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  1. #1
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    Default Multilinguals Have Multiple Personalities

    In an essay published on Monday, New Republic Senior Editor Noam Scheiber—who grew up speaking both Hebrew and English—explains why he stopped speaking only Hebrew to his three-year-old daughter. “My Hebrew self turns out to be much colder, more earnest, and, let’s face it, less articulate," he writes. "In English, my natural sensibility is patient and understated. My style in Hebrew was hectoring and prosecutorial.”

    I understand the feeling. My not-so-fluent French “self” is most comfortable talking about classroom supplies. It’s surprising, though, that people who are actually fluent in two languages also feel their personality shifting as they switch between languages. Yet researchers have confirmed this: Between 2001 and 2003, linguists Jean-Marc Dewaele and Aneta Pavlenko asked over a thousand bilinguals whether they “feel like a different person" when they speak different languages. Nearly two-thirds said they did.

    How does that play out in day-to-day speech? In 1964, Susan Ervin, a sociolinguist at the University of California, Berkeley, set out to explore the differences in how bilinguals represent the same stories in different languages. She recruited 64 French adults who lived in the U.S. and were fluent in both French and English. On average, they had spent 12 years living in the U.S.; 40 were married to an American. On two separate occasions, six weeks apart, Ervin gave them the “Thematic Apperception Test”: She showed her subjects a series of illustrations and asked them to make up a three-minute story to accompany each scene. In one session, the volunteer and experimenter spoke only French, while the other session was conducted entirely in English.

    Ervin then analyzed the stories, looking at the different themes incorporated into the narratives. When she compared the two sets of stories, she identified some significant topical differences. The English stories more often featured female achievement, physical aggression, verbal aggression toward parents, and attempts to escape blame, while the French stories were more likely to include domination by elders, guilt, and verbal aggression toward peers.

    In 1968, Ervin—by this point, “Ervin-Tripp”—designed another experiment to further explore her hypothesis that the content of bilinguals’ speech would change along with the language. This time, Ervin-Tripp looked at Japanese women living in the San Francisco area, most of whom were married to American men and many of whom had American children. Most of the women were largely isolated from other Japanese in America, and spoke Japanese only while visiting Japan or talking to their bilingual friends. Ervin-Tripp had a bilingual interviewer give the women various verbal tasks in both Japanese and in English, and found—as she expected—important differences.

    For instance, when the women were asked to complete the following sentences, their answers differed depending on the language in which the questions was asked:


    Scholars have also used more qualitative methods to try to understand language’s impact on personality. In 1998, Michele Koven, a researcher at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, spent a year and a half carrying out ethnographic research with bilingual Parisian adults whose parents had immigrated from Portugal. All of her subjects were fluent in both French and Portuguese, and most maintained close ties to Portugal while living in France; many planned on returning eventually, though most also had monolingual French friends. Koven focused specifically on how her subjects represented themselves in narratives of personal experience, which she elicited by asking them to recount various life events in both languages. When Koven transcribed and analyzed the content of their accounts, she saw that her subjects emphasized different traits in their characters, depending on which language they were speaking. For instance, the women in the French stories were more likely to stand up for themselves, whereas the female characters in the Portuguese narratives tended to cede to others’ demands. And their own personas changed, too. One girl, Koven writes, sounded like “an angry, hip suburbanite” when she spoke French, and a “frustrated, but patient, well-mannered bank customer who does not want attention drawn to the fact that she is an émigré” when she spoke Portuguese. Whether that’s due to the different context in which she learned French and Portuguese, an inherent difference between the two languages, or some combination, researchers have yet to figure out.


    SOURCE

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    WHERE IS YOUR TYPE NOW.

    Jokes aside, those of you who are bi- or multilingual: have you noticed this phenomenon at all in yourselves? What do you make of your multiple sides and how do you like them?

  2. #2
    Senior Member Noon's Avatar
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    Saw the title and thought, "no wonder." This has been my experience too.

    I've thought aside from culture being embedded in language to some degree, especially when the two or more languages that you speak carry big syntactic differences you might be forced to engage equally different areas of the brain. Different perspectives become focal, different concepts become important, different nuances of meaning are irreplicably emergent; and so correspondingly, different aspects of the self are highlighted.

    My English personality is more dominant, technical & detail-oriented compared to my [non-English] personality which is more receptive, intuitive & sentimental. Within the context of my total self, I feel slightly harder and more masculine in English.

  3. #3
    #KUWK Kierva's Avatar
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    Whenever I speak Malay I get really feisty. It just kicks all the reason out of me and I become this histrionic EIE 2w3.

    I think it's to do with culture -- a lot of Malay culture is focused on expressing positive emotions in a sea of food and drink; and if someone's not happy about something we don't say anything. If someone doesn't like the other person we don't usually pick a fight there and then; there's a lot of snide and backstabbing remarks made.

    There's also the part where whenever a bunch of Malays gather there tends to be a lot of gossip and name assigning (person A, person B etc but usually a snide name) with lots of hot milk tea/milk coffee and crackers.

    It tries to be exclusive, while looking inclusive.

    That being said, I'm generally more articulate when I speak English. I'm a fair bit colder, and even when I speak to my friends in English it's not as outrageous as I would be if I were to speak in Malay.
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  4. #4
    Senior Member Nara's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noon View Post
    Saw the title and thought, "no wonder." This has been my experience too.

