The Czech proverb says “Learn a new language and get a new soul.” Have you ever noticed the shift in your behavior when speaking another language? Most people have, but the first thought that comes to mind is that you are imagining it. But guess what? You are not. The research suggests that speaking another language can result in personality change in individuals. As we learn a new language, we also try to adapt to a culture specific for that language, which may have many benefits for our character’s development.
The main reason that gives rise to this phenomenon is the cultural context in which we study a language. If we are trying to immerse in the society where a language is spoken, we will consequently modify our behavior to fit the cultural values of that society. Other people’s perception of ourselves determines our identity to a certain extent, and as we learn a new language we start questioning our identity in relation to that particular society. For instance, politeness is one of the main characteristics of the English language, and therefore, when speaking English, we subconsciously become more polite as well.
Consequently, the attempt to integrate into a different culture has a beneficial effect on our personality. By speaking a different language, we may also discover another part of ourselves. As languages vary in ways to express different views and emotions, we may better understand some aspects of our personality for which we have not had the right means to communicate in our native language. In addition, a new language can provide us with a new perspective of the world based on our insight into values cherished by another community.
Language is a window into the world. Being a medium of communication, it enables us to share our emotions, ideas and beliefs, helps us better understand ourselves and aids our understanding of others. With each new language learned, our personality develops in the most marvelous ways. As Oliver Wendell Holmes said “Every language is a temple, in which the soul of those who speak it is enshrined.”