Impact of extroversion and introversion on language-learning behaviors

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M. Naci Kayaoglu
Cite this article:  Kayaoglu, M. (2013). Impact of extroversion and introversion on language-learning behaviors. Social Behavior and Personality: An international journal, 41(5), 819-826.


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Despite the fact that personality factors and learning strategies are of great importance in success with language learning, the link between extroversion and introversion and language-learning strategies has received little attention from researchers. Therefore, I investigated whether or not there is any correlation between these personality traits and language-learning strategies. Participants in the study were 106 extroverted and 94 introverted students. The Eysenck Personality Questionnaire (EPQ) and the Strategy Inventory for Second Language Learning (SILL) were employed. The findings indicated that, with the exception of communicative strategies, introverted learners used a greater range of metacognitive and cognitive strategies than did extroverted learners.

Although introverted and extroverted personality types have been identified in studies as significant factors in other areas of educational and psychological research, they have received only sporadic attention in studies of language- learning strategies, which are very often associated with success in language learning. Whether or not extroverts or introverts are better language learners has been a subject of much debate. Some researchers tend to associate extroversion with better language-learning performance (Dewaele & Furnham, 2000; Sidek, 2012), and some suggest counterevidence in favor of introverted learners (Gan, 2011).

Ellis (1994) stated that there are two major hypotheses about the possible relationship between the dichotomy of introversion/extroversion and language learning. It is argued in the first hypothesis that extroverts are more successful language learners as they are better at basic interpersonal communication strategies. Conversely, it is claimed in the second hypothesis that introverts are better language learners as they have developed cognitive academic ability. In a rare study on personality types and language-learning strategies, Ehrman and Oxford (1989) found that extroverts tended to employ more affective strategies. Extroverts favored the use of visualization strategies whereas introverts were keen to communicate meaning. Introverts were found to be slow to initiate, or respond to, a conversation because they were concerned about meaning and context.

Of the various psychological measurement inventories that researchers have used to determine personality traits, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) has been widely used (Dörnyei, 2005; Ehrman & Oxford, 1989). In addition, the MBTI has served well as a psychometric tool to determine personality traits of language learners in various studies (Chamorro-Premuzic & Furnham, 2003; Dewaele & Furnham, 2000; Gan, 2011; Sidek, 2012).

Language-Learning Strategies and Personality Types

Learning strategies are generally deliberate, planned, and consciously engaged behaviors, techniques, approaches, or activities undertaken by learners to ease the acquisition, storage, retrieval, and use of information (Chamot, 1987; Oxford, 1990). Although the definition of learning strategies varies among researchers, there appears to be some agreement that strategies are (a) learner-based processes, (b) approaches, actions, and techniques, (c) problem- and goal-oriented, (d) intentional behavior, (e) conscious and unconscious activities, (f) changeable and identifiable, (g) purposeful, (h) physical or mental, and (i) particular tactics (Kayaoğlu, 2011, 2012).

Various inventories of learning strategies have been developed (Bialystok, 1985; Chamot, 1987; Cohen & Macaro, 2007). Oxford (1990), building on earlier classification schemes, has provided the most comprehensive and detailed classification of learning strategies, and I employed it in this study. Oxford divides language-learning strategies into two major categories, direct and indirect. Direct strategies are subdivided into three subgroups, that is, memory, cognitive, and compensation strategies, and indirect strategies involve metacognitive, affective, and social strategies. Memory strategies are concerned with mental activities designed to improve encoding and retrieval, whereas cognitive strategies refer to the steps or operations used in learning or problem solving. Compensation strategies are those that help learners make up for their lack of knowledge in the target language. Metacognitive strategies refer to knowledge about cognition and regulation of cognition. Affective strategies involve the management of affection and emotions, and social strategies are concerned with interaction with other people.

