Personality change by language?

Have you ever felt like your personality changes slightly depending on what language you speak? For example, in Japanese, I feel like I’m a little bit more polite. For example, I might say “shit” or “damn” sometimes in English but I have never felt like saying 「くそ」 or 「ちくしょう」. The kind of jokes I tell are different too. I’m a 天然ボケ in Japanese but a sarcastic wise-cracker in English. Do you think you control language or are you controlled by it?


9 thoughts on “Personality change by language?

  1. lol I am the same in both languages. I learn the words/jokes I would say in similar ways of my native language.

  2. I noticed that too. In fact, I worded it more dramatically 🙂

    My native language is Croatian, my acquired languages are English and Japanese(not quite there yet, but working on it). I noticed that the wording semantics I use in everyday language differ greatly depending on the language I use. Since I’m still not happy with my Japanese, I had the chance to observe this while acquiring the language and concluded that it’s like installing different operating systems on the same computer. The memory they see on the hard drive is the same, but the ways they deal with different files vary.

    Surprisingly, my fondness of gallows humour seems universal!

  3. Interesting. I wonder, would code-switching would result in a hybrid personality, or would one of the two arise as dominant?

    • Hybrid personality based on the language you’re speaking. It’s similar to how you change your persona depending on who you’re talking to.

  4. I’ve noticed something like that. My native language is English, but since I have been studying Japanese more, I have noticed that I will rearrange my English sentences to the equivalent in Japanese without realizing it. I think the reason is that since I was raised with English, I never really questioned why we say the things that we do — it just is. But, ever since I began understanding why Japanese say things a certain way, it seems to make much more sense than English.

  5. I think the language has some control over how we express who we are to other people in that language which in turn comes to be reflected in “who you are” when you speak that language because of differences in honorifics and limitations to express certain feeling or ideas in a complete and convenient manner. For example, if English had a more polite honorific version of the language that I could use to speak to people that I choose to show esteem for then I would use it just like I use the “usted” version in Spanish when I speak to my parents and the honorific language in Japanese. There is also a societal factor that would govern who we choose to be in a language because we push ourselves to exist within the boundaries that the culture of the language sets up because it is most useful to us in that way.

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