Recently I’ve been thinking, when we learn a language (those who never tried, stop reading :) ), we pick up constructions and turns of phrases from native speakers. Usually, we choose someone we like and model ourselves after them in speech. I find that frequently do I use constructions that do have equivalents in my native language, yet that I would never use, like “no-no-no, …” which I can easily shoot in English, but would never utter in Russian.

Is that a personality switch? Is that an OPPORTUNITY to change (for the better)?

It’s curious, but when I wrote that, it gave me that feeling of vast opportunities you get on a fresh start. It literally gives you a chance to start from scratch since what we say is almost everything that people use to make an impression of us. It’s a chance to defeat your bad habits and migrate them later to your other personality. Meta-physical…


Comments from the past

R00KIE Says: August 28th, 2008 at 18:36

Hmmm …. interesting. I guess in a way we do change a little bit when learning a new language but I wouldn’t say it changes you completely. I guess your example is just one of the cases where you like a foreign expression and use it. On the other hand I guess that you can change if you really want, a fresh start, as no one knows you, so you can shape yourself to be as you want to be (or at least try :p ).

Aleksey Gureiev Says: August 28th, 2008 at 20:27

The thing is that I intentionally chose such a simple expression to illustrate my point. This one exists in almost any language (if not in all), but for some reason I find it “acceptable” to use in English, while never use in Russian.

To put it in a slightly different perspective, I “can see myself saying this in English” and “can’t see myself saying this in Russian”. What it means logically is that I’m seeing myself as a different person in different language contexts. Curious…

R00KIE Says: August 29th, 2008 at 17:09

Well … yes. It is curious indeed, I find it easier to say some things in English too, but I guess its because for us non native speakers the meaning isn’t as strong as in our mother language, or maybe because it just sounds a lot nicer to say it in English. Who knows …. maybe we should get some funding ( the more the merrier :p ) to study this hehe.

This wouldn’t be as crazy as it seems, take a look at this

Raphael Says: October 14th, 2008 at 21:22

Happens to me all the time (with English, as well as with French when I began learning it). I’ve also had people point it out to me that “you become somebody else when you speak English”, which I took for a compliment of some sort…

The fun thing is, it doesn’t only work with entire languages, but also with local dialects. (Are there local dialects in Russian?)

Keep having fun I guess :-)

Aleksey Gureiev Says: October 14th, 2008 at 22:37

Certainly there are. People in different parts of our huge country speak quite differently. Some stress “O”, others “A”, some articulate all sounds very carefully, others speak faster and blur many transitions between syllables.

IMO, the biggest shift is when you start over. New people see you for the first time, and you have all chances to develop new habits and ways to convey your ideas somehow differently from what you are used to.