So I found a photo on facebook: enter image description here
And while I usually don't believe in these facebook "Facts" I took a second to think about it myself since I'm a person that speaks a few languages (we have 4 national languages in Switzerland). What really surprised me is that I could see some minor changes in my behavior when talking in a different language but it doesn't apply to every language I speak.

Do people really change their personality based on the language they're talking?

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    Seems difficult to test. People change personality depending on the context they are in, ie. who they are talking to and what other peoples are around. It seems difficult to seperate an effect from language from this effect. (No sources - Hence comment rather than answer) – Taemyr Jun 19 '14 at 9:32
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    I know more than one French person who start waving their arms around as soon as they switch from English to French. – gerrit Jun 20 '14 at 15:13
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    I know my personality "changes" when speaking different languages, if at minimum that I become more of an introvert when speaking a language I don't know as well--i.e. when I was speaking Portuguese in Brazil last month. When I speak Spanish or English, I become much more animated. Does my personality change? I think that's a matter of definition and interpretation. At minimum the way in which I express my personality changes. – Flimzy Jun 20 '14 at 22:12
up vote 8 down vote accepted

No, people don't actually change personality when talking in another language. Use of a second language accesses different cultural norms that activate appropriate behavioral expressions. Personality is taken to be what we are while behaviour is what we do [1].

Self-reports and behavioral observations confirmed the effects of perceived cultural norms, language priming, and interlocutor ethnicity on various personality dimensions. It is suggested that use of a second language accesses the perceived cultural norms of the group most associated with that language, especially its prototypic trait profiles, thus activating behavioral expressions of personality that are appropriate in the corresponding linguistic-social context [2].


References:

  1. http://www.callofthewild.co.uk/library/theory/distinction-between-personality-and-behaviour/

  2. Chen SX, Bond MH. Two languages, two personalities? Examining language effects on the expression of personality in a bilingual context. Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2010 Nov;36(11):1514-28. doi: 10.1177/0146167210385360. PubMed PMID: 20944020.

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    It's probably a subtle difference, but your answer seems to suggest that they don't change from one personality to another (as with MPD)--while the claim is that their existing personality changes, which actually seems to be corroborated by your answer--at least if one's mode of behavior can be considered an aspect of their personality. – Flimzy Jun 20 '14 at 22:10
  • Behavior is closely related to personality so technically speaking, since the cultural norms change and that changes your behavior, your personality does change to some degree. – Joze Jun 17 '15 at 8:20

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