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Different Personalities for Different Languages

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at TCU chapter.

Is it true that we change personalities depending on the language we speak? 

As a bilingual, I cannot either confirm or deny this theory. The first time I heard about it made me question most of my behaviors and actions I do everyday. My parents have mentioned how my voice has become soft along the years when speaking my native language. However, I feel pretty much the same person. 

The American Psychology Association defines language as “a system for expressing or communicating thoughts and feelings through speech sounds or written symbols.” In a lecture given by Lera Boroditsky in the University of California, Lera described language as a “magical ability,” in which we can transmit what we think. 

In my almost twenty years on this Earth, fifteen of them I spent living in Mexico. My earliest memories and first words were in Spanish. Most of my family do not even speak English, including my parents. It was not until high school that I moved back to the United States, the place I was born, to learn my second language.  

The question if language shapes the way we think is nothing new. Charlemagne, a holy Roman emperor, famously said “to have a second language is to have a second soul.” Approximately 7,000 languages are spoken worldwide, in which the linguistic diversity shows how flexible the human mind is.

There have been recent studies that show foreign languages influence moral judgment. The study proposed that the use of language foreign might affect ethical decision-making. A foreign language might emotional distance a person from its judgment or confidence.

The linguistic relativity hypothesis proposes that the language we speak influences the way we think, the perception we have of the world, and forms a big part of the question on how language influences thought. Also known as the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, it emphasizes how we experience life through language.

I still remember asking my English teacher in elementary school which language she dreamed in. (English or Spanish?) Years later, I am the one who knows the answer to the question. Personally I mostly still dream in Spanish, but sometimes there are some dreams in which I speak English or even both languages.

Languages have different sounds, different vocabularies, and different structures. Even the evolution of the same language can dramatically shift along the time. The English we speak today is not the same that Shakespeare used or even our grandparents used in their youth. The English spoken in the United States can differ sometimes from the one spoken by the British or the Australians. If the same language can have variations regarding time and location, then when speaking different languages we can find more differences.

However, the linguistic variation represents the beauty of diversity among different cultures and how versatile the human being is. Language is the tool that helps us transmit our feelings and thoughts among others.

Hi! I am a Sophomore, journalism major from El Paso, TX. I love fashion, writing and reading <3