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TED演讲:你存钱的能力跟你用的语言有关?

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2016年05月14日

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  The global economic financial crisis has reignited public interest in something that's actually one of the oldest questions in economics, dating back to at least before Adam Smith. And that is, why is it that countries with seemingly similar economies and institutions can display radically different savings behavior?

  全球金融危机让人们对早在亚当·斯密时代就被提出的一个古老的经济学问题 重新产生了兴趣: “为什么经济规模和政治体制看起来相似的国家之间, 国民的储蓄习惯差别如此之大?”

  Now, many brilliant economists have spent their entire lives working on this question, and as a field we've made a tremendous amount of headway and we understand a lot about this. What I'm here to talk with you about today is an intriguing new hypothesis and some surprisingly powerful new findings that I've been working on about the link between the structure of the language you speak and how you find yourself with the propensity to save. Let me tell you a little bit about savings rates, a little bit about language, and then I'll draw that connection.

  已经有很多经济学大师花毕生精力研究了这个问题, 取得了很大的进展,我们对这个问题 也有了很深的认识。 我今天要跟大家分享的是一个很有意思的假说, 我研究了人们说的语言的(语法)结构和他们的存钱习惯之间的关系, 并得到了一些意外的新发现。 我们先介绍国民储蓄比率,再介绍语言差别, 然后我们把这两者联系起来。

  Let's start by thinking about the member countries of the OECD, or the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development. OECD countries, by and large, you should think about these as the richest, most industrialized countries in the world. And by joining the OECD, they were affirming a common commitment to democracy, open markets and free trade. Despite all of these similarities, we see huge differences in savings behavior.

  我们从OECD国家开始考虑, OECD即“经济合作与发展组织”。 基本上OECD包含的都是 世界上最富有的工业化国家。 而且加入OECD组织的国家都需要符合 民主政府、开放市场和自由贸易等要求。 虽然这些国家都是很相似的,但是他们的存储行为差别很大。

  So all the way over on the left of this graph, what you see is many OECD countries saving over a quarter of their GDP every year, and some OECD countries saving over a third of their GDP per year. Holding down the right flank of the OECD, all the way on the other side, is Greece. And what you can see is that over the last 25 years, Greece has barely managed to save more than 10 percent of their GDP. It should be noted, of course, that the United States and the U.K. are the next in line.

  看这张图的左边, 你会看到多数OECD成员国年储蓄率超过GDP的1/4, 而部分成员国的年储蓄率达到了GDP的1/3。 在图右侧的这些国家,最右边的是希腊, 我们看到在过去25年 希腊的国民储蓄率刚超过10%。 需要注意美国和英国紧随其后。

  Now that we see these huge differences in savings rates, how is it possible that language might have something to do with these differences? Let me tell you a little bit about how languages fundamentally differ. Linguists and cognitive scientists have been exploring this question for many years now. And then I'll draw the connection between these two behaviors.

  现在我们看到存储比率的巨大差别, 但是语言跟这种差异有什么关系呢? 让我告诉你语言之间的本质差异所在。 语言学家和认知科学家已经研究这个问题很多年了, 而我今天将会将这两种行为联系起来。

  Many of you have probably already noticed that I'm Chinese. I grew up in the Midwest of the United States. And something I realized quite early on was that the Chinese language forced me to speak about and -- in fact, more fundamentally than that -- ever so slightly forced me to think about family in very different ways.

  你们可能注意到了我是华裔。 我在美国中西部长大。 我很小的时候就意识到了 中文在家庭关系的叫法—— 实际上更本质的—— 甚至在思维方式上都(跟英文)有很大的不同。

  Now, how might that be? Let me give you an example. Suppose I were talking with you and I was introducing you to my uncle. You understood exactly what I just said in English. If we were speaking Mandarin Chinese with each other, though, I wouldn't have that luxury. I wouldn't have been able to convey so little information. What my language would have forced me to do, instead of just telling you, "This is my uncle," is to tell you a tremendous amount of additional information. My language would force me to tell you whether or not this was an uncle on my mother's side or my father's side, whether this was an uncle by marriage or by birth, and if this man was my father's brother, whether he was older than or younger than my father. All of this information is obligatory. Chinese doesn't let me ignore it. And in fact, if I want to speak correctly, Chinese forces me to constantly think about it.

