Knowledge of foreign languages comes in handy in various situations. Work, travel and entertainment are often cited as the most common reasons why people take up learning a new language. However, a group of scientists has recently found out that good knowledge of another language may not just improve our communication skills but boost our rationality.

In their study several groups of students participated in various decision-making and risk-assessment tasks. After a series of experiments it turned out that the ability to make sound judgments is sharper when thinking processes are not conducted in the mother tongue. Check out: Thinking in a Foreign Language Makes Decisions More Rational



  • deep-seated – firmly established at a deep level
  • misleading – giving the wrong idea/impression
  • undue – inappropriate because excessive
  • quick-and-dirty – makeshift, done or produced hastily
  • cogitate – think deeply about something
  • frame – (here) create or formulate something e.g. a plan, concept)
  • deliberation – long and careful consideration
  • myopia – short-sightedness
  • in the long run – ultimately, finally



Think about it

 Based on the text answer the following questions. Leave your answers in the comments below!

  • What counterintuitive conclusions did the researchers reach?
  • What two premises did the study set out to investigate?
  • In a nutshell, what does prospect theory say about people’s perception of risk?
  • Describe the first experiment conducted by Keysar’s team (medicine).
  • Describe the “betting” experiment.


Practice makes perfect 

 In the sentences below replace the phrases in bold with the expressions from the original text. Leave your answers in the comments below!

  • A series of experiments on more than 300 people from the U.S. and Korea found that thinking in a second language minimized innate, deceptive prejudices that unduly influence how risks and benefits are perceived.
  • It’s a instinctive human tendency, and if second-language thinking made people think less systematically, Keysar’s team supposed the tendency would be amplified.
  • Conversely, if second-language thinking induced careful consideration, the tendency would be reduced.
  • They take more bets in a foreign language because they expect to gain at the end of the day, and are less affected by the typically overblown reluctancetoward losses.
  • Taking into consideration that more and more people use a foreign language on a daily basis, our discovery could have extensive ramifications.


Fill in the blank spaces with the correct words.


“It may be intuitive that people would ______ the same choices regardless _____ the language they are using, or that the difficulty of using _____ foreign language would make decisions less systematic. We discovered, however, that _____ opposite is true: Using a foreign language reduces decision-making biases,” wrote Keysar’s team.

[. . .]

“______ that more and more people use a foreign language on a daily ______, our discovery could have far-reaching ______,” they wrote, suggesting that people ______ speak a second language might use it when considering financial decisions. “______ a long time horizon, this might very well be beneficial.”


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