[Repost] Multilinguals Have Multiple Personalities (by Alice Robb)


Multilinguals Have Multiple Personalities

Ian essay published on Monday, New Republic Senior Editor Noam Scheiber—who grew up speaking both Hebrew and English—explains why he stopped speaking only Hebrew to his three-year-old daughter. “My Hebrew self turns out to be much colder, more earnest, and, let’s face it, less articulate,” he writes. “In English, my natural sensibility is patient and understated. My style in Hebrew was hectoring and prosecutorial.”

I understand the feeling. My not-so-fluent French “self” is most comfortable talking about classroom supplies. It’s surprising, though, that people who are actually fluent in two languages also feel their personality shifting as they switch between languages. Yet researchers have confirmed this: Between 2001 and 2003, linguists Jean-Marc Dewaele and Aneta Pavlenko asked over a thousand bilinguals whether they “feel like a different person” when they speak different langauges. Nearly two-thirds said they did.

How does that play out in day-to-day speech? In 1964, Susan Ervin, a sociolinguist at the University of California, Berkeley, set out to explore the differences in how bilinguals represent the same stories in different languages. She recruited 64 French adults who lived in the U.S. and were fluent in both French and English. On average, they had spent 12 years living in the U.S.; 40 were married to an American. On two separate occasions, six weeks apart, Ervin gave them the “Thematic Apperception Test”: She showed her subjects a series of illustrations and asked them to make up a three-minute story to accompany each scene. In one session, the volunteer and experimenter spoke only French, while the other session was conducted entirely in English.

Image from the Thematic Apperception Test

Image from the Thematic Apperception Test

Ervin then analyzed the stories, looking at the different themes incorporated into the narratives. When she compared the two sets of storiesshe identified some significant topical differences. The English stories more often featured female achievement, physical aggression, verbal aggression toward parents, and attempts to escape blame, while the French stories were more likely to include domination by elders, guilt, and verbal aggression toward peers.

In 1968, Ervin—by this point, “Ervin-Tripp”—designed another experiment to further explore her hypothesis that the content of bilinguals’ speech would change along with the language. This time, Ervin-Tripp looked at Japanese women living in the San Francisco area, most of whom were married to American men and many of whom had American children. Most of the women were largely isolated from other Japanese in America, and spoke Japanese only while visiting Japan or talking to their bilingual friends. Ervin-Tripp had a bilingual interviewer give the women various verbal tasks in both Japanese and in English, and found—as she expected—important differences.

For instance, when the women were asked to complete the following sentences, their answers differed depending on the language in which the questions was asked:

Scholars have also used more qualitative methods to try to understand language’s impact on personality. In 1998, Michele Koven, a researcher at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, spent a year and a half carrying out ethnographic research with bilingual Parisian adults whose parents had immigrated from Portugal. All of her subjects were fluent in both French and Portuguese, and most maintained close ties to Portugal while living in France; many planned on returning eventually, though most also had monolingual French friends. Koven focused specifically on how her subjects represented themselves in narratives of personal experience, which she elicited by asking them to recount various life events in both languages. When Koven transcribed and analyzed the content of their accounts, she saw that her subjects emphasized different traits in their characters, depending on which language they were speaking. For instance, the women in the French stories were more likely to stand up for themselves, whereas the female characters in the Portuguese narratives tended to cede to others’ demands. And their own personas changed, too. One girl, Koven writes, sounded like “an angry, hip suburbanite” when she spoke French, and a “frustrated, but patient, well-mannered bank customer who does not want attention drawn to the fact that she is an émigré” when she spoke Portuguese. Whether that’s due to the different context in which she learned French and Portuguese, an inherent difference between the two languages, or some combination, researchers have yet to figure out.

Image via Shutterstock


posted in: the plankculturelanguagebilingualismlinguistics


[Repost] Saint Patrick’s Day (on Independent.co.uk)

Saint Patrick’s Day: Google Doodle marks patron saint of Ireland – here are 10 things you didn’t know about the man himself

Sunday 16 March 2014

Google has celebrated St Patrick’s Day with a saintly green stained-glass Doodle on its search page.

Whether you are planning to join raucous revelries and ingest more green food dye than is healthy, or spend a quiet evening with a hearty plate of colcannon, be sure to arm yourself with the following surprising facts about the day’s namesake to impress your companions.

1. St Patrick isn’t Irish

Despite being the patron saint of Ireland, St Patrick was born in Britain around 385AD, to aristocratic parents Calpurnius and Conchessa. It is unclear whether they lived in Scotland or Wales, but they are believed to be Romans and are thought to have owned a townhouse, country villa, and many slaves.

2. He was a slave, and wasn’t religious until he was an adult

At 16, he was kidnapped by traders, sent to the Irish countryside and made to tend to sheep as a slave. This is where he turned to God after being ambivalent towards religion as a child.


3. Voices told him he could escape his captors

Six years into his captivity, St Patrick apparently heard a voice urging him to travel to a distant port where a ship would be waiting to take him back to Britain. During the journey, he was captured again, and taken to France for 60 days where he learned about monasticism.

4. He escaped again, and rose up the early Church’s ranks

After making his escape and having found God, he became a priest in his twenties, and eventually became a bishop

5. He gained his sainthood by becoming a missionary

Aged around 30, he was tasked with becoming a missionary and returned to Ireland, where he successfully converted many Celtic pagans to Christianity.

6. He gave the shamrock its significance

It was as a preacher that he used the shamrock, now the unofficial national flower of Ireland, as a symbol of the holy trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

7. Snakes never lived in Ireland…

St Patrick has been credited with driving the snakes out of Ireland, although science now suggests that water-locked Ireland did not ever have any snakes.

8. Green wasn’t his colour

Like St Nicholas who is mistakenly associated with the colour red – and actually wore green – St Patrick dressed in blue vestments.

9. He was partial to a shot or two of whiskey

Reassuringly for anyone who feels guilty indulging too heavily on a Saint’s day, it is believed St Patrick said everyone should have more than just a swig of whiskey on his feast day. He apparently chastised an innkeeper who served him too little of the drink.

10. He died on his feast day

St Patrick is thought to have died on his feast day, 17 March, in 461AD. It is a national holiday in Ireland, and on the island of Montserrat in the Caribbean, which was founded by Irish refugees.

Cf. original piece: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/saint-patricks-day-as-google-doodle-marks-irish-national-holiday-here-are-10-things-you-didnt-know-about-the-saint-himself-9193795.html