All my life it became a norm for me to switch my language in every chance that I get.
I am a Filipino who grew up in Japan, literate in both Tagalog and Japanese languages and I can also speak and read English. Although, English is an international language required for all of us to know, it’s still impressive for one to be literate in a language that is not their own.
I’m not only bilingual but I am also bicultural having to grow up in Japan and now I am back here again in my homeland; however, there is a downside to being bicultural. Being accustomed to a culture that is not yours.
I find myself loving Japan’s culture and its people more than my own. I am used to bowing to strangers just to greet them a good morning or a good afternoon. I am used to a much safer and less hazardous environment. I am used to polite kids and interactive classroom studies and many more.
Needless to say, I had undergone a culture shock in my own country. I was a stranger to them as they are to me. It took me 3 years to adjust to the people and the environment around me, I am much more comfortable living here now than I was before. Filipino’s are blunter compared to the Japanese people and I learned that it is okay to have a good hearty laugh inside the movie theater when you want to laugh because in Japan, or at least where I grew up in, we keep it in to ourselves so that we won’t disturb the other people in the movie theater.
I am not saying all of these to degrade my country, but I am here to tell you a story of how a language can have an impact on a person’s personality.
“Learn a new language and get a new soul”
Different context and domains trigger different impressions, attitudes and behaviors (Grosjean, 2011). As I have said before Filipino’s are more blunt compared to the Japanese people, but it also depends on whom you are talking to.
Japanese people are generally polite at any aspects of their life. It is a norm for them to bow at authorities if they are in a business or to customers if they are working at a mall or a convenient store. It is a sign of respect to them and for me I think this is something that my country should work on. We Filipino show our respect to authorities and to anybody we are not familiar with by adding “po” at the end or somewhere in between our sentences.
“May nakaupo po ba dito?” (Is there someone sitting here?)
“Bababa po ako.” (I’m going down)
In Japan I have encountered people whom asked me the same thing when I was sitting on a café alone,
誰かこの席に座ってる人いますか？(dareka kono seki ni suwatteru hito imasuka? Is there someone sitting here?). And whenever I say no they would bow and say thank you when I give them a go signal to take the chair away.
I find myself doing the same thing even up until now. I bow when I greet authorities at school or my boyfriend’s parents, I bow when I say thank you and I even bow when I say sorry.
You may be thinking that it’s their mannerism that I have adapted and the language has nothing to do with me obsessively bowing to authorities. Yes, you may be right but it is because of the language itself that I adapted that particular mannerism.
If I were to grow up here in my country I wouldn’t be thinking about bowing to authorities when I say thank you or sorry. I would be more conscious on how I say it.
One thing I have also noticed about my personality when I switch language is that I tend to act and behave differently when I am talking to my Japanese friends as oppose to my Filipino friends.
I become an introvert when I am with my Japanese friends, I don’t swear and I don’t talk a lot. Maybe part of the reason why I become an introvert when it comes to them is because I lack confidence in speaking their language. However, when I am with my Filipino friends I am more outgoing and I talk a lot. I become blunter and my jokes are offensive.
We behave differently [depending on who we are talking to] and sometimes change attitude and behaviors to adapt to our surroundings.
And with that note I’m going to end my story here for now. If you want more of this please comment down below or tweet me at @danidotyes, I am active there 100% of the time.
Thank you for reading! x
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