Two Languages, Two Selves: Exploring the impact of Bilingualism on personality

Majda Layek


This article aims at investigating the psychological effect of fluently learning and speaking a
second foreign language on personality. Specifically, to serve the purpose of narrowing down a wide
topic, the research project behind the present paper focuses on the case of Arabic-English, with the first
being vernacular Arabic, the mother tongue, and the second being the foreign acquired language. It is
evident that acquiring a foreign language comes with the acquisition of the entire cultural history of that
language. Recent neurological research demonstrates how bilinguals seem to use two different mental
channels for each language. However, the discussion about what learning a foreign language does to the
brain is a never ending set of theories and hypotheses. From the possibility of foreign languages affecting
morality, to the claim that Emotional intensity is reduced when the subject is using a foreign language, to
how foreign languages empower multitasking and problems solving, and could even prevent brain aging
and mental diseases such as Alzheimer. The questions are endless and the answers are still sought for, and
will probably always remain open for further research because when it comes to the human brain, no
answer is final.
Similarly to any other scientific research topic, there is almost always a contradicting side of the
hypothesis. The other side of the hypothesis advances the argument that even monolingual people have
more than one personality because the human identity, in general, is a set of personalities which occur and
adapt to the situations given. Each context requires a different version of personality whether the person is
monolingual, bilingual or multilingual. Therefore, all results are falsifiable. However, since the present
paper aims at focusing on the hypothesis that the bilingual mind is represented through two different
personalities, it will fairly attempt to present evidence in line with the argument advanced across the
paper, and theoretically discuss the potential application of the hypotheses on the case of Arabic-English,
which is not only a quite original area since it has not been academically explored yet, but also a much
more complicated case because of the position of English in the life of Moroccan speakers, and the nature
linguistic landscape which characterizes Morocco.


Language, Culture, Late/Bilingualism, personality, selves, schizophrenia, English, Arabic, mother tongue, foreign, identity.

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