Speaking a Foreign Language Changes Your Personality

What is personality anyway?

Before launching into all the reasons that speaking a foreign language changes your personality, let’s describe what personality is.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Words and tones have different meanings

A big part of personality is how you speak or communicate. It’s the way you say things or how you describe something. Naturally, communicating in another language changes that.

You use different non-verbal cues

Communication isn’t just verbal for most of us, it’s physical too. Hand gestures and facial expressions vary across languages and you end up using non-verbal cues you wouldn’t normally use in your mother tongue.

Culture and frame of reference shifts

Your personality is shaped by your environment just as much by internal thoughts and feelings. Your habitual words and actions are a response to what’s happening around you, including cultural cues. Learning to speak another language can open up a culture and history that you didn’t have access to before and it impacts your personality as a result.

Photo by Nonsap Visuals on Unsplash

Language affects cognition and connotation

Your personality also includes your thoughts and feelings. There’s evidence that language influences the way people think: this TEDTalk from Lera Boroditsky is pretty illuminating on that subject. When you switch to a different language, your thought patterns might not stay the same.

Language is identity

Language is truly fundamental to identity — wars have been fought over it. That’s why we shouldn’t let any languages disappear, or let English dominate in all parts of the world (but that’s another argument for another time).



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Courtney Withrow

Courtney Withrow

Writer and Blogger. International Relations, Travel, Culture. Based in Brussels, Belgium.