Why is it, that speaking in a different language makes me a totally different person (even if I don’t speak the language perfectly fluent)?
Talking in different languages changes the way I feel, influences my vocabulary choices, alters my humour, my confidence, my openness talking about specific topics and so on and so forth. I even have a different pitch and speaking pace whether I speak English, Spanish, Portuguese, German, or Chinese. I know that some things are just a matter of what sort of language resources are accessible to me at that moment, e.g. how fluent I am in that language, my vocabulary knowledge, etc. But how come my pitch, my behaviour, literally my whole personality changes?

Cuando hablo en español, por ejemplo, me siento muy relajada, libre de preocupaciones, leve y feliz. Describiría mi personalidad hablando español como algo aniñada y juguetona. Sin embargo, intento hablar un español bueno. Doy importancia a los tempos verbales, a la gramática y el vocabulario.

Quando falo português, é parecido como quando falo espanhol. A diferença e que me sento ainda mais confortável. Para mim, português é uma língua na qual me sento em casa. É uma língua familiar e amigável. É como um amigo amoroso. Posso-me desinibir totalmente e não tenho medo de fazer erros. Acho que falo muito fluente e não sento uma pressão de sempre dizer tudo corretamente. Amo falar português porque adoro o som. Para mim a língua soa como uma cachoeira suave.

Even though I can only have really basic small talk in Chinese, I still feel more traditional, maybe more conservative, and a little kidlike when I speak it. I have lots of fun talking, but especially writing in Chinese, because there are so many characters, which differ only in tiny nuances from each other, and I find great pleasure in trying to find the most perfect formulation for what I want to say or write. The Chinese language intrigues me because by learning new characters, words, phrases and idioms, you simultaneously learn something about the Chinese culture. That is because the characters often times reflect attitudes, customs, expectations, history, and a certain worldview. Speaking or writing Chinese for me always means learning something new. It is a language of education to me but at the same time a language, that I find adorable and really pretty (particularly the writing).

In German, I have the least amount of self-confidence, even though it is my native language. Especially when I talk to people with whom I want to make a good impression, I often struggle to find the right words, I get nervous and feel like I sound very ignorant. I don’t particularly like the German language or the German culture. Certain sayings and words just don’t resonate with who I am and using them just feels weird, unnatural, and cringy to me. Also, I am always extremely thoughtful when I speak German. I try to use very formal, standard language, the correct grammar and I like to sound cultured. That also puts a lot of pressure on me, and that’s why I don’t enjoy speaking German. However, writing in German is a different thing, because I have time to think about what I want to express, and which words and formulations are best to explain my thoughts. Because of the rich vocabulary, I find it easy to formulate exactly what I think and feel. That’s why I still journal in German.

English is until now the language I feel most myself when communicating. I don’t know why exactly that is, but I just love the English language. It’s easy, it fits my personality, and it just feels natural to me. I feel like I can switch between sounding more formal and standard and sounding more casual. I can embrace every aspect of who I am, and that makes me feel free.

How did these different personalities come about though? Does it have something to do with the time of acquisition? Did I learn and adopt certain behaviours from the people I was surrounded by at the time of acquisition? Did their personality influence my personality in that language? What is it about these languages that affect the way I feel when I speak them? Does the reason lie in the language itself? Or simply in the culture of the people speaking the language?

I wonder how my personality and behaviour would change in other languages…

One thought on “different language, different personality?”

  1. Was für eine wunderschöne Aussage zum (bras.) Portugiesisch “Für mich klingt die Sprache wie ein sanfter Wasserfall”. Besser kann man es wohl nicht in Worte fassen. Beleza pura!

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