Imagine this: you’re the main suspect in the murder of an innocent man. The truth is that you were uninvolved, and you’re completely blameless, but there is no evidence to support your case. Would you prefer your jury to be made up of twelve refugees whose language proficiency is adequate but not perfect, or would you prefer your jury to be native speakers? If you answered the native speakers, you may want to reconsider!
Research actually suggests that individuals who are less proficient in a language exhibit more utilitarian behaviours when faced with moral dilemmas and decision making, and think and behave in a less emotional manner. This effect is more commonly known as the foreign language effect.
The context in which the non-proficient language was learned has a huge impact on the emotionality that an individual has towards the language, and this can implement a certain emotional distance between the individual and the moral issue they are presented with. When faced with a moral dilemma in their non-proficient language, an individual is likely to make decisions more rationally than a native speaker, since they do not have such strong emotional connections to the foreign language.
So again, imagine you’re the innocent main suspect in a murder case – who would you want your jury to be now?