«Learn a new language, and get a new soul»

Becoming a new me, is it possible?

By Maryanna Iglesias Musick

Those who have ever tried a new language experience, will probably tell you about that particular feeling when you find yourself being, acting and becoming someone quite different from who you considered yourself to be.

And then, once and again, as you continue to dig deeper into that language´s universe, you experience a new side of your personality.

You become aware of its impact in you as soon as you start spontaneously speaking, arguing, just chatting or even dreaming in that adopted language of yours, then you listen to yourself and…  -What the foRk!?-  you come to realize that you have changed! You find yourself doing, and saying things you never thought you would, not even in your wildest imagination episodes.

When making decisions, I try English

The first time this happened to me, in my late teens, I was learning English aboard and I started to keep a dairy, as a good way to track my advance. I suddenly started feeling like I was reading another person’s mind. Even hanging around with my mates, I caught myself expressing in a very polite, calmed and practical way, quite the opposite to the passionate, impulsive energy that naturally shows up when speaking my mother tongue from the Caribbean.

I learned from those years that my brain makes better decisions in English, the language in which I personally became responsible for myself.

More than a feeling?

There´s a lot said and to be said about the topic, after all… the Czech proverb goes: “Learn a new language and get a new soul”, doesn’t it?.

Many bilinguals report a feeling of acting differently in each language, and the phenomenon has been widely studied by scientific authorities.

Most of the studies in the area report that frequently, what is perceived as a change in personality actually responds to an adaptation to a new culture, which means the individual changes their behaving becoming ‘bicultural’ as an adapting strategy to the context where they are.

Culture, a window to language

ʻʻSociology understands culture as the languages, customs, beliefs, rules, arts, knowledge, and collective identities and memories developed by members of all social groups that make their social environments meaningful. Sociologists study cultural meaning by exploring individual and group communication; meaningfulness is expressed in social narratives, ideologies, practices, tastes, values, and norms as well as in collective representations and social classifications.” (American Sociological Association).

After taking all those ‘steps forward’ on listening, watching, reading and speaking practices that teachers recommend in order to build your level, there comes a time when you have to step into the language’s natural environment and steep yourself in the culture.

That is how you actually get to know the nuances of the language and also, organically, you begin identifying yourself with its special references. And often, you also happen to fall in love with the intangible collective that we name ‘culture’.

Lennon and McCartney, Queen, Lewis Carroll, Oscar Wilde, Virginia Wolf, Earl Grey or Darjeeling,  Victoria and Diana, Jack the Ripper, the Merchant of Venice, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Captain Blackbeard, Camden Town evenings, Portobello Road, Kew Garden strolls… all of them have been with me, every step of the way of my English learning journey.

Taking this into account, we can easily understand it’s so vital for us to learn the culture, as a window to the target language.

Maryanna Iglesias Musick

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