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Second language identity

Do you ever feel different when speaking another language? Do you know why it is so?

Personally, I can clearly identify several parts of me that show themselves better in one language than in another. 

In Russian I’m quite prone to anxieties and insecurities. I’m quite a pessimist as well. Or I can get reasonable, philosophical and detached if something bad happens. After all, if something can go wrong, it will, so we just need to prepare for it in advance. That’s my Russian self speaking. 

In English I feel much more positive and confident. The main feelings are those of interest, curiosity and thirst for knowledge. I’m more optimistic as well. I see opportunities and solutions. Because there’s always a solution to the problem. And if it exists, I’ll find it. 

One of my students said that in English I even sound older and more confident than in Russian. 

In French I can finally feel la joi de vivre, or the joy of living. I watch videos about different regions of France and get absorbed in that quiet atmosphere and beautiful landscapes. I admire people who respect traditions, remember their heritage and love the trade they learnt in their family. Life seems orderly, stable and full of small pleasures. Also, when I speak French, I don’t care much about mistakes, because, of course, they are part of the learning process (my English self always insists on checking and double checking everything I say or write). 

This phenomenon of having different identities is not my creation. There have been some experiments to study it. I’ve found an article that gives a nice overview. A few quotes first:

“When [Margarita, a Russian-American immigrant] speaks Russian, she says, she feels “guarded, reserved, uncomfortable.” But when she speaks English, she describes herself as “curious,” “outgoing,” and “free.””

“Tony, who grew up speaking English and Spanish and went on to learn French, says that when he speaks French he feels “sophisticated, elegant, suave.””

” … while writing [a 15-minute description of their personalities] in Spanish, the Mexican-American subjects talked about themselves in relation to their families, relationships and hobbies. In English, they spoke of their achievements, college, and daily activities.”

Link to the article itself: Feel more fun in French? Your personality can change depending on the language you speak

What about you? Have you noticed anything similar in yourself? Which language would help you feel better right now? 

For me, I definitely need more French. 

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

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