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Multilinguals Experience Personality Change When Using Different Languages

Multilinguals Experience Personality Change When Using Different Languages

People who are bilingual have been a source of fascination for years, with various studies revealing that they are more accepting, tolerant and open-minded than others. The far-reaching impact of multilingualism does not end there, however, with recent research suggesting that the behaviour and outlook of bilinguals also changes according to the language that they use at any given time.

Between 2001 and 2003, linguists Jean-Marc Dawaele and Aneta Pavlenko surveyed more than one thousand bilinguals on the subject of whether they feel like a different person when they speak different languages. Incredibly, nearly two-thirds confirmed that they did, while the majority of respondents also emphasise different personality traits and express alternative emotions depending on their choice of language.

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How does our personalities change when using alternative languages

While there is plenty of research to support these findings, how do these personality changes manifest themselves? In one of the more recent essays published on the subject, New Republic editor Noam Scheiber revealed that he stopped speaking only in Hebrew to his three-year older due to the impact that it had on his persona. Scheiber claimed that his personality became far colder and less articulate when speaking in Hebrew, while communicating in English brought out his natural sensibility, patience and a greater level of empathy.

In a further study completed back in 1964, psychologist Susan Ervin set out to explore the different ways through which bilinguals shared the same story in different languages. Using 64 respondents who were fluent in both French and English, Ervin presented what is known as the Thematic Apperception Test to share a series of illustrations. Spanning two separate sessions that were hosted in French and English, respondents were asked to create a compelling story based on the images that they had seen.

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Upon analysis, several topical differences came to the fore. The English narratives featured physical aggression and female accomplishment as central themes, for example, while those in French were more likely to include verbal aggression towards peers and guilt.

With English as a central theme in both of these examples, it is interesting to note the alternative perceptions that emerge depending on the speaker. While the use of English brought out traits such as patience and empathy in one instance, for example, it solicited physical and verbal aggression in another. One explanation for these variable outlooks could be the context in which each dialect was learned, with one multilingual claiming that she was friendlier and made friends more easily in her second language (which she learned at an older age and when her social skills were more advanced).

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As a multilingual, why does your personality change?

With this in mind, the context in which languages are learned solicits alternative emotions and changes our outlook, behaviour and levels of self-perception. Michael J. Koven’s body of research from also 1998 reaffirms this, with a group of French and Portuguese bilinguals emphasising different personality traits and behaviours depending on their choice of language. This suggests that the age at which languages are learned also have an impact, depending on the level of our cognitive development at the time when we become multilingual and fluent in alternative dialects.

On a final note, the cultural aspects that are deeply-rooted in language may also impact on the personalities of bilinguals. Our cultural identity has a huge bearing on how we learn and the values that we hold dear, but those who are bilingual are likely to have travelled and absorbed alternative cultures and lifestyles. This will directly change their outlook and challenge their existing values, potentially creating an altered personality that manifests itself in numerous different ways.

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Last Updated on December 2, 2018

7 Public Speaking Techniques To Help Connect With Your Audience

7 Public Speaking Techniques To Help Connect With Your Audience

When giving a presentation or speech, you have to engage your audience effectively in order to truly get your point across. Unlike a written editorial or newsletter, your speech is fleeting; once you’ve said everything you set out to say, you don’t get a second chance to have your voice heard in that specific arena.

You need to make sure your audience hangs on to every word you say, from your introduction to your wrap-up. You can do so by:

1. Connecting them with each other

Picture your typical rock concert. What’s the first thing the singer says to the crowd after jumping out on stage? “Hello (insert city name here)!” Just acknowledging that he’s coherent enough to know where he is is enough for the audience to go wild and get into the show.

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It makes each individual feel as if they’re a part of something bigger. The same goes for any public speaking event. When an audience hears, “You’re all here because you care deeply about wildlife preservation,” it gives them a sense that they’re not just there to listen, but they’re there to connect with the like-minded people all around them.

2. Connect with their emotions

Speakers always try to get their audience emotionally involved in whatever topic they’re discussing. There are a variety of ways in which to do this, such as using statistics, stories, pictures or videos that really show the importance of the topic at hand.

For example, showing pictures of the aftermath of an accident related to drunk driving will certainly send a specific message to an audience of teenagers and young adults. While doing so might be emotionally nerve-racking to the crowd, it may be necessary to get your point across and engage them fully.

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3. Keep going back to the beginning

Revisit your theme throughout your presentation. Although you should give your audience the credit they deserve and know that they can follow along, linking back to your initial thesis can act as a subconscious reminder of why what you’re currently telling them is important.

On the other hand, if you simply mention your theme or the point of your speech at the beginning and never mention it again, it gives your audience the impression that it’s not really that important.

4. Link to your audience’s motivation

After you’ve acknowledged your audience’s common interests in being present, discuss their motivation for being there. Be specific. Using the previous example, if your audience clearly cares about wildlife preservation, discuss what can be done to help save endangered species’ from extinction.

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Don’t just give them cold, hard facts; use the facts to make a point that they can use to better themselves or the world in some way.

5. Entertain them

While not all speeches or presentations are meant to be entertaining in a comedic way, audiences will become thoroughly engaged in anecdotes that relate to the overall theme of the speech. We discussed appealing to emotions, and that’s exactly what a speaker sets out to do when he tells a story from his past or that of a well-known historical figure.

Speakers usually tell more than one story in order to show that the first one they told isn’t simply an anomaly, and that whatever outcome they’re attempting to prove will consistently reoccur, given certain circumstances.

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6. Appeal to loyalty

Just like the musician mentioning the town he’s playing in will get the audience ready to rock, speakers need to appeal to their audience’s loyalty to their country, company, product or cause. Show them how important it is that they’re present and listening to your speech by making your words hit home to each individual.

In doing so, the members of your audience will feel as if you’re speaking directly to them while you’re addressing the entire crowd.

7. Tell them the benefits of the presentation

Early on in your presentation, you should tell your audience exactly what they’ll learn, and exactly how they’ll learn it. Don’t expect them to listen if they don’t have clear-cut information to listen for. On the other hand, if they know what to listen for, they’ll be more apt to stay engaged throughout your entire presentation so they don’t miss anything.

Featured photo credit: Flickr via farm4.staticflickr.com

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