This is a fascinating read on how language (English, French, etc.) does and doesn’t shape our experience.
Mostly it doesn’t. Each languages has various subtleties in grammatical tense or gendered objects, yes, but they all rather balance out in the end.
And then comes cardinal directions. The language of orienteering – the geographic language of North, East, South and West. Cultures who use the cardinal points develop a mastery of knowing which way is which. Cultures who use egocentric language for directions (that is, left, right, in front, behind) have a much looser grasp on where the sun rises and sets.
Maybe I’m oversimplifying this, but the former is what’s known as a good sense of direction.
In Newfoundland, I have an exceptional sense of direction. I am inherently aware of where the water is in relation to where I am, and as I have a good grasp on geography and topography and cartography I can extrapolate the cardinal points based on my position relative to the coast. (Look, I even used a nautical phrase for the title of this post!)
In Alberta, there is no such map.
All (most) roads run North-South or East-West. If I don’t pay attention to the sun or my direction of travel, I’ll get all turned around and tell you I’m heading North when in fact I’m on my way to BC.
After two years here, I’m getting better. I do a lot of map-visualization in my head to orient myself, but I don’t always have to scan the horizon for the mountains to know which way is West.
You could say, after two years, I’m actually finding my way in Alberta.