Method

Participants and Procedure

The quantitative research tradition was used as the basis in this study, because I was concerned with the comparison between introverted and extroverted learners with regard to their use of language-learning strategies. From 1,640 students, 106 extroverted and 94 introverted students were chosen as a result of completing the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire (EPQ; Eysenck & Eysenck, 1975). They were all enrolled in the intensive English preparatory program at the School of Foreign Languages at Karadeniz Technical University in Trabzon, Turkey. This school offers students a year of intensive, compulsory English study prior to study in their respective departments. The participants, whose ages ranged from 18 to 20 years, were at intermediate language proficiency level.

In addition to the EPQ, the Strategy Inventory for Second Language Learning (SILL; Oxford, 1990) was employed to investigate the participants’ strategy use. I decided the SILL was the most appropriate tool for the following reasons: (a) it addresses both formal and informal setting and language use, (b) it has a high degree of structure so that the type of strategy and also the type of task and setting are defined, and (c) it has been tested in various settings for internal consistency, reliability, and content validity (Oxford, 1990).

Data Analysis

The use of language-learning strategies by introverted and extroverted students (as defined in the EPQ) was analyzed on the basis of Oxford’s (1990) strategy classifications. As the data were basically ordinal, the nonparametric Mann-Whitney U test was used to analyze ranked data to compare the two independent groups.

Results

The use of strategies by introverted and extroverted learners is shown in Table 1. Of the six major strategies, the introverted learners were observed to use a significantly greater number than were the extrovert learners, despite some variations in the use of certain specific strategies (see Appendix for statistical information on specific strategies). I considered it to be important that the introverted learners were found to use a significantly greater number of cognitive strategies (including analyzing expression, using formulas and patterns, repeating, and formally practicing with sounds and writing systems) than were the extrovert learners (see Appendix). The fact that the analysis of metacognitive strategies resulted in a statistically significant difference between the introverted and extroverted learners may have some practical implications, because metacognitive strategies are related to knowledge about cognition, regulation, and actions that involve learners coordinating, organizing, and arranging their learning, and setting goals, objectives, and plans for a language task in an efficient way. The only metacognitive strategy in which the score for extroverted learners were significantly higher than that of the introverted learners was seeking practice opportunities. It is logical to anticipate that extroverts create more opportunities and social situations for themselves to engage in conversation in the target language. It has been shown that the self-monitoring strategy is used significantly more often by proficient language learners who are considered to be extroverts (Ellis, 1994). However, a result that I found surprising was that the introverted students significantly more often used the self-monitoring strategy than did the extroverted students (Z = 6.406, p < .000). This strategy is of great importance because it enables learners to evaluate their overall progress and learning performance. With regard to social strategies, the extroverted students chose to cooperate with peers as a social strategy more frequently than did the introvert learners, who, in contrast, preferred interaction with their teachers, who were proficient users of the language being studied. In regard to affective strategies, there was no statistically significant difference between introverts and extroverts in terms of lowering anxiety level (Z = 5.014, p < .933).

Table 1. Use of Strategies by Introverted and Extroverted Learners

Table/Figure

Conclusion

Contrary to the results in several studies in favor of the correlation between introverted and extroverted personality types and success mediated by language-learning strategies, the results in this study strongly indicate that introverted learners use all the strategies more often than extroverted learners and both extroverted and introverted learners reported a similar level of use of several specific language-learning strategies.

The overall findings indicate that introverted learners consciously employed goal-oriented specific behaviors and mental operations to ease the acquisition, retrieval, storage, and use of information for both comprehension and production and extroverted learners used more interpersonal communication strategies. Yet, the fact that extroverted learners are relatively prone to start a conversation does not necessarily enable them to be better learners, in view of the intricate nature of the language-learning processes. It is, however, a mistake to equate success only with speaking and to assess second-language achievement solely on the basis of observable oral production, ignoring the comprehension and internal mechanism in language learning. It appears that many researchers have undertaken their studies with the premise that introverted learners are reticent, and, therefore, deemed to be less successful than extroverted learners, because introversion is associated with quiet, unsociable, reserved, passive behavior. This premise very much appeals to high-context cultures, for example, USA and the United Kingdom, in which communication exists mainly through speech. In contrast, in high-context cultures such as Japan and Turkey, communication includes body language and the use of silence (Würtz, 2005). Being quiet in these cultures is, therefore, not necessarily a negative trait. Furthermore, in an English as a foreign language setting, the use of English is not limited to simple conversational communication. It includes the construction of knowledge or pragmatic needs in a non-English-speaking environment. As this study took place in Turkey, a high-context culture, it would, therefore, be reasonable to include low- and high-context cultures as variables in further research.

