Studying a Language the Left Handed Way

As a left hander I am intrigued by the way that different languages use words to explain what a southpaw is. If you are right handed then bear with me a few minutes as I pull up my left handed mouse and keyboard and explain about the adventures of left handed language studying for curious southpaws.

The Negative Words

One interesting aspect of just about every language I have come across is that words concerning the left side are usually negative and those to do with the right positive. For example, back home in the UK I was familiar with words like cack handed and even cow pawed. However, I never paid that much attention to this until I realised that the word sinister comes from siniestra in Latin, which meant “left” as well as “evil”. I then did some research and discovered that in Spanish right (derecho/a) means wholesome things like straight, right of law and direct. Meanwhile, all across the world the word which means left translates additionally as things like sneaky (Belarus), awkward (Germany) and even unfaithful (Portugal). Try it. Pick a language and see what right and left mean. I bet that lefties are evil or sneaky and that right handers are faithful and upstanding.

The Expressions

The same sort of theory applies to many popular expressions across the globe. The idea of “having two left feet” translates directly to several languages and we can add in the expression to do with getting out of bed on the wrong side. In a number of languages this translates as getting out of bed on the left side or standing up on your left foot. Again, when you are learning a new language just check out some phrases and I’ll pretty sure that you will start to agree with me about there being a global conspiracy against southpaws.

The Art of Studying

So, we are evil, clumsy and unfaithful but do we make good language students? This is a blooming interesting point. One piece of evidence suggests that right handers concentrate their language activity on the left side of the brain, while lefties often have it distributed more evenly. Other studies suggest that evil cack handers learn more on a visual basis than on a strictly language basis, which might help explain why I like to use visual mnemonics a lot. Basically, there are different studies with different answers and as nothing appears conclusive you will need to give it a try for yourself and see how you get on.

Take on the exciting challenge of learning a new language and enjoy finding interesting phrases and expressions which make you think about things which had never crossed your mind before.