Different personalities with different languages?

Discussion in 'Cultural Discussions' started by Vanest, Oct 6, 2006.

  1. Vanest

    Vanest Senior Member

    Ecuadorian Spanish - Canadian English
    Do you feel that you have different personalities when you speak in different languages? Sometimes I feel that I am a slightly different person when I switch from one language to another, or to say it in another way, I feel that the use of a certain language emphasizes some charateristics while it shadows others. For example, people tell me that I am more optimistic and outgoing in English than when I speak in Spanish, where I tend to be, (according to the perceptions of other people who speak both langauges) more reserved and pessimistic. (This isn´t a matter of fluency becasue I grew up speaking both languages.)
  2. Span_glish Senior Member

    New York
    Guatemala, Spanish
    First, I feel that the level of confidence in the language has a lot to do with it. Obviously, it feels more natural speaking in my mother tongue (Spanish) rather than my learned one (English). This sense of comfort allows you to be more spontaneous when speaking in your language, since your actions, perceptions, and emotions are a given.
    Secondly, I might portray myself as being more serious in English at times, but it's mainly because sometimes I don't get the double meanings, jokes, etc.
  3. snila New Member

    Mexico City
    Hola Vanest:

    Sabes, yo escuché este tipo de inquietud de un gran amigo que estudió lingüística aplicada y hablaba varios idiomas muy bien. El sentía que en español su comunicación influía para tornarse más amable (porque era menos directo y enfático que en inglés). Supongo que además de la personalidad, tiene que ver con la relación cultural que estableces con el idioma y con el ritmo de que un mismo idioma pueda tener, me explico: a veces mi amigo y yo jugábamos un juego en que él expresamba la misma idea en portugués hablado por un nativo de Portugal y en portugués con el acento de un brasileño. En mi opinión el portugués brasileño sonaba más 'musical'... o quizá es la idea que tengo de un Brasil pleno de sensualidad.

    A mi en lo personal me ocurre que hay cosas que prefiero expresar en español y otras ideas/emociones/temas que me vienen en inglés. Aún hablando español, me comunico un poco diferente con mexicanos que con extranjeros. Esto es porque, en general, la comunicación y el protocolo de los mexicanos de la ciudad de México tiende a utilizar más rodeos, a ser menos directo al expresar ideas, información, etc.
  4. Daddyo Senior Member

    I find that is much easier for me to "cantinflear" in Spanish, but not so much in English. And I can express myself more logically in English than in Spanish. I think it depends on what kind of vocabulary (the register, I mean) you are accostumed to utilize in specific situations. Regardless, I'm pretty much the same hard case butthole in any language. I'm just gabbier in Spanish.
  5. Vanest

    Vanest Senior Member

    Ecuadorian Spanish - Canadian English
    Sí, yo también he sentido eso. Tengo amigos con quienes nunca hablaría en inglés apesar de que lo hablan perfectamente. No sé, se me haría raro. Es algo así como que siendo que crecí con ambos idiomas, no me comunicaría en inglés con alguien para quien no es su primer idioma, pues siento que lograríamos una mejor comunicación en español. Y al revés también. No importa qué tan bien un angloparlante hable español, yo le hablo en inglés, porque es lo que se me hace natural... Y una pregunta chistosa, ¿por qué respondiste en español, siendo que la pregunta estaba en inglés? :) Y siento que esta 'preferencias' idiomáticas marcan ciertas relaciones... ¿qué opinan?
  6. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Not so much different personalities, as different intonation. For example, I often feel that my voice has a higher pitch when I speak French. But there may be some truth to the personalities idea. Until you are comfortable in a language (if you ever get there), you tend to mimick native speakers in some ways. I guess that involves stereotyping them ever so slightly, though it's mostly subconscious.
  7. AGATHA2 Senior Member

    Wien, Austria
    german Austria
    Yo creo que sí tienes "personalidades" diferentes cuando hablas diferentes lenguas porque es que no solo hablas la lengua sino que emerges de cierta forma en la cultura de la lengua que hablas. Yo crecí con dos lenguas - aleman y frances - y hay definitivamente temas que prefiero en una lengua y otros que prefiero en otra. Y tambien hay personas con las que prefiero hablar una u otra lengua. No sé si es por costumbre o por el tipo de relacion .....
  8. Nunty

    Nunty Modified

    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    OH, I like this question! I've thought about it a lot.

    I grew up speaking three languages. One of them is no longer familiar to me from decades of disuse, but with the other two, Hebrew and English, there is definitely a difference. In English I am jokier; in Hebrew I am more diplomatic. In English I more intellectual; in Hebrew I am warmer and more outgoing. I make wordplay jokes in English, situational jokes in Hebrew.

