Did you know that your personality may change when you speak a foreign language?
The impact of language learning goes beyond the mere one to a far extent, as it can relate to country cultures and anxiety control. More than that, feminization and masculinity may affect our view of things! Between this and that, learning foreign languages can also affect the speaker’s personality, as the latter may change as the speaking language changes. It is weird that it may be closer to what is known as languages schizophrenia. We will try to present it in a simple way in the next few lines.
Studies that demonstrate personality change according to the language used for speech
Researchers agree that language learning may change the learner’s personality, based on a set of studies, the first of which was conducted in the 1960s by psychologist Susan Ervin-Tripp, a pioneer in psychology and language development studies for bilingual people. Susan Irvine Tripp conducted in particular the first experimental studies with bilingual adults (i.e. they speak two languages) as she wanted to discover in more detail the hypothesis that the content of bilingual speeches changes according to language.
In 1968, Susan Irvine Tripp chose to evaluate her experiences with Japanese women living in San Francisco and married Americans. Women were somewhat isolated from the Japanese community residing in America so that these women have very few opportunities to speak the Japanese language. The survey prepared by Susan Irvine Tribe, in particular, suggested expressing feelings in the following situation: “When my desires differ from those of my family, I feel…” If Japanese speakers basically emphasized the feeling of “great pain” in the Japanese language, the feeling expressed in English was radically different because they stated a feeling of “having to act according to my desires.” Thus, we note the difference between the two expressions of feeling in two different languages.
It might be a simple coincidence, but it is not. There is a second study, conducted by researcher Michele Koven in 1998 with adult Parisian immigrants in Portugal, where she asked them to narrate certain personal experiences in both French and Portuguese. And here the results showed great personality changes. For example, women were more likely to defend their ideas in their stories in French, while they made many concessions when recounting in Portuguese.
In the same vein, Michelle Coffin asked the participants to introduce themselves in both languages. One of them, who defined herself as a “living in an angry suburb” when she spoke French, chose to describe herself as a “frustrated, polite, and patient banker, who did not want to draw attention to being an immigrant” when she spoke in Portuguese. This highlights the change that may occur as the language of expression changes.
Although these studies have shown important results, it is necessary to study carefully the reasons for their implementation. The two studies did not take into consideration the context in which the languages spoken by volunteers were learned, just as the fundamental differences between each language to another.
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Learning a Foreign Language: A Story of Context
The context of language learning is imperative to understanding its awareness, thus enhancing the resulting positive or negative feelings. Indeed, learning a new language during the trip, during study, or for professional reasons will not generate the same feeling and awareness of the language as the learner, who will not necessarily master the language learned with the same fluency. Speaking in a foreign language, for example, in a way imposed by the educational system or from parents may generate a negative feeling for the learner, and therefore this may cause learning to become blocked or fail, unlike learning a foreign language that the learner chooses out of a real desire from him to learn, so they will master it better generating a Positive sense towards it.
In the same context, American journalist Robert Lane Greene highlighted the fact that bilingual people associate a foreign language with a specific context leading to its learning, especially with certain emotional experiences during their lives that may affect their expressive abilities, and indeed their learning of the language as a whole.
Equally, the context of learning is very important to determine the degree of learning, which in turn contributes to knowing the proficiency of the language and the ability to use it, without this being linked in a fundamental way to personality change, the difference observed may be the result of no more of lack of terms and not a real change in the personality of the speaker.
Learning the language vs our world view
If the learning context plays, as we have seen, an important role, to determine how to learn and thus influence the personality of the learner, then what about the people who have already learned a new foreign language, in answer to this question, many studies tend to show that the personality of foreign language learners may flourish more or less depending on the language used, as some studies show that the structure of language can actually modify and affect the way we think and how we view things, and thus the prosperity of our thoughts and with them – in parallel – our personality.
In this regard, Wilhelm von Humboldt, who was the Prussian Minister of State and founder of the New Berlin University, is best known for his work on an anthropological project for describing nations, which included language as an essential element to describe human society. According to Wilhelm von Humboldt: Languages convey the world vision in particular according to every human society, where it is believed that our vision of the world is a reflection of our language and culture. So speaking a second language naturally alters our point of view allowing us to recognize our environment from a different angle.
Also, other studies, such as those related to linguistic relativity conducted by American linguists Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf in the 1950s, demonstrated a strong relationship between language and the private concept of the world. According to them, people live according to their own cultures in certain universes and express them through their language used for pronunciation and expression.
Many studies prove, then, that just speaking a foreign language can cause a change in your personality. Therefore, to express your ideas successfully and as accurately as possible, it is important to learn and use accurate and varied vocabulary. For this reason, you must work to strengthen your terminology and linguistic style in a way that allows you to have enough expression space to pick out the appropriate words and phrases.