  怎么解释呢,我举个例子。 假设你我在聊天,提到了我的叔叔(uncle)。 你完全理解这个英文的意思。 但是如果我们用普通话聊天, 我就头疼了。 这里面传递的信息如此之多。 我无法用中文告诉你 这是我的“叔叔”, 而是会附加上更多的(家庭关系)信息。 如果用中文,我就要一并告诉你 这个人是我爸爸这边的还是妈妈这边的 是婚姻关系还是血缘关系; 如果是我爸爸的兄弟, 年纪比我爸爸大还是比我爸爸小。 这些都是必须的,中文无法省略这些信息。 事实上,如果要我不弄错的话 我就要不断的去想这之间的关系。

  Now, that fascinated me endlessly as a child, but what fascinates me even more today as an economist is that some of these same differences carry through to how languages speak about time. So for example, if I'm speaking in English, I have to speak grammatically differently if I'm talking about past rain, "It rained yesterday," current rain, "It is raining now," or future rain, "It will rain tomorrow." Notice that English requires a lot more information with respect to the timing of events. Why? Because I have to consider that and I have to modify what I'm saying to say, "It will rain," or "It's going to rain." It's simply not permissible in English to say, "It rain tomorrow."

  这是小时候让我很好奇的事情, 而现在我作为一个经济学家更加好奇的是 不同的语言在如何表示时间上的差异。 例如,在英语中需要用明确的语法变化来表示不同的时态, 如果我说过去下过雨:“It rained yesterday” 正在下雨:“It is raining now” 将要下雨:It will rain tomorrow.” 注意英语中需要很多的元素来表示事件发生的时间。 因为我需要根据我要说的事件的时间 来调整自己要说的话,“It will rain”或“It's going to rain.” 英语语法禁止你说成“It rain tomorrow”。

  In contrast to that, that's almost exactly what you would say in Chinese. A Chinese speaker can basically say something that sounds very strange to an English speaker's ears. They can say, "Yesterday it rain," "Now it rain," "Tomorrow it rain." In some deep sense, Chinese doesn't divide up the time spectrum in the same way that English forces us to constantly do in order to speak correctly.

  中文的表达方式跟英文恰恰相反。 一个说中文的人说出来的话 会让一个说英文的人听起来怪怪的。 他们会说,“昨天下雨”、“现在下雨”、“明天下雨”。 从更深的角度来看,中文并没有将时间进行严格的分割, 而英文则将此作为语言正确与否的准则之一。

  Is this difference in languages only between very, very distantly related languages, like English and Chinese? Actually, no. So many of you know, in this room, that English is a Germanic language. What you may not have realized is that English is actually an outlier. It is the only Germanic language that requires this. For example, most other Germanic language speakers feel completely comfortable talking about rain tomorrow by saying, "Morgen regnet es," quite literally to an English ear, "It rain tomorrow."

  这种差异是不是 只有在中文和英文差异这么大的语言之间才会有? 实际上,不是。 你们当中的很多人都知道英语属于日尔曼语系。 你们可能没有意识到英语算是这个语系的一个异类。 英语是日尔曼语系中唯一需要这些的。 例如,说日尔曼语系的人 会很自然的用以下的话表达 明天下雨:“Morgen regnet es” 说英语的人听了就类似“It rain tomorrow.”

  This led me, as a behavioral economist, to an intriguing hypothesis. Could how you speak about time, could how your language forces you to think about time, affect your propensity to behave across time? You speak English, a futured language. And what that means is that every time you discuss the future, or any kind of a future event, grammatically you're forced to cleave that from the present and treat it as if it's something viscerally different. Now suppose that that visceral difference makes you subtly dissociate the future from the present every time you speak. If that's true and it makes the future feel like something more distant and more different from the present, that's going to make it harder to save. If, on the other hand, you speak a futureless language, the present and the future, you speak about them identically. If that subtly nudges you to feel about them identically, that's going to make it easier to save.

  这让我,作为一个行为经济学家,想到一个有趣的假设。 你描述时间的方式,你的语言迫使你思考时间的方式, 是否会影响到你对不同时间段的偏好? 你们说的是英语,区分将来时态的。 这意味着每次你谈论到未来的时间 或者未来要发生的事情时, 你需要在语法层面将未来和现在分来, 就像是两者之间有本质不同一样。 现在假设这种语言上的差别 让你每次说话的时候都意识到当下和未来细微差别。 如果这个假设成立, 会导致“未来”看起来跟“现在”更加遥远一些, 要你存钱就会困难一些。 另一方面,如果你的语言没有区分将来时态, 你说现在和未来的句式是一样的。 这点细微的差别会让你觉得他们是一样的, 会让你更倾向于存钱。

  Now this is a fanciful theory. I'm a professor, I get paid to have fanciful theories. But how would you actually go about testing such a theory? Well, what I did with that was to access the linguistics literature. And interestingly enough, there are pockets of futureless language speakers situated all over the world. This is a pocket of futureless language speakers in Northern Europe. Interestingly enough, when you start to crank the data, these pockets of futureless language speakers all around the world turn out to be, by and large, some of the world's best savers.

