A colourful questionPosted by Sharon Creese on February 11, 2011
It’s interesting how the importance of colour varies from culture to culture, and the way that impacts on language. In Western countries, white is the colour of weddings, because it’s supposed to represent purity, while black is sombre and suited to sad occassions like funerals. Our language reflects that, with white representing ‘good’ and black representing ‘bad’. In China, though, weddings are traditionally red, symbolizing joy, while white is the colour for funerals.
It’s the same with blue and green. In English, blue often means ‘dirty’ in the sexual sense – blue movie – but in Spanish, green is used in the same context.
I wonder if different colours are used in your or your students’ native languages, and whether that’s ever caused confusion in the classroom?Email this Post
This is a fascinating topic. The other day I picked up these couple of articles on the web, both relating to the perception of colour: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2008/03/babies-see-pure/ and http://news.softpedia.com/news/You-Detect-Colors-According-to-Your-Mother-Tongue-Language-53608.shtml. In both cases, language has a part to play.
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In Italian, the noun “giallo” (yellow) is the word commonly used for “crime book” because they all used to have yellow covers.
Interesting. In China, the movies with sexual contents are being called Yellow Movies.. I am quite sure why it is yellow not blue though… and another good one is called “Green hats”. It is a bad name for a man being called with green hat on, as this means his wife has laid with someone, everyone knows it but only him, again, why green being picked here, I am not sure..
I haven’t seen any confusion in the classroom yet, although I do get confused a lot – especially when reading foreign literature, most of all poetry. I have been thinking about it quite a lot, because I feel I am losing some subtle but important meanings in “cultural translation”.
This is interesting, there are clearly lots of variations – thanks for sending them in.
Any more anyone?
In Italian we use green “Sono al verde” = meaning “I’m broke”, or “verde d’invidia” the colour of envy. Green is also the colour for hope (verde speranza)
Black is for sad things “Vedo nero” = I can’t see a way out, but “Vedo rosa” (pink) for the positive side of it.