Personality Type, Perceptual Style Preferences, and Strategies for Learning English as a Foreign Language

By Chen, Mei-Ling; Hung, Li-Mei | Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, October 2012 | Go to article overview

Personality Type, Perceptual Style Preferences, and Strategies for Learning English as a Foreign Language


Chen, Mei-Ling, Hung, Li-Mei, Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal


In response to the demands of globalization, the people of Taiwan seem to have an unquenchable desire to learn English (Katchen, 2002). However, the teaching of English in Taiwan has been viewed as ineffective, insofar as it does not satisfy social needs. According to Shih (1993), few college students are able to master English, even after studying the language for six years. Similarly, Liang (1996) observed that most Taiwanese students are hardly able to communicate in English even after six years of study. The reasons for these failures are complex and varied. One reason may be that individual differences, such as learning style preference, use of learning strategies, and personality type, have not been incorporated in the instructional process.

In Western countries, over the past few decades, the focus in the field of foreign-/second-language education has shifted from teaching to learning (Lessard-Clouston, 1997; Nunan, 1988; Peng, 2002). In a considerable number of studies researchers have found that students' individual differences play an important role in the quality of their foreign-/second-language learning (Ehrman, 1990; Galbraith & Gardner, 1988; Oxford, 1992; Oxford & Etonian, 1993; Scarcella & Oxford, 1992; Skehan, 1989).

Among these individual difference variables, Oxford (1989, p. 21) identified "language learning styles and strategies...[as] the most important variables influencing performance in a second language" (Oxford, 1989, p. 21). Reid (1996, p. 3) expressed the view that, as a result, "language teachers should provide a wealth of information to students in order to raise their awareness about learning styles and strategies.[and should] work with students' learning strengths".

Learning styles are "cognitive, affective, and physiological traits that are relatively stable indicators of how learners perceive, interact with, and respond to the learning environment" (Keefe, 1979, p. 4). O'Malley and Chamot (1990) defined learning strategies as "the special thoughts or behaviors that individuals use to help them comprehend, learn, or retain new information" (p. 1).

Ethnicity and/or nationality have a strong influence on the language learning strategy that is used (Bedell, 1993). A number of researchers have investigated the role of personality in learning English in Western countries (Carrell & Monroe, 1993; Ehrman, 1990; Ehrman & Oxford, 1990, 1995). However, few researchers have examined whether or not there are differences among personality type, perceptual learning style preference, and language learning strategies across cultures. Therefore, currently it is not known whether or not findings about learning in Western societies can be generalized to learners in Taiwan.

Literature Review

Relationship between Personality Type and Language Learning Style Preference

Educational psychologists have found that each individual learns differently, and personality type plays a significant role in determining how an individual learns best (Borg & Shapiro, 1996). That is to say, personality characteristics might affect how learners perceive information and what they learn (Moody, 1988). Carrell, Prince, and Astika (1996) indicated that the success of second language learners is affected by both cognitive factors such as language aptitude (Carrol, 1990), affect, personality, and motivation, and by demographic factors, such as age, gender, and ethnicity (see e.g., Ehrman & Oxford, 1990, 1995; Galbraith & Gardner, 1988; Oxford, 1992; Oxford & Ehrman, 1993; Scarcella & Oxford, 1992; Skehan, 1989).

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI; Myers & McCaulley, 1985) is a personality inventory designed to examine individuals' basic preferences for perceiving and processing information (Johnson, Mauzey, Johnson, Murphy, & Zimmerman, 2001). This self-report instrument has four dimensions: extraversion (focus on the perception of the outer world of people and objects) vs. …

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