They say that people’s personalities change drastically over time. According to the longest-ever human character study done at the University of Edinburgh, “a 77-year old does not have the same basic personality traits they had at 14.” As you age, you slowly become a completely different person.
Interesting, but I think that if they observed bilingual folks, they might see that personalities can actually shift in an instant.
I feel like a different person when I speak in Spanish than when I speak in English. True story.
Being a child raised in both Latin America and the U.S., both Spanish and English have always been a central part of my life and my identity. Spanish ruled my life during my early, formative years, while English was at the forefront during my later, school years. It wasn’t always easy or as simple as it is now to switch from Spanish to English. As a young child, I would commonly mix Spanish and English to form new words like “glasso” (“glass” in English and “vaso” in Spanish) or start my sentence in Spanish only to finish it in English.
But one thing that has always been clear is that Spanish is the language of home, of family, of love. English is the language I learned outside of the home, taught to me by others.
As a result, my Spanish self has always been more passionate, more spontaneous, more earnest, and more alive. Spanish is the language that comes naturally when I’m overcome by excitement and emotions, whether good or bad. I’m more expressive and use my hands frequently with livelier expressions.
My English self, on the other hand, is more reserved, but more precise, articulate and eloquent. English is comfortable and stable and where I find my voice. I’m more mellow and relaxed when I speak in English.
I can actually feel my personality change as I switch between languages. The tone and pitch of my voice change accordingly, as does my attitude. Yep, approach me at your own risk…lol. But I imagine this to be the case for many since 1 in 5 people in the U.S. speak a foreign language at home.
My Spanish-speaking self and my English-speaking self are two different individuals with distinct personality traits. So while studies confirm that your personality will inevitably change with age, I must say it’s pretty darn cool to have the freedom to switch your personality just like that!
If you speak more than one language, have you noticed this about yourself? Let me know in the comments.