Speaking multiple languages can give you multiple personalities

Illustration for article titled Speaking multiple languages can give you multiple personalities

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.

Full article at Scientific American. Image of Hong Kong Polytechnic University via Panoramio.

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