Split personality 1Do you put on a special ‘telephone voice’, suddenly becoming more polite, more confident and well-spoken? Most of us have, at some time or another, suddenly taken on a new persona when speaking on the telephone. So it’s possibly no surprise that, in the same way, people take on a new persona when speaking in a different language.

Bilingual and Bicultural

There can be a number of explanations for this, including a natural confidence in the more familiar language or because the thinking process changes when speaking different languages. People who are bilingual as well as bicultural might associate different memories with each language, therefore affecting how they converse within each language.

Language Composition

One explanation is that the way the language is spoken is due to how the sentences are constructed. For example, Greeks are thought to speak loudly and constantly interrupt each other. The syntax and grammar of the Greek language means that each sentence is started with a verb containing a lot of information, so the other speaker will be able to ascertain what the sentence is about at any early stage, therefore being able to interrupt more easily. This is contradicted, however, when you look at other languages, such as Welsh. Sentences in Welsh are constructed in a similar manner but Welsh people are not known for making constant interruptions and being pushy when others are speaking.

Perceived Personalities

Another explanation is that people often tend to behave in the perceived behavioural personality of people from that country. For instance, Spanish people tend to speak very quickly and energetically, using a lot of hand gestures; the French have a soft lilt and are thought of as being demure. By speaking a foreign language, you can often unconsciously take on the perceived personality of someone from that country.

Do you take on a different personality when you speak in a foreign language?