References

Bialystok, E. (1985). The compatibility of teaching and learning strategies. Applied Linguistics, 6, 255-262. http://doi.org/b63j64

Chamorro-Premuzic, T., & Furnham, A. (2003). Personality predicts academic performance: Evidence from two longitudinal university samples. Journal of Research in Personality, 37, 319-338. http://doi.org/cktx28

Chamot, A. U. (1987). The learning strategies of ESL students. In A. Wenden & J. Rubin (Eds.), Learner strategies in language learning (pp. 71-83). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall International.

Cohen, A. D., & Macaro, E. (Eds.). (2007). Language learner strategies: Thirty years of research and practice. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Dewaele, J.-M., & Furnham, A. (2000). Personality and speech production: A pilot study of second language learners. Personality and Individual Differences, 28, 355-365. http://doi.org/c6tffk

Dörnyei, Z. (2005). The psychology of the language learner: Individual differences in second language acquisition. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Ehrman, M., & Oxford, R. (1989). Effects of sex differences, career choice, and psychological type on adult language learning strategies. The Modern Language Journal, 73, 1-13. http://doi.org/cs67ff

Ellis, R. (1994). The study of second language acquisition. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. Eysenck, H. J., & Eysenck, S. B. G. (1975). Manual of the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire. London, UK: Hodder and Stoughton.

Gan, Z. (2011). An investigation of personality and L2 oral performance. Journal of Language Teaching and Research, 2, 1259-1267. http://doi.org/fntndn

Kayaoğlu, M. N. (2011). Language learning strategies: Theory, practice and issues. Saarbrücken, Germany: VDM Verlag Dr. Müller.

Kayaoğlu, M. N. (2012). Gender-based differences in language learning strategies of science students. Journal of Turkish Science Education, 9, 12-24.

Oxford, R. L. (1990). Language learning strategies: What every teacher should know. New York: Newbury House/Harper & Row.

Sidek, H. M. (2012). EFL language learning personality traits and instruction. The International Journal of Learning, 18, 255-272.

Würtz, E. (2005). A cross-cultural analysis of websites from high-text cultures and low-context cultures. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 11, article 13. Accessed at http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol11/issue1/wuertz.html

