Language has effect on personality
Thread poster: Natalia Eklund

Natalia Eklund  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:33
Member (2005)
French to English
+ ...
Jun 25, 2008

I wasn't sure which Forum to put this in, so feel free to move it around if necessary.

I just came across the following article that talks about a study made on bi-cultural and bilingual women. Their conclusions are that our perceptions of ourselves and others (and consequently our own personalities) are modified depending on the language we use.;_ylt=AnyqVUHe.AcSr9o2mWSpPr.s0NUE

Here's an extract of the article:
People who are bicultural and speak two languages may unconsciously change their personality when they switch languages, according to a U.S. study .......
"Language can be a cue that activates different culture-specific frames," the researchers said in a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

While frame-shifting has been studied before, they said this research found that people who are bicultural switched frames more quickly and easily than people who are bilingual but living in one culture.

The researchers said the women classified themselves as more assertive when they spoke Spanish than when they spoke English.

I found this article pretty pertinent, since recently there was a poll discussion on a similar subject:
Do you think your native language has contributed to shaping your character?

Fascinating stuff....


Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:33
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
And mental illnesses Jun 25, 2008

These also are connected to cultural personality. There was a thread about this two weeks ago.

Well, there is nothing strange about this. After all language constitutes our world, the world is what we can talk about and the rest is silence (Wittgenstein put it in different words, I know).

For those who don't know this famous performance of the Finnish actionist M.A.Numminen, here the link:

Different languages, different worlds, especially if the languages are aquired in different ages, like early childhood and puberty.

Enjoy your world.


Alexandra Goldburt
Local time: 17:33
English to Russian
+ ...
It has been said... Jun 26, 2008

"Every time a woman puts on another dress, she puts on another soul".

And this is true, to a point - doesn't the way you dress change the way you perceive yourself?

But it is even truer with languages. At least, that's my personal experience - I know I become a different person every time I switch to another language.


Parrot  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:33
Spanish to English
+ ...
This must be what Borges referred to Jun 26, 2008

when he called us (himself included) "schizophrenic".

On another side, I have a friend who is taking her MA in anthropology right now, who's working on a paper along the lines of "cultural autobiography". In her own words, "the idea is to focus on one aspect of your cultured self - something born into [income/class, religion or spirituality, geogrpahical area...] or born as [gender, sexuality,ethnicity]... a thick anthorpological self analysis.

From this, some major values, assumptions, beliefs and behaviors should become apparent... Also current atitudes and motivations that originate in this cultured aspect. This analysis then leads into a critique and consideration of these implications on myself."


Natalia Eklund  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:33
Member (2005)
French to English
+ ...
good starting point for inner reflection Jun 26, 2008

For some people this kind of phenomenon could be disconcerting as proof that their behavior and emotional development is immature and unstable.

On the other hand, I find it an interesting starting point to shock us out of our adopted cultural habits & personality, and a wonderful opportunity to get to know ourselves from another angle.

My personal experience was that I used to feel like a fish out of water, and now that I live in a different culture which I feel corresponds better to my natural basic perceptions, I am no longer at war with myself and my personality is modified in consequence.
But this digresses a bit from the study's purpose in the article.

In fact, I'm wondering if cultural stereotypes have a large role in this 'frame shifting', rather than the actual culture. For example, the stereotype that latin women are 'firey'; Biritish are tight laced ; Germans are really organized....
Or maybe the stereotypes are fed off of the fact that the languages/cultures provoke a personality shift.
The Chicken or the egg?

[Edited at 2008-06-26 09:25]


Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:33
Member (2004)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I've noticed this Jun 26, 2008

About 5 years ago I first noticed that my personality is a bit different in Spanish than in English. I crack different types of jokes in Spanish, I cuss a bit more, I react slightly differently to situations. It's not a radically different personality and I don't know if other people notice it, but I'm very much aware of it, especially when I'm in Spain.

It seems natural for this sort of thing to happen. I can't imagine why anyone would find it unsettling.


Tatty  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:33
Spanish to English
+ ...
Impressionable Jun 26, 2008

I heard about this study on the radio this morning. Personally I'm not very convinced. I don't think a person's personality can really change with language. You may have a persona in another language but you are simply emulating that culture, and falling in line with that set of cultural norms, or at least as you perceive them to be.

Having said that, I reckon I talk more when I have the opportunity to in Spain, only because I don't get told to put a sock in it, which I would do iif I talked as much in England.

Some foreigners come to Spain and they start to hang around with people who are more rough and ready than their usual acquaintances in their own country and they tend to develop a parallel persona. But they were impressionable in the first place.

I think it is good to defend your own values and not let "culture" explain away things that on the face of it are unacceptable to you. This is why people become vunerable abroad, especially women if they don't have their heads screwed on right.

If you live abroad long enough speaking the foreign language stops being an issue, and everything that goes along with it.


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