Hi everyone, it’s Vicky again. Recently, my Facebook feed was blowing up with articles about how researchers say people’s personalities may change depending on the language they’re speaking. Since we are bilingual here at El Autobús, I thought it could be an interesting thing to write about. I asked my colleague Becca to help me out by writing a little on how she experiences speaking Spanish, and I'll tell you about how I experience speaking English:
VICKY ON ENGLISH
I’ve always felt that I’m nicer in English than I am in Spanish. In my native tongue, I’m a little more sarcastic and a lot more blunt. I’m particularly friendlier in English, or at least that is how I am perceived because of the words I use. I started learning to speak English when I was around three years old, and have been ever since. I never really had to speak only English in a social setting until I started a job in college where I had to answer phones and provide information. This made for pretty long phone calls, so I started picking up turns of phrase from my American coworkers. I remember being particularly proud when I began to naturally say the phrase “have a great one” to people.
Because I spent so much time in what you could call a “customer service” setting, the colloquialisms I learned in English were said specifically to be friendly and helpful. I’ll often catch myself saying things that are completely uncharacteristic, but that come naturally to me. It’s like I’m simultaneously being myself and not myself. That said, there are words that I need to properly express my thoughts that the English language lacks, and it’s not that I don’t know enough words to use. I always end up feeling like I haven’t explained myself well, that something was missing. I suppose this feeling is because, at the end of the day, I perceive and experience the world through Spanish much more than English.
BECCA ON SPANISH
Studying in Spain, living in Argentina, marrying a Venezuelan, and moving to Miami have all given me different perspectives of Spanish. It always felt like starting over at first, because I had so many different sets of slang to learn, and even basic words like “peach” and “goodbye.” There are so many words that can’t be literally translated, so I have two parallel ways of thinking that open my mind to new concepts. For example, understanding the nuances between “te quiero” and “te amo” in Spanish, when in English it’s just ‘I love you,’ and then understanding that both can be used with friends, family and lovers but have different meanings for each.
I still feel like myself when I speak Spanish, but I’m often treated like a novelty for being an American who learned to speak another language by choice. This is also the personality that comes through Spanish – it’s a language loaded with compliments and familiarity. It gives me a level of confidence I don’t have in English, so I’m often more blunt and daring. There are some situations, though, in which I’ll unabashedly resort back to my native language: being truly, deeply upset with someone (I mean pissed), bouts of excitement, and screaming profanities when I stub my toe. I can no longer imagine living with one language and not the other; Spanish has become a part of me and how I interpret the world around me.
Post by Rebecca Wagoner and Victoria Rosenthal Madrid