Appendix

Statistical Information on Specific Strategies

Extrovert Introvert Two-tailed
Mean rank Mann-Whitney U test
Memory Strategies
    Associating/Elaborating 112.72 86.72 Z = 6.277, p < .000
    Using sounds 90.77 111.47 Z = 3.951, p < .009
    Using imagery 112.63 86.82 Z = 6.268, p < .001
    Representing sounds in memory 109.31 90.56 Z = 5.916, p < .012
    Using mechanical technique 113.11 86.28 Z = 6.319, p < .001
    Structured reviewing 117.51 81.32 Z = 6.785, p < .000
Cognitive Strategies
    Repeating 112.67 86.78 Z = 6.272, p < .001
    Formally practicing with sounds and writing systems 110.26 89.49 Z = 6.017, p < .009
    Practicing naturalistically 74.43 123.62 Z = 7.433, p < .000
    Using formulas and patterns 118.79 79.54 Z = 6.852, p < .000
    Reasoning deductively 97.98 103.34 Z = 4.715, p < .500
    Analyzing expression 101.90 98.93 Z = 5.130, p < .709
    Translating (into mother tongue) 122.48 81.01 Z = 2.916, p < .000
Compensation Strategies
    Using mime or gestures 81.94 118.83 Z = 3.062, p < .000
    Coining words 87.83 111.74 Z = 6.173, p < .002
    Using a circumlocution or synonym 119.58 78.98 Z = 7.005, p < .000
    Adjusting or approximating the message 116.54 82.41 Z = 6.682, p < .000
    Using linguistic clues 115.61 83.46 Z = 6.584, p < .004
    Getting help 81.28 122.17 Z = 2.945, p < .000
Metacognitive Strategies
    Paying attention-directed 87.52 112.01 Z = 6.202, p < .002
    Paying attention-selected 119.07 79.56 Z = 6.950, p < .000
    Seeking practice opportunities 90.09 109.74 Z = 5.961, p < .014
    Organizing 104.38 96.13 Z = 5.393, p < .289
    Setting goals and objectives 103.72 91.73 Z = 5.325, p < .128
    Self-monitoring 113.83 85.35 Z = 6.406, p < .000
Affective and Social Strategies
    Making a positive statement 74.80 123.29 Z = 7.398, p < .000
    Discussing feelings 93.86 106.39 Z = 5.605, p < .044
    Taking emotional temperature 110.84 88.84 Z = 6.078, p < .000
    Lowering anxiety level 100.80 100.16 Z = 5.014, p < .933
    Cooperating with peers 92.10 107.95 Z = 5.772, p < .116
    Cooperating with proficient users of the studied language 120.53 75.27 Z = 7.105, p < .000

Bialystok, E. (1985). The compatibility of teaching and learning strategies. Applied Linguistics, 6, 255-262. http://doi.org/b63j64

Chamorro-Premuzic, T., & Furnham, A. (2003). Personality predicts academic performance: Evidence from two longitudinal university samples. Journal of Research in Personality, 37, 319-338. http://doi.org/cktx28

Chamot, A. U. (1987). The learning strategies of ESL students. In A. Wenden & J. Rubin (Eds.), Learner strategies in language learning (pp. 71-83). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall International.

Cohen, A. D., & Macaro, E. (Eds.). (2007). Language learner strategies: Thirty years of research and practice. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Dewaele, J.-M., & Furnham, A. (2000). Personality and speech production: A pilot study of second language learners. Personality and Individual Differences, 28, 355-365. http://doi.org/c6tffk

Dörnyei, Z. (2005). The psychology of the language learner: Individual differences in second language acquisition. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Ehrman, M., & Oxford, R. (1989). Effects of sex differences, career choice, and psychological type on adult language learning strategies. The Modern Language Journal, 73, 1-13. http://doi.org/cs67ff

Ellis, R. (1994). The study of second language acquisition. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. Eysenck, H. J., & Eysenck, S. B. G. (1975). Manual of the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire. London, UK: Hodder and Stoughton.

Gan, Z. (2011). An investigation of personality and L2 oral performance. Journal of Language Teaching and Research, 2, 1259-1267. http://doi.org/fntndn

Kayaoğlu, M. N. (2011). Language learning strategies: Theory, practice and issues. Saarbrücken, Germany: VDM Verlag Dr. Müller.

Kayaoğlu, M. N. (2012). Gender-based differences in language learning strategies of science students. Journal of Turkish Science Education, 9, 12-24.

Oxford, R. L. (1990). Language learning strategies: What every teacher should know. New York: Newbury House/Harper & Row.

Sidek, H. M. (2012). EFL language learning personality traits and instruction. The International Journal of Learning, 18, 255-272.

Würtz, E. (2005). A cross-cultural analysis of websites from high-text cultures and low-context cultures. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 11, article 13. Accessed at http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol11/issue1/wuertz.html

Table 1. Use of Strategies by Introverted and Extroverted Learners

Table/Figure

M. Naci Kayaoğlu, Department of English Language and Literature, Karadeniz Technical University, Üniversite Caddesi, 61080 Trabzon, Turkey. Email: [email protected]

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