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Speaking multiple languages can give you multiple personalities

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The idea that language affects the way we look at the world is hardly new. But could your personality actually change depending on which language you're speaking? That's the idea put forward by a new psychological study.

This study straddles the line between fascinating and utterly bonkers. Psychologists at Hong Kong Polytechnic University discovered that native Chinese students who were also fluent in English seemingly became "more assertive, extroverted, and open to new experiences" when using their second language. The researchers argue those are all traits more typical of English speakers than Cantonese, suggesting a link between language and personality traits.

This apparent link was strengthened further depending on who they were speaking to. If the students spoke English to a Caucasian interviewer as opposed to a Chinese interviewer, these "English-speaking" personality traits became even more pronounced. Based on all this, the researchers conclude that personalities are fluid and can be heavily affected by the language a person is speaking.

That person might take on the traits associated with that language's culture - not necessarily a reflection that English inherently makes people more assertive, but rather these particular Cantonese speakers tend to think of English speakers that way and adjusted their own personalities accordingly.

 

Questions for discussion:

  1. Do you think it could be possible that speaking a different language could affect your personality?  Do you notice any change in your own behavior when you speak English?
  2. How has learning to speak English changed your life?  What have you gotten out of it?
  3. Are there any particular personality traits or types of behavior that you associate with native English speakers?  What about speakers of other languages?
  4. How would you sum up the typical characteristics of the average Russian? Do you see any links between the Russian language and the Russian character?
  5. What other factors affect a people’s national character? What factors shaped the Russian people’s personality and culture?

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