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How Being Multilingual Affects Our Personalities

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How Being Multilingual Affects Our Personalities

Speaking more than one language is what many people strive for. It puts us at an advantage when we’re applying related jobs, and makes us communicate with ease in a foreign country. But this is just the surface. Researchers have found that being multilingual can affect the way we think and change our personalities!

How Being Multilingual Affects The Way You Think

The ability to switch from one language to the next is known to strengthen the brain therefore making it more flexible in problem-solving. A study published in The International Journal of Bilingualism showed that being able to think in two or more languages resulted in children doing better in tests both arithmetically, through problem solving and also enabling them to think more creatively.

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How Being Multilingual Affects Your Perspective

A multilingual is more inclined to think about who speaks to whom, who understands what context and to think in terms of what environments different languages are spoken in. They can categorize meanings in different ways and are even shown to be more sensitive to others.

A study conducted by the department of psychology and human development at Cornell University, found that children who were exposed to multiple languages from an early age are better at understanding other people’s perspectives and were much better at communication. Interestingly, they found that even children who were exposed to more than one language but only spoke one actually did just as well in the study as those that were multilingual.

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How Being Multilingual Can Change Your Personality

Anyone who is multilingual will know that what language they speak determines how they act, feel and come across to others. Many studies are coming through backing up the fact that when we switch from one language to another so does our personality and behaviour. There are many reasons for this; one being the context in which you learnt the language but also the deep-rooted culture that comes with the language you’re speaking.

In a study by Jean-Marc Dewaele and Aneta Pavlenko, results showed that, when asked, nearly two-thirds of bilinguals felt like a different person when speaking another language. Many people find it easier to express themselves in a certain language or find that one language may be softer or more spirited whereas another language may have less expressive vocabulary which results in them being more prone to using certain sides of their personalities when speaking it.

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A study conducted by Michele Koven, involved asking participants who were fluent in both French and Portuguese to narrate personal experiences in both languages. She found that there was a big difference in the way both narratives were told by each individual participant; they emphasized different traits of their personalities depending on which language they were speaking. For example, when speaking French women portrayed themselves as strong and independent yet when speaking Portuguese they were more patient and well-mannered.

Finding different sides of your personality can only serve as a way of discovering emotional perspectives on life and using this as a tool to fully understand your beliefs and passions. Being able to speak a different language therefore allows you to pursue the complex variations of people, culture and even yourself both intellectually and emotionally.

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So whether you speak several languages, or you’re attempting to learn them, there are many wonderful advantages that transcend further than just being able to converse with different people. Languages shape you as a person in many amazing and positive ways making you a true citizen of the world.

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Jenny Marchal

A passionate writer who loves sharing about positive psychology.

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