Some research indicates that living abroad and deep multicultural experiences enhance creativity. My gut has told me this, but recent science is demonstrating it. These studies are informative, but I would like to know more about how namely the experiences enhance creativity. My anecdotal evidence suggests that language-study contributes to creativity.
The depth of experience living abroad contributes to creativity in ways that travel does not. The first study I found is entitled, “Cultural borders and mental barriers: the relationship between living abroad and creativity.” The second is called, “Multicultural experience enhances creativity: the when and how.” The abstract of the second study suggests that as one become open to new cultures, one becomes more creative: “The serendipitous creative benefits resulting from multicultural experiences may depend on the extent to which individuals open themselves to foreign cultures.” Depth of and openness to foreign experience contributes to creativity.
Learning the language of the culture opens oneself up more than anything (except maybe eating the food). One who learns a language has to be ready to sound dumb–which requires extreme openness–and to see life in a new way. The old categories no longer work. If you speak Spanish, you have to think about whether an action was completed or not before you conjugate your past tense. If you speak Chinese you have to think about the pitch of your voice on every syllable. If you speak Arabic, you have to think of which word for “love” you’re going to use. You have to think in someone else’s categories–until those categories become your own and completeness, tone, and vocabulary are second-nature. The normal way of thinking will no longer work; openness changes and broadens how you think.
I am not a psychologist or a sociologist, but I would like one to run an experiment to answer the following question: Among those who have lived abroad, how much does language-learning contribute to creativity? Does the creativity of those who live in country where their own language dominates benefit as much as those who have to speak another language? Does level of fluency affect creativity? If so, then language-study may enhance the creative benefits offered by “openness” to the other culture. I’m also interested to understand what other sorts of openness enhances creativity.
Do you find that you are more creative because of your time in another culture or with another language? What is it about other cultures that improves our creativity? In what concrete ways does creativity change?
- Vulnerability and Weakness, Growth and Connection (lovinglanguage.wordpress.com)
- The Joys of Language Barriers Abroad (communicationstudies.com)
- Language Learning and Brain Research. Wellington College/Sunday Times Festival of Education. (johnbald.typepad.com)