I have Danish parents, grown up in France, lived in the UK for 10 years and now living in Holland for the past 9 years. I am a different person in each language, adapting myself to the culture of the people who speak it. I have always wondered how the language could affect the message so much. It also affects my tone of voice and my emotions. [Christina, on July 27th, 2011]
I find myself being more self-depreciating and less likely to accept praise when speaking in Japanese than when speaking English. Furthermore, a colleague once told me that even if he can't hear, he can tell which language I am using from 10-15 metres away, by looking at my posture, gestures and general body language. [Tim, on July 27th, 2011]
My friends once told me that when I switch to Russian even my facial features change, becoming colder and harsher – set jaw, narrow eyes, speaking in a low voice, but with an intensity that makes everyone else listen. [Julia, on July 30th, 2011]
The above quotations represent just a small portion of blogosphere postings from bilingual and multilingual individuals commenting on how they perceive and appear to have very distinct and separate personalities when speaking the different languages in their linguistic repertoires. Many such postings, like the first one above by Christina, explicitly attribute this phenomenon to attempts on the part of speakers to assimilate to the cultural norms of the countries where the languages are traditionally spoken. Scholarly treatments of the same phenomenon (e.g., Bryant, 1984; Hu & Reiterer, 2009; Zukowski/Faust, 1997) generally do likewise, often citing Schumann's (1978, 1986) Acculturation Model, which equates L2 proficiency with the extent to which a learner is able to adopt the culture of a target language group, and Guiora's (1967, 1979) concept of Language Ego, in which the permeability of one's L1 identity determines receptiveness to taking on new linguistic identities. According to these theories, a learner of Korean, for example, would be likely to develop a distinctly Korean L2 persona (as well as linguistic proficiency) if he or she has both a high level of affinity for Korean culture and a very permeable L1 language ego. Such arguments still, no doubt, apply to languages such as Korean or Japanese that are intrinsically associated with specific countries and cultures. Given the status of English as an international lingua franca in today's world, however, it can no longer be assumed that learners of English have any motive or desire to acculturate into traditionally English-speaking cultures, such as those of the US, England, or Australia. If learners/users of English associate the language not with such traditionally English-speaking cultures, but instead with an imagined global community of English users, do they still develop English L2 personas that are distinct from their L1 personas and feel ‘like a different person’ when speaking English?