - and What It Says about You, explains, "The language you speak, and the accent or dialect you use to speak it, is such a foundational part of social life."
Yet speech and language are often overlooked aspects of social identity. In fact, Katherine's research reveals that the way we speak can "determine who you might connect with, but also the judgments you make about other people, and the judgments they might be making about you."
In her book, Katherine discusses how language, accents, and speech influence life experience and outcomes. In particular, they can be tools for social division, discrimination in hiring and firing, and other forms of bias and prejudice. It's one of the reasons Katherine advocates language learning in school.
She says, "a lot of times, we think of language [learning] as 'icing on the cake'...nice to have but not really a fundamental part of learning. I think we could do so much more if we changed how we thought about the necessity of more than one language."
Katherine Kinzler is Professor of Psychology at the University of Chicago. She holds degrees from Yale and Harvard, has written for the New York Times, and was recently named a Young Scientist by the World Economic Forum, one of the 50 scientists under 40 working to shape the future.
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