In this post, I’m going to reach out to all those bilinguals and polyglots out there about a topic that is kind of unique.
Have you ever noticed a shift in personality when you change languages? Or have you ever noticed a friend or family member of yours act differently when they speak in different languages?
This topic was brought up by a former classmate (the guy who took me to the anime festival) who can speak both Indonesian and English fluently. During 7th and 8th grade, I noticed that when he spoke English with me or a few others, he came off as easygoing and mature. However, as soon as he switched to Indonesian, he became more outgoing and came off as less mature.
I then noticed that I was also affected by this strange phenomenon. In Indonesian, I’m dry, serious, and to the point. In English, I’m more easygoing and human-like. In Sundanese, I’m rash and kinda edgy.
I’m also different when blogging! My English when I’m blogging may tend to be a lot more outgoing than in real life, probably because my fingers are doing all the talking.
And it turns out, it’s not just us.
In a survey conducted by a few linguists between 2001 and 2003, over two-thirds of all multilinguals said that they felt a shift in personality when they changed languages.
Many more experiments were conducted involving different perspectives that people had depending on the language that they were using, and it turns out, most data concludes that people do indeed have a shift in personalities when they change their language.
Now isn’t that interesting? You can change the way you look at things just by changing your language, and this is mostly unconscious. It’s not like some guy would force himself to be extremely caring in German and the complete opposite in Russian. It’s an instinctive sort of shift that’s really hard to explain.
That leads us to the big question. Why does this happen? Why do people have different ways of thinking in different languages?
That remains unknown.
The strongest contender as of the current moment is that people go through different scenarios involving the language that they use.
For example, let’s say we have a guy named Bob who can speak English, Spanish, and Japanese fluently.
Bob is natively from Mexico, where he has loads of family all around, and he knows them all very well. He has a job in America as a trend analyst for a footwear company and has had the job since he moved to America after finishing high school in Mexico. He knows Japanese because of his activeness in various events and weeaboo clubs.
Bob has never asked for a raise in Spanish. Nothing job-related involves him using Spanish.
Bob has never said “I love you.” in English. Nothing social life-related involves him using English.
Bob has never talked about his job or family in Japanese. Nothing life-related involves him using Japanese.
So, we can conclude that in Bob is more natural and fun in Spanish. He is more down to Earth and businesslike in English. Him in Japanese is a completely different story.
These alter-ego Bobs are just him shifting a teeny little bit to match the setting. Again, this is an example of a theory, so it probably won’t be that close to real life. That’s pretty much the gist of that theory.
What do you guys think?