You are what you speak
I have recently discovered that I have a second personality when I speak English, compared to the "original" me when I speak Chinese.
Speaking English brings out a more outgoing, enthusiastic, relaxed and confident side of me. I am also more open to physical expressions when using English, such as hugging, gesturing and using more exaggerated facial expressions.
I feel the differences not only when talking to people, but also when writing. Working on the same topic in English and Chinese ends up in me using extremely different choices of words and structures. I often find myself arguing for two different points of view.
I have to say that I love having this alternate version of me, a more confident, Western version of me than the original Asian, introverted me.
But wait! Does that mean that it is possible that my Chinese friends will not like the English-speaking me, and my foreign friends would not care for my personality when I speak Chinese?
Nevertheless, changing your personality and worldview when changing the language you speak sounds so cool!
Similar things happened with my friend as well when we were traveling to Japan. My friend, a Chinese who speaks fluent Japanese, showed a more humble, tender tone and attitude when using Japanese.
I think it must have something to do with the fact that the Japanese use special words and styles to show respect for an older person or a person at a higher position than themselves. If they do not want to be disrespectful, every person who learns the Japanese language needs to pay great attention to the slightest differences in each scenario, choosing between the polite style, the humble style and the honorific style.
However, the difference is not only in the linguistic context.
Cultural values and identities are deeply rooted in languages, and I believe they can be adopted by learning and using different languages.
I did some research, and found several studies that support such findings.
In the academic studies of linguistics, the argument of languages being partly responsible for shaping people’s worldviews and perspectives dates back to the 18th century.
In that sense, learning a new language is really worth the effort, because what we get is not only the chance to communicate with people from other countries and appreciate different perspectives, but also the opportunity to fully understand our own beliefs and passions and explore the different sides of ourselves.
One other thing I wonder about is why some of my friends have commented that I sometimes talk like a teenage American girl. Maybe it is because watching soap operas and listening to Taylor Swift have been two of the major methods I have used to learn English.
It is then possible that when it comes to the changes brought on by learning a new language, it matters in what way and at what age you learn the language.
I have recently started to learn German, and I plan to learn it well by taking classes and watching documentaries. Therefore, if I work hard enough, in a few years I look forward to seeing a possibly more sophisticated, or maybe more articulate and rigorous version of me.