Are you a different person when you speak a different language?

Jun 25, 2008

People who are bicultural and speak two languages may actually shift their personalities when they switch from one language to another, according to new research in the Journal of Consumer Research.

"Language can be a cue that activates different culture-specific frames," write David Luna (Baruch College), Torsten Ringberg, and Laura A. Peracchio (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee).

The authors studied groups of Hispanic women, all of whom were bilingual, but with varying degrees of cultural identification. They found significant levels of "frame-shifting" (changes in self perception) in bicultural participants—those who participate in both Latino and Anglo culture. While frame-shifting has been studied before, the new research found that biculturals switched frames more quickly and easily than bilingual monoculturals.

The authors found that the women classified themselves as more assertive when they spoke Spanish than when they spoke English. They also had significantly different perceptions of women in ads when the ads were in Spanish versus English. "In the Spanish-language sessions, informants perceived females as more self-sufficient and extroverted," write the authors.

In one of the studies, a group of bilingual U.S. Hispanic women viewed ads that featured women in different scenarios. The participants saw the ads in one language (English or Spanish) and then, six months later, they viewed the same ads in the other language. Their perceptions of themselves and the women in the ads shifted depending on the language. "One respondent, for example, saw an ad's main character as a risk-taking, independent woman in the Spanish version of the ad, but as a hopeless, lonely, confused woman in the English version," write the authors.

The shift in perception seems to happen unconsciously, and may have broad implications for consumer behavior and political choices among biculturals.

Source: University of Chicago Press Journals

Explore further: Can science eliminate extreme poverty?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Spain museum uses robot to spot cracks in artwork

Jul 24, 2013

In the basement of Madrid's Reina Sofia museum, a giant robotic machine painstakingly scans a painting by Catalan surrealist artist Joan Miro, slowly snapping hundreds of microscopic shots.

In UK threat to Ecuador, experts see mistake

Aug 17, 2012

(AP) — It was a warning meant to remind Ecuador that Britain's patience has limits. But as the stalemate over Julian Assange settled in Friday, it appeared London's veiled threat that it could storm ...

Vogue's vast archives make online leap from paper

Dec 26, 2011

Bookshelves groaning under the weight of every issue of American Vogue ever published since December 17, 1892, and there have been about 2,800 of them, can now heave a sigh of relief.

Recommended for you

Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

18 hours ago

Almost seven years have passed since Ontario's street-racing legislation hit the books and, according to one Western researcher, it has succeeded in putting the brakes on the number of convictions and, more importantly, injuries ...

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

Apr 17, 2014

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

feretboy
not rated yet Jun 27, 2008
I teach English in Japan, and I don't see anyone here changing when they speak English. If anything, they try to bring their cultural aspects into the English, and it comes across as quite boring sometimes.

More news stories

Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

Almost seven years have passed since Ontario's street-racing legislation hit the books and, according to one Western researcher, it has succeeded in putting the brakes on the number of convictions and, more importantly, injuries ...

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...