If you are bilingual do you change your language depending on what you want to convey?

Code-shifting is making the news recently which means that the bilingual speaker changes between languages. I wondered if they use it to their advantage i.e. to deliver either a hurtful or loving message in the best way. This led me to wondering if parents used this when nurturing their children. Some languages are known to be romantic and others harsh, so if the bilingual languages are one of each do they deliver the nice compliments and praise etc via the romance language and vice versa? What about teachers do they unknowingly do the same? I knew as a child when I was in the wrong when I was called by my full name in a tone that made it obvious, is the same true of the language used with bilingual children?

I am still wondering but have a better understanding now and it appears my instinctive answer of yes was right according to this news article. To aid your reading I have emboldened the most important points.

Bilingual children learn to switch languages to express emotion

It’s known as ‘code-switching’, and multilingual families do it all the time, apparently. It’s the habit of switching back and forth between languages to suit the emotional situation and what they want to express at any given time.

Now, a new study published in Perspectives on Psychological Science carried out at the University of California is looking at how a multilingual parents’ choice of different languages to express certain emotions affect the way their children understand and regulate their own emotions.

According to ScienceDaily, language plays a key role in emotion because it allows the speaker to articulate, conceal or discuss feelings. Now it seems that bilingual parents choose a specific language to convey emotion because they feel that language is culturally better equipped to express the particular emotion.

For example, a native Finnish speaker may use English to tell her children she loves them because Finnish is not typically an emotional language.

This means that children learn to associate certain emotional states with a particular language and, in turn,  the choice of language then influences how they experience emotion.

For example, children may switch to a less emotional language in order to decrease negative arousal.

The researchers hope the implications of emotion-related language switching can be used to explore marital interactions, therapy and work with immigrant families.


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