    In daily life in the monastery, I speak French. I am not as comfortable in French as in the other languages, but that aside, I find I am more polite, speak in a higher pitch, feel myself to be more reserved.

    Great thread!
  9. Vanest

    Vanest Senior Member

    Ecuadorian Spanish - Canadian English
    Hello once again everyone and thank you for your answers! What you say above, about differences in the way you are in English and Hebrew, do you think that has something to do with the culture as well, or do you think it is just the langauge that can mark these differences.
    Your case is particularly interesting because -I am guessing- you spoke English and Hebrew in the same country. I´ve sometimes wondered if my differences in 'personality' in English and Spanish were due to the fact that I grew up in two different countires: Canada and Ecuador. So I have thought that the culture more than the language has created this difference. Of course, language is a part of culture, but I guess what I´ve always wondered is if language all by itself has the power to mark a person´s personality... ¿qué opinan?
  10. fenixpollo

    fenixpollo Mod Chicken

    American English
    I don't feel like I'm a different person, but I certainly sound like a different person. The pitch of my voice changes when I switch languages -- as my mouth changes shape to form the sounds that are unique to each language -- and my voice sounds different to me.
    Is that possible? :p
  11. stefiks Junior Member

    Yes, it sure has a influence on one's way of acting, I totally agree.
    I was born half French/Pole, and I feel definitely different when I speak Polish. I feel happier, and my words reflect a different personality through the melody and the affectionnate part of my Subconscience.
    How strange ! I was just talking to my polish mom about that as I spoke to her on the phone no later than today.
    I also learned many other languages, and I notice as much as other people do, that I seem to be a slightly different person. :)
  12. Vanest

    Vanest Senior Member

    Ecuadorian Spanish - Canadian English
    In your case, your father is French and your mother is Polish, right? Do you think that the fact that you are more affectionate in Polish is because of the nature of a person´s relationship with his/her mother? I mean, typically, a mother is more 'affectionate' than a father (I know it´s a terrible generalization, but...) Maybe that`s why it´s called a 'mother toungue'! Do you, for example, have any friends whose situation is the opposite of yours: French mother and Polish father? Which language do they feel more comfortable with?
  13. almostfreebird

    almostfreebird Senior Member

    Born and raised in Japón, soy japonés
    I'm basically the same as what I am.
  14. itka Senior Member

    I feel to be the same, speaking a language or another, but which I often noticed, I feel my friends are different when they speak their own language or when they speak mine, though their french is nearly perfect !
    I found out a reason to that : to me, a person speaking italian seems always cool, smiling... a very kind person... which is different in french !
  15. Daddyo Senior Member

    No, es que la verdad, pues ya viendo cómo son las cosas, y con todo lo que los demás dicen, que en realidad no es muy diferente de lo que yo pensaba pero que no había dicho y que ahorita me tomo la oportunidad de expresarme y pues así como quien dijera, explayarme un poco más que hace rato, sí siento como que el castellano me abre las puertas para poder decir, o más bien como expresar o explicar con un poco más de libertad pero sin ser muy directo, sino más bien como con más espacio vital, como dijeramos, con una libertad que uno dice "ah, pero qué libre me siento", ¿no? Porque luego uno va por ahí tratando de decir lo que uno piensa o más bien lo que uno siente, porque los sentimientos son importantes, tan importantes como los pensamientos, como quien dijera que lo de un lado no es tan importante que lo del otro lado cuando en realidad son como la misma cosa, más o menos, pero decía que luego uno se va por ahí tratando de dar rienda suelta a lo que trae uno por dentro y mejor ponerlo por afuera, como quien dijera, decirlo de dientes pa' fuera y luego pues como que uno dice sí, pero no, porque como que en otro idioma no se puede explicar uno a uno mismo igual de fácil, y digo fácil por decir algo, porque ni que fuera sencillo, eso sí, pero al menos más sencillo que tratar de explicar a alguien más que no sea uno mismo. ¿Me explico?

    In English:
    Yes, it is.
  16. itka Senior Member

    Please Daddyo, what means "gabbier" ? (I'm just gabbier in Spanish) I cannot find this word ! Thank you.
  17. Daddyo Senior Member

    More than "gabby" (definition). In French (as per WR).
  18. Nunty

    Nunty Modified

    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    Yes, I grew up speaking all three languages in one place, in Jerusalem. I think some of the differences may have to do with the adults who spoke each language, with the fact that I spoke Hebrew mostly at school and with friends my own age. As I grew older (and more impudent) we spoke more and more Hebrew in the family, but then we moved to the US and I pretty much stopped speaking Hebrew for about 15 years.
  19. quizasundia Junior Member

    There is a great book out there about bilingual/multilingual people. I believe the title is "the Language Imperative". A great read for "language people". :)

