At college, am presently part of this programme/project about the varieties of English that involves the participation of colleges and universities around Asia. We congregate on specific dates via teleconferencing to discuss issues about the varieties of English. The title of this post was one of the questions posed during the first teleconference.
On a superficial level, you might say yes, you feel like a different person when you’re not speaking your mother tongue due to the differences in the nuances of the language. Also, your proficiency in a foreign language plays a big part on how well you are able to express yourself; therefore, if you can’t speak English well the chances are you’re not able to use the language to communicate well. Factors like these can hinder you somewhat from being able to express yourself as naturally as you would in your mother tongue, which may then lead to your impression that you don’t feel like yourself when you speak a foreign language.
On a deeper level, you may argue that how can language determine your identity? After all, language is just one tool of communication – paralanguage is another way a person can communicate. The person you are does not change simply because you are unable to express yourself the way you could with your mother tongue. You’re still you whether you speak English, Malay, Cantonese or Tamil. Language is ultimately just a tool you use to communicate and express yourself, but it does not mould and shape the person you are.
On the note of the previous sentence, then what about the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis that a person’s world view is shaped by the language he or she speaks?
Heh, lovelyloey and self are having a syok sendiri session over at the comments section of this post since we just discovered we’re involved in it. Totally self’s Singaporean counterpart, girl!