How speaking English is shaping my personality
Over the years, I have realised that I am nicer and happier when I write or speak English. I say ‘have a nice day’, ‘I hope you’re having a good time’, and I mean every single word… It’s killing me! I am not the kind of girl you would define as cheerful. One minute I am the most talkative person on earth, the next the April Ludgate (Parks & Recreation) of the situation. I cannot deny the fact that I have a grumpier attitude when I speak Italian, or in my life in general.
I am joking, of course; this is not killing me, but it is really puzzling. So I started thinking about the impact that studying a foreign language has had on my life so far.
I have read many articles on the theory that speaking a foreign language also entails showing a different personality. Possible causes are:
• Limited vocabulary in the second language;
• Linguistic relativity: the structure of a language affects our world view;
• Biculturalism and Cultural Frame Switching: individuals switch between cultural systems in response to the environment.
Personally, I don’t think that my personality actually changes when I speak English. On the contrary, I believe that my second language allows me to express myself better, even considering my non-native vocabulary. It might just be a matter of feelings and culture: I feel happy when I write or speak English; I feel happy when I get to know people from all over the world thanks to my second language; I feel happy when people actually get my sense of humour and my sarcasm, and this happens most of the time with foreign individuals. It is a sort of escape from my everyday drama, which in my case is inevitably linked to the Italian side of my life.
I have found this passage particularly interesting (you will find a link to the complete article in the References below):
“Most people are not symmetrically bilingual. Many have learned one language at home from parents, and another later in life, usually at school. So bilinguals usually have different strengths and weaknesses in their different languages—and they are not always best in their first language. For example, when tested in a foreign language, people are less likely to fall into a cognitive trap (answering a test question with an obvious-seeming but wrong answer) than when tested in their native language. In part this is because working in a second language slows down the thinking. No wonder people feel different when speaking them. And no wonder they feel looser, more spontaneous, perhaps more assertive or funnier or blunter, in the language they were reared in from childhood.”
For more professional opinions, you can read these interesting articles:
Finding kindred people is a key element for me. What’s yours? Do you also believe that your second/third/fourth language shapes your attitude towards life in general? Leave a comment and share your views!