    Yes, this IS a great thread!
  20. Lucretia Senior Member

    This is an interesting thread; thanks, Vanest.
    I am different when I use English. Perhaps worse, in a way. I love English so much that I can say or answer something I'd never say in a similar situation in Russian for the mere reason of practising some recently discovered new expression, which is so enjoyable. Actually I do not know if this is a worthwhile sacrifice...Quite often I have regrets. But I can't help it.
  21. stefiks Junior Member

    Well, in fact, it is more a matter of personnal & individual sensitivity and vibrations.
    I have an 1 year & 2 years elder sister and brother, both raised in the same slavic traditions as I did. We used to live in Senegal for 15 years all together, but they do not speak polish nor understand it themselves.
    My mother was born in France, as my Polish grandparents were political refugees in the 1920s, when they moved away. So she speaks both languages fluently. My mom has always been more expressively tender than my father, nevertheless he appreciated that different sensitivity very much. In fact, the education she received from her parents fits more to my Slavic Soul part, than the French side mentality & way of being toward others. There are many more extra ways to express consideration to others in the polish forms, as courtesy is a natural consideration in the language structure, and hospitality. The human side is brighter indeed.
    When I am in Poland, I feel fulfilled with the best energies my spirit can express. The language melody sounds smoother as much as regards & respect totally reflect my nature in accordance with my sensitivity & emotionnal principles.I feel a enhanced human being over there, or amongst the polish community in France.
  22. itka Senior Member

    Thank you DaddyO ! I didn't notice that the word was "gabby".
    Indeed you are gabby in Spanish ! (and it's a pity for me cause I don't understand !)
  23. almostfreebird

    almostfreebird Senior Member

    Born and raised in Japón, soy japonés
    I was just about to fall in asleep but woke up again because I just noticed I feel like I become different person according to thread or topic(not as much as Dr.Jekyll). I feel I have to get out of this forum to get my head together.

    P.S. Breaking news: Daisuke Matsuzaka is going to MLB next season, it's gonna be fun.
  24. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    The important thing is not what language you speak and that would change your personality but whom you speak to...I find it logical if you speak Italian you probably speak to an Italian who probably has a stereotypical Italian personality what can change your temporary personality...that's how I feel when I feel my personality is kind of changing, when I speak Czech (I am among Czechs), so...and when I am speaking Hungarian (I am among Hungarians), so... etc...
  25. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    I used to have a job where I would make phone calls in four different languages over the day. Attentive people would definitely have been able to tell which language I was speaking only by watching my body language from the distance.
  26. Stoggler

    Stoggler Senior Member

    Regnum Sussaxonum
    UK English
    That sounds intriguing. Can you give examples?
  27. LilianaB Senior Member

    US New York
    I personally have the same personality with any language -- some languages just don't fit my personality, so I don't use them, or I have actually never had any intention of learning them. :D:D (otherwise beautiful languages) I have observed the same in relation to all of my family members who spoke at least two languages, and some more like five. Their personality was the same.
  28. germanbz Senior Member

    Benicàssim - Castelló - Spain
    Spanish-Spain/Catalan (Val)
    Sure, since I started to learn English, they always taugh me the great importance of "standard polite vocabulary" and how in English you just must be saying everywhere and all the time, "excuse me","sorry" "thank you" "thank you very much indeed"...etc, even in situations that usually for me are not so necessary in Spanish (or in Spain cultural or social situations). I mean, when I told my teachers that some of that situations in Spain you can solve just with one smile or a face gesture, they told me the cultural difference and the necessity of insist in that "polite code", and sometimes when I say one "thank you very much indeed" "oh I'm completly sorry", just for a not such and important thing, and I think how it would sound if I were "such a polite" in Spanish in the same situation, I think it would sound a bit weird and affected for me and I'm sure for the other person.
  29. riversky Junior Member

    Hi Vanest, what an interesting reflession!
    I had the very same feelings and I gave myself this kind of explanation:

    I learned Italian during childhood, when I was quite an insecure baby. I had a chance to learn the most of the English expression that I knowwhen I grew up, so, when I already had a stronger personality. Moreover, I tended to look a lot of television, read pleasant books, and, moreover, interact with people in order to perfectionize my pronunciation, so I tend to link English with pleasant experiences.
    Another reflection I made is that my parents were great persons but a little too much pessimistic, therefore, I tended to learn Italian words linked with depression and sad feelings (please do not get me wrong, of course they were not such a desperate case of depression!!! Just a little too much introverted and maybe negative). Reading English litherature, whatching English programs and, moreover, interacting with "normal" people, I selected a more "normal" list of words.

    Please consider that, according to Neuro Linguistic Programmation theories, the words we use directly influence our feelings as well as the feelings of the recipients of our message.
    This may result into the feeling of being a little more sextroverted in a language instead than in another.

