Popular Science

It's easier to convey anger in your second language

Our emotions shape which language we decide to use.
swearing in second language

Swearing can come more easily to people in their second language.

durantelallera/Shutterstock

A taxi driver recently cut me off on the motorway. Without hesitation, I machine-gunned a string of vulgarity at the poor man. What struck me was that every word that came out of my mouth was in Spanish. As a native speaker of English, having learned Spanish as an adult, English should have been the more readily accessible language. Yet there I was, cussing out this stranger in Mexican-accented Spanish alongside an assortment of inappropriate hand gestures.

Most people will know what it’s like take control of you in a scenario like this, but why is it often so much easier to vent frustration in a language that is not your native one? As most foreign language learners will appreciate, anything taboo is fairly easy to pick up in a second language and even entertaining to use. While I wouldn’t profane in English in my grandma’s presence, in Spanish I’m a wannabe Tony Montana.

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