  现在我有了一套奇特的理论。 我是教授,教授就是生产奇思怪想的。 但是你怎么检验这样一套理论呢? 我阅读了大量的语言学文献作为调研。 有意思的是,没有将来时态的语言 全球各地都有。 欧洲北部也有一些语言没有将来时态。 有意思的是,当你开始收集数据时, 你就会发现这些说没有将来时态的语言的国家, 很大程度上,恰恰是最喜欢储蓄的国家。

  Just to give you a hint of that, let's look back at that OECD graph that we were talking about. What you see is that these bars are systematically taller and systematically shifted to the left compared to these bars which are the members of the OECD that speak futured languages. What is the average difference here? Five percentage points of your GDP saved per year. Over 25 years that has huge long-run effects on the wealth of your nation.

  为了给你们一点提示, 请看看刚才提到的OECD储蓄比例图。 你看到相比那些语言中 区别将来时态的国家, 没有区分时态的国家的储蓄率更高并且总体上更靠左边。 平均的差值有多大? 约占各国每年GDP的5%。 这种差别持续了25年,对国家总体财富有着长远的影响。

  Now while these findings are suggestive, countries can be different in so many different ways that it's very, very difficult sometimes to account for all of these possible differences. What I'm going to show you, though, is something that I've been engaging in for a year, which is trying to gather all of the largest datasets that we have access to as economists, and I'm going to try and strip away all of those possible differences, hoping to get this relationship to break. And just in summary, no matter how far I push this, I can't get it to break. Let me show you how far you can do that.

  现在虽然这些发现能说明问题, 但是比较的国家之间在很多很多方面都有差异, 有时候很难将这些差异归结为某个原因。 我将想你们展示,我过去一年收集到的, 作为经济学家能够得到的 所有的大数据集, 并且我正在尝试将国家之间可能的差异性消除 希望可以为(我理论提到的)这段关系提供证据。 总体而言,无论我目前如何尝试,我都无法将这种关联消除。 让我告诉你们,你们能做到什么程度。

  One way to imagine that is I gather large datasets from around the world. So for example, there is the Survey of Health, [Aging] and Retirement in Europe. From this dataset you actually learn that retired European families are extremely patient with survey takers. (Laughter) So imagine that you're a retired household in Belgium and someone comes to your front door. "Excuse me, would you mind if I peruse your stock portfolio? Do you happen to know how much your house is worth? Do you mind telling me? Would you happen to have a hallway that's more than 10 meters long? If you do, would you mind if I timed how long it took you to walk down that hallway? Would you mind squeezing as hard as you can, in your dominant hand, this device so I can measure your grip strength? How about blowing into this tube so I can measure your lung capacity?" The survey takes over a day. (Laughter) Combine that with a Demographic and Health Survey collected by USAID in developing countries in Africa, for example, which that survey actually can go so far as to directly measure the HIV status of families living in, for example, rural Nigeria. Combine that with a world value survey, which measures the political opinions and, fortunately for me, the savings behaviors of millions of families in hundreds of countries around the world.

  一种可能的验证方式就是收集了全球范围的(经济)数据信息。 例如,欧洲的健康、老龄化及退休情况统计。 通过这个数据采集工作你会发现欧洲退休老人 对于调查人员是极度有耐心的。 (笑) 想象一下你是一个比利时的退休老人,有一天有人跑来敲你家的门。 “打扰了,你能跟我说下你的股票投资情况么? 你知道自己的房子值多少钱么?方便告诉我么? 你的走廊有10米这么长么? 如果有,你能走一次让我看看需要多长时间么? 你能否用你的惯用手,用力握这个设备, 让我测试一下你的握力? 你能否吹一下这个管子,让我测量一下你的肺活量? 一天过去了。 (笑) 将这些数据与USAID(美国国际开发署) 在非洲发展中国家的人口健康统计数据结合 USAID的数据很详细,例如,尼日利亚农村家庭中 HIV感染情况等一手信息。 将这些数据与世界价值调查(value survey)结合, 后者统计政治观点和,很幸运的, 全世界上百个国家上亿家庭的存储行为信息。

  Take all of that data, combine it, and this map is what you get. What you find is nine countries around the world that have significant native populations which speak both futureless and futured languages. And what I'm going to do is form statistical matched pairs between families that are nearly identical on every dimension that I can measure, and then I'm going to explore whether or not the link between language and savings holds even after controlling for all of these levels.