    I've thought aside from culture being embedded in language to some degree, especially when the two or more languages that you speak carry big syntactic differences you might be forced to engage equally different areas of the brain. Different perspectives become focal, different concepts become important, different nuances of meaning are irreplicably emergent; and so correspondingly, different aspects of the self are highlighted.

    My English personality is more dominant, technical & detail-oriented compared to my [non-English] personality which is more receptive, intuitive & sentimental. Within the context of my total self, I feel slightly harder and more masculine in English.
    Same here. I've a somewhat peremptory and masculine way of talking in french and have an easier time standing up for what I believe in. In english I'm more like you said, receptive, intuitive.

    In italian, I was overly talkative, loud, straightforward, with a seductive behavior. But that's partly because of the cultural values induced by the language. And partly due to your position when you integrate into a new group of strangers (you're more prone to be cooperative, and perhaps a bit compliant, it's just a natural adaptive behavior).

    But I like the idea of having multiple personalities. I hardly take my persona seriously, it's just a tool for interacting in society and others (and I'm not that convinced there's something like a "true" self behind all your different masks, I always found this idea ultimately too simplistic, but I'm not going to discuss it now)...

  5. #5
    hypersane Hive's Avatar
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    I've wondered about this. I spoke to a friend just yesterday about how I was unable to achieve "flow" while writing on here, which usually give my posts a more stiff and clinical tone than if I would write or speak in Swedish. Writing a post here is like a mason building a wall: Slow, carefully, block by block until it's completely finished. Like I have to choose every word with great care to manage to convey my message. It lacks a certain spontaneity and it feels like my "true" expression is lost.

    But I also feel more detached and objective while writing on here. I don't become as angry as I can get sometimes, I articulate and construct my thoughts with greater care than I usually do (Perhaps partly because this discussion format allows you to do so.), and don't feel as personally invested in my arguments. I read somewhere that this is very common for people to be more rational and objective when thinking in another language than your mother tongue, because it is something learned and used more like a tool, while your native language is more natural and therefore used more freely and spontaneously.

    While it is a good thing that I'm more calm and collected, it also comes at the expense of what I feel is my real personality. Perhaps I just need to practice expressing myself in English and get more comfortable with it.

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    Senior Member Nicodemus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by senza tema View Post
    Nearly two-thirds said they did.
    I belong to the third third.

    Quote Originally Posted by senza tema View Post
    [Fishy evidence]
    I suspect the source of the difference is in the languages themselves, their phrases and words, their cultural baggage, rather than in the psyche of the people who speak them. That is what I notice most of all when I look at the differences between my German and my English.

  7. #7
    Freaking Ratchet Rail Tracer's Avatar
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    I think it has to deal with cultural influences and how the language is spoken as a whole (how fast or slow speech feels.)

    I am only fluent in English, but I have touched a little bit on Spanish, French, Japanese, and Cantonese (how I wished I had an entire lifetime dedicating to learning languages as a pastime.)

    In the case of being taught basic vocabulary and speaking? I've been taught to speak and write more formally in all cases. But what makes all these languages (including English) is the speed at which I perceive to be speaking.

    In the case of English and Chinese, I feel like I am speaking slowly. In other languages, I have to use more syllables to say the same thing, so I tend to be speaking more rapidly. Also, it doesn't help that speaking in Japanese means that you will rhyme your words more than half the time. In the case of Chinese, having to be very tonal tends to mean using VERY similar sounds to mean very different things (the tonal sound for 4 sounds very close to the sound for death/die for most dialects) which may be one reason why English speakers tend to have a hard time learning that language. When it came to French, I came to notice that there were a lot stops here and there that made speaking not flow smoothly. I took notice of not having to slur every word that I have said otherwise my words would just come off weird.

    Excluding my name..... simple phrases:
    Hi! My name is Rail Tracer: 4 syllables
    Bonjour! Je m'appele Rail Tracer: 5 Syllables
    Konnichiwa! Watashi no namae wa Rail Tracer desu: A buttload of syllables. If we take out the articles like "no" "wa" and "desu" it would still be at least 10 syllables.^gotta speak quickly.
    Lei Ho Ma! ngoh giujouh Rail Tracer: Excluding the article Ma (it is sort of like a transitional word, not sure how to described it but it is used frequently,) the syllables is 5 (6 with the article.)
    Hola! Me lammo Rail Tracer: 5 syllables

    It isn't the best example, but you can see how many syllables there is very clearly in Japanese compared to other languages to say essentially the same thing. (in the case of Spanish... I chose the more used version instead.) When it comes to speaking elementary Japanese, I feel like I am in a rush to get the message across. When it comes to English and Cantonese, I can take my time saying the words (although for an outsider, I might as well be speaking very quickly) very clearly.


    This article talks about how we perceive one language to appear faster than others much better than I can.

  8. #8
    resonance entropie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nicodemus View Post
    I suspect the source of the difference is in the languages themselves, their phrases and words, their cultural baggage, rather than in the psyche of the people who speak them. That is what I notice most of all when I look at the differences between my German and my English.
    Depends on how 'graved in stone' your psyche is
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    I don't think my core self changes when I speak different languages.

    Perhaps the way in which my core self is perceived changes based on the language I'm speaking at the time...but personally, I always feel like the same me no matter which language I'm using.

    I'm in that 1/3rd that doesn't notice a change.

    I'll point out that "non multilinguals" also have multiple personalities.

  10. #10
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    Bollocks.

    Most of these "studies" only exist to promote moral/social agendas. So when I speak French or German, yeah i have a mental disorder haha lol.. fuck upstart "scientists" who can't accept reality as it is..

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