Eskimos Have 50 Words for Snow & Other Linguistic Myths Busted

Simple misconceptions about other languages, cultures, and societies are nothing new to the world, nor to the World Wide Web. Most of the public’s confusion about the subject of other languages is usually started by misunderstandings in translations and cultural differences of perception.


Eskimos Have 50 Words for Snow

One of the most well-known differences of opinion and debate when it comes to language misconceptions, is the famous Alaskan Eskimo Tribe’s “Fifty Words for Snow. “ The deliberation over the legitimacy of this claim about the name for snow in the frigid tundras of Alaska started with an Anthropologist in the mid-nineteenth century named Franz Boas.  Boas specialized in the study of the indigenous peoples’ cultural variations in customs, and their descriptive linguistics.

He also started many of the (as of then unwritten) written recordings of the world’s native population’s languages. The ensuing misunderstanding that followed was compounded by the fact that there are many separate Alaskan Native tribes that speak several different dialects (there is no one universal Eskimo language).

What Franz Boas Proposed

When it came to the Alaskan Inuit tribe and its language, Boas proposed that what mattered linguistically was not how the tribe pronounced its words, but how the established English speaking scholars at the time perceived the pronunciations of their words. He believed that Westerners had a total lack of being able to truly understand the complexities of the different sounds and meanings of the Inuit language in proper translation, given that the English phonetic system cannot accommodate the slight variations in the Eskimo’s words.

What Ensued

The debate over his famous writings on Eskimo life and language ballooned over the next century into an ongoing monumental argument in linguistic academic circles and social opinion that has also been fueled by vast amounts of misconstrued information by the general public over the validity or debunkment of the now notorious, and seemingly endless different variations of the Eskimo’s word for snow. Some still stubbornly insist to this day that there are only 20 different variations of the word, while others adamantly claim a list that runs into the 100’s.

The Trouble with Language

The trouble with language is that people tend to talk way too much about subjects they truly know nothing about. This can make it confusing for someone who just wants to know the “real” truth about a certain subject without having to wade through all the many Un-truths lurking out there on the internet. Listed below are five other myth-busters about languages.

Five Misconceptions about Learning Another Language


People all learn the same way.

Standard methods of teaching in the past have generally been based on the principle that people learn in identical ways. Research studies such as Richard Skehan’s Individual Differences in Second Language Learning; have shown that there are multiple individual variances in the way that people successfully learn a second language. Some people are more visually-oriented than others, while some are sensitive to sounds so they tend to learn better in a quieter atmosphere when they study. Some people however prefer an actively busy and noisier environment instead.

All languages are equally as hard to learn.

Languages like Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese are of similar roots, by knowing or learning one of them, the others can be easily learned as well. Many other languages also share similarities that one will notice and pick up upon once they are realized.

People must have a gift in order to learn another language.

Most people who really want to learn a second language, or even a third, can do so if they take the time, energy, and invest the proper funds towards reaching their multi-lingual goals. Across Europe people learn to speak several different languages due to the diversity of cultures throughout the region.  It would be awfully presumptuous to believe that they are any more gifted than anybody else around the world; they do so out of cultural necessity and convenience.

It is much easier to learn a second language if you are a child.

There are benefits to having children start learning a second language at an earlier age, but in many cases, the ability to grasp an understanding of the grammar and cultural significance of a different language is much easier as an adult rather than a child.

There are tricks to learning languages overnight.

The best proven ways to accelerate the language learning process is to absolutely immerse yourself into the task. Being proficient at learning a different language is acquired when the student is in a positive and meaningful social and cultural context, which then allows the person to create a strong mental connection with the language being learned over an adequate and proper amount of time.


Understanding how these misconceptions about different languages happen is clearer after learning a few reliable points that rationally contradict these social myths. This also highlights how important it is to seek out an accredited company that is professional, and also has a working and experienced track record in the field of teaching second languages. Listen & Learn are experts in the industry and can help you on your way with what you need to succeed at being multi or bilingual. Contact Us today in order to get started!