I’ve been thinking about this idea for a while but finally decided to write about it when I stumbled across a post on Alex Rawlings’ blog. Alex, who is studying German and Russian at Oxford, was named most multilingual student in Britain in a contest. In the aforementioned post, Alex asks whether he and a friend acted differently when they spoke three different languages (Russian, Hebrew, and English) in a video he recorded for the post.
Sometimes I feel like I’m a different person when I speak Russian. I talk more in Russian than I do in English – or rather, I talk more with random people in Russian that I do in English. When I’m speaking Russian, I have no qualms about going up to random Russian speakers and saying hello. To be honest, I don’t often talk to random people when I’m speaking English. (I actually wish I were the sort of person who did this!) In Russian, though, I randomly ask people if they speak Russian and if they do, then a whole conversation ensues. Luckily Russian people really seem to like meeting random Americans who speak their language, so I’ve never had any bad experiences that resulted from talking to random people.
Sometimes, I even think of myself as having a different name when I speak Russian (trust me, it’s not as weird as it sounds). I spent four years in Russian class being called Natasha (which is the nickname for the Russian form of my name, Natalia) and sometimes I’ve even introduced myself that way to Russian speakers.
One important thing I’ve noticed about English-speaking me is that I feel very American. It takes less than a foreign language to make someone feel foreign. I spent an academic year in England and still felt very foreign, even though I spoke English there. British English just has so many odd little quirks that I felt out of place.
Bottom line: even though English-speaking me and Russian-speaking me are obviously the same person, I do behave differently when speaking Russian vs. English. Have any of you noticed this phenomenon? Let me know in the comments!