Does your personality change with language learning?

Foreign Language Learning: Does Your Personality Change?

Within the realm of language-learning, we often find ourselves lost in a flurry of unfamiliar words, sounds, and sophisticated grammatical structures. Thankfully, all of this doesn’t drive us crazy (well at least not to the extent that we think).  We face a brief identity crisis which in turn creates a personality we would’ve never thought possible from our original.

But how exactly can language-learning bring about a personality change? Think about it for a second, at birth you were gifted with the language in your most immediate environment. From this language, shaped several aspects of your personality through everyday interaction with society and the world. So how does this change when taking on another language? What clicks in your brain and makes you say, “This is a part of me that I don’t associate with my first language?”?

Unlike our first language, the second, third, fourth etc… are not passively acquired. They are gained through various means of exposure and reaction to the world. The morphologic content of second-language learning relies on an individual’s methods of acquisition.  For instance, how would an individual’s personality change or split if they began to learn German with a first language background in Spanish?

My theory is that The cultural dependency on the first language would inevitably, at some point in time intersect with that of the second-language, thus creating a new identity.

If I had to describe my personality in the languages I can speak it’d be like this:

  • Bahamian Creole : Sharp, Snappy, Bold
  • English: Smooth, Neutral, Creative
  • Japanese: Jovial, Curious, Excitable
  • Chinese: Confused, Clumsy, Light-Hearted
  • Esperanto: Courageous, Hopeful, Proud
*Disclaimer: I grew up in The Bahamas, a nation whose first language is English as we were ruled by the British in the past, BUT we also speak Bahamian Creole which is a constructed form of the English language made by our African ancestors in the days of slavery.

I believe the direct result of these various aspects is the factors I had to face in each period of my life using these languages and developing a core for each of them.

So, what do you’ll think? Can learning a second language affect your personality type? Or is it just myth, and all in our heads? What language do you coincide with, and how would you describe your personality when speaking it?

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One thought on “Foreign Language Learning: Does Your Personality Change?

  1. Well, I think there is quite a bit of evidence – some anecdotal from my personal experience and observing others when they shift from one language to another – as well as through research, that we SHOW different personalities, when we SPEAK OTHER LANGUAGES. So when you grow up in one language – then move to another country with another language – does the “new language personality” then take over? Or does it come back when you speak your native language again. I’ve been living in the US now for over 40 years, spoke only English at work for about 30 years, German at home with my wife and children (who started to ANSWER in English, once they were in school). Now being retired, I still speak mostly German at home, but English with my children, their wives and children.
    Has my personality changed over the 40 years? Probably yes, but much much is due to language or other factors is hard to say! (Especially as I also spoke French when I cam to the US, learned Italian and Spanish a few years ago, and am currently learning Danish and Dutch)

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