    I see that you're bilingual. Maybe the people from whom you learned this languages tended to use a vocabulary more linked to their way of thinking and behaving (as happened with myu parents).
  30. Youngfun

    Youngfun Senior Member

    Pekino, Ĉinujo
    Chinese/Italian - bilingual

    When I speak my native Chinese dialect, I'm the shy-est and the least talkative, probably due to my family. And this is the language I'm more fluent into!
    When I speak Mandarin Chinese, for me that's the language of the culture and of the formal communication, so sometimes I tend to talk in a too formal way about every day life.
    When I speak Italian (trying to have a neutral accent) I talk like a customer service call center.
    When I speak Italian with Roman accent I'm the friendliest and make a lot more jokes.
  31. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    When French I would normally be in a position, where I (when holding the receiver with my left hand) could make gestures with my right hand as long as I was not jotting down notes. When speaking German I would be in a more upright position and with less gestures. When speaking Swedish I am sure I would be in a more relaxed position and leaning back. For some reason I also usually went to the kitchen and got a cup of coffee before making calls to Sweden. English would be different too, but would probably have some similarity with the "Swedish" position, just not leaning back in such a relaxed way. At least not when making calls to America.

    But it is really nothing unusual. People switch personalities all the time, depending on what they do. And how you feel about a language has a lot to do with the people and the circumstances you associate with the language.

    And when I zap through the channels and get into the middle of a movie or TV-series which is dubbed in German, I can usually tell just about where the film came from - just by reading people's body language for some 30-40 seconds.
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2013
  32. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    Every body has a whole team of personalities ... (Friedeman Schulz von Thun: Das innere Team)
  33. LiseR Junior Member

    I don't have different personalities when I speak different languages, but of course something changes.
    In everyday life I use Latvian and Russian, and sometimes (maybe once a week or so) I use English in conversation. Of course, there are some changes in intonation because Russian has a different intonation, even my voice changes a bit when I switch from one language to another.
    When I speak English, I tend to smile more, maybe because of the fact that foreigners tend to smile more than Latvians, so that's an unconscious reaction.
  34. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    So you don't know about the rest of your unconscious reactions, right? But you have them after all. That is also what we are talking about here.
  35. dadane Senior Member

    New Zealand
    English (London/Essex)
    This is very true. I can tell which language my wife is using on the phone by her gesturing.
  36. Mackinder

    Mackinder Senior Member

    Espagnol - Colombie
    No, I don't feel like a different person, but I certainly try to change my voice and make it sound higher so people can understand me better, making it smoother than my mother language voice.

  37. إسكندراني

    إسكندراني Senior Member

    أرض الأنجل
    عربي (مصر)ـ | en (gb)
    My work colleagues last year said my voice was deeper and much more charming when I spoke in Egyptian Arabic (rather than English). I was rather flattered, if surprised.
  38. jasio Senior Member

    That's an interesting observation. It's difficult to judge oneself, especially that people often assume various personalities anyway, depending on circumstances. I remember however that when I was quite young and quite shy, when I had already broken a barrier of speaking in foreign language, I was much more couragous in English than in my mothertongue, as if the foreign language was an additional shield protecting my own real self.

    Anyway, to support your point: I've read somewhere about psycological experiments on bilinguial people from Israel, both Arabs and Jews. The objective was to test if the language influenced the way of thinking. They measured if Jewish and Arabic names were percieved positively or negatively (it's not a place to describe methodology in details, but they did not base on conscious decisions, but rather measured reaction time to certain combination of events, which involved the first names). The results showed that if the whole test was run in Arabic, Arabic names were percieved as positive, and Jewish were percieved as negative, while if the test was run in Hebrew, the result was exactly oposite: Jewish names were percieved as positive, and Arabic as negative. Regardless of the tested person's nationality.
  39. zwim

    zwim Senior Member

    I don't know about the personnality but i've noticed something particularly for Italian people.
    I speak about people i know who speak fluently italian and french (bilingual level), they are speaking much louder in italian than in french, everyone of them and i can't figure out why.
    I understood the common exhuberant stereotype regarding italian people, it's mostly because they have a rich body language and also because the tones in the speaked language are important, so overall it gives that impression, yet i still didn't figured out the loudness effect, it's quite an interesting phenomena.
  40. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish

    But it is a natural thng - tone and body language are always important. They make out 90% of the communication when you speak face to face with another person. If you dont tune in on that, the conversation is not going to work out well.
    That Italians use a lot of "hand signs" that have become second nature has clear historical reasons. And in most Mediterranean cultures you can speak loud and energetic without anyone finding that aggressive. Why? Mabe because they were early starters with larger urban cultures. Such cultural habits develop over centuries and generations.

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