  获得所有这些数据,综合起来,你就得到这样的一张图。 你会发现全球范围内有九个国家 其国民中有相当多的人使用 没有区分将来时态和区分将来时态的语言。 我接下来要做的就是通过统计匹配的方式 找到各个方面都近似相同的家庭, 然后去看看在控制了这些变量之后 语言和储蓄之间是否还存在着联系。

  What are the characteristics we can control for? Well I'm going to match families on country of birth and residence, the demographics -- what sex, their age -- their income level within their own country, their educational achievement, a lot about their family structure. It turns out there are six different ways to be married in Europe. And most granularly, I break them down by religion where there are 72 categories of religions in the world -- so an extreme level of granularity. There are 1.4 billion different ways that a family can find itself.

  我们能够控制那些特征? 我考虑的匹配包括出生地和居住地, 人口信息——性别、年龄—— 相对居住国的收入水平, 受教育程度,以及家庭成员结构。 我发现在欧洲就有六种不同的婚姻组合方式。 最精细的分类方法是按照宗教信仰进行分类—— 将全球分成了72个不同的宗教团体—— 非常精细的分类了。 14亿家庭每个家庭都有独特性。

  Now effectively everything I'm going to tell you from now on is only comparing these basically nearly identical families. It's getting as close as possible to the thought experiment of finding two families both of whom live in Brussels who are identical on every single one of these dimensions, but one of whom speaks Flemish and one of whom speaks French; or two families that live in a rural district in Nigeria, one of whom speaks Hausa and one of whom speaks Igbo.

  现在我要说的比较,都是在这些 各个方面近似一致的家庭之间进行的。 让我们假设这个实验找到了 布鲁塞尔的两个家庭, 在别的每个方面都很相似, 但是一个家庭说佛兰芒语(Flemish)另一个家庭说法语; 或是两个住在尼日利亚农村的家庭, 一个说豪萨语(Hausa)另一户说伊博语(Igbo)。

  Now even after all of this granular level of control, do futureless language speakers seem to save more? Yes, futureless language speakers, even after this level of control, are 30 percent more likely to report having saved in any given year. Does this have cumulative effects? Yes, by the time they retire, futureless language speakers, holding constant their income, are going to retire with 25 percent more in savings.

  现在在这么精细的控制水平下, 语言的时态特点是否还会影响到储蓄习惯? 是的,语言中没有区分将来时态的人, 在任何给定年份中储蓄的比例都要高30%。 这种差异是否有累积效应? 是的,当他们退休的时候,语言中没有区分将来时态的人, 在收入稳定不变的情况下,要多25%的储蓄。

  Can we push this data even further? Yes, because I just told you, we actually collect a lot of health data as economists. Now how can we think about health behaviors to think about savings? Well, think about smoking, for example. Smoking is in some deep sense negative savings. If savings is current pain in exchange for future pleasure, smoking is just the opposite. It's current pleasure in exchange for future pain. What we should expect then is the opposite effect. And that's exactly what we find. Futureless language speakers are 20 to 24 percent less likely to be smoking at any given point in time compared to identical families, and they're going to be 13 to 17 percent less likely to be obese by the time they retire, and they're going to report being 21 percent more likely to have used a condom in their last sexual encounter. I could go on and on with the list of differences that you can find. It's almost impossible not to find a savings behavior for which this strong effect isn't present.

  我们能够得到更多的结论么? 正如我告诉你的,我们出于经济研究目的收集了很多的医疗健康数据。 我们能将健康相关的行为比作储蓄行为么? 例如,吸烟这个事情, 吸烟可以看作反向的储蓄。 如果储蓄是增加当下的痛苦增加未来的快感, 那么吸烟的效果正好相反。 吸烟用未来的痛苦换取当下的快感。 我们假设吸烟跟语言时态的关系应该跟储蓄的关系相反。 我们的统计支持了我们的推断。 语言没有区分将来时态的家庭成员相比而言 在任何时间段中吸烟的可能性相比都要少20%到24%, 在他们退休的时候超重的可能性 相比少13%到17%, 在最后一次性行为中 使用安全套的概率要高21%。 我可以这么一直不停地列举下去。 很难找到语言时态特征对于储蓄行为 没有影响的实例。

  My linguistics and economics colleagues at Yale and I are just starting to do this work and really explore and understand the ways that these subtle nudges cause us to think more or less about the future every single time we speak. Ultimately, the goal, once we understand how these subtle effects can change our decision making, we want to be able to provide people tools so that they can consciously make themselves better savers and more conscious investors in their own future.

  我和在耶鲁的的语言学同事和经济学同事刚刚开始这项研究, 探索和理解每次我们说话的时候 (语言)对于我们的未来的轻微的影响。 最终的目标是, 一旦我们理解了这些微妙的效果是如何影响到我们的决策的, 我们希望可以为人们提供 更好的工具,让他们在未来 理性的存钱,理性的投资。

  Thank you very much.

  非常感谢。

  (Applause)

  (掌声)


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