Language, fundamentally, names things, refers to actions, conveys concepts and calibrates with descriptions all the above.
Peculiarities of language a forward from a friend
I would disagree that in languages such as Chinese that you think in pictures! The pictogrammes form a word that represents the concept. The Chinese word for jealousy or lack of harmony is represented by the word for woman, written twice, under a single roof.
You would string together several words to form a sentence, several sentences to form a paragraph, etc. The average native speaker (as opposed to an artist) of Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Thai tend to think in "words" not in pictures, and there is a way to pronounce those words that would change their meaning in oral discourse.
I think the biggest difference in communication between you and your wife may be direct vs indirect communication modes.
Japanese and Chinese cultures tend to be closed, and their communication is indirect; meaning that rather than say what they mean, they say what they mean in context. Instead of asking you to shut the window, a person from those cultures may say "it is cold in here".
Being a member of the same culture, or having extensive exposure to that culture, you would understand that you are being requested to shut the window or turn on the heat.