Personality Factors

