How thinking in a foreign language improves decision-making

Research shows people who speak another language are more utilitarian and flexible, less risk-averse and egotistical, and better able to cope with traumatic memories

As Vladimir Nabokov revised his autobiography, Speak, Memory, he found himself in a strange psychological state. He had first written the book in English, published in 1951. A few years later, a New York publisher asked him to translate it back into Russian for the émigré community. The use of his mother tongue brought back a flood of new details from his childhood, which he converted into his adopted language for a final edition, published in 1966.

“This re-Englishing of a Russian re-version of what had been an English re-telling of Russian memories in the first place, proved to be a diabolical task,” he wrote. “But some consolation was given me by the thought that such multiple metamorphosis, familiar to butterflies, had not been tried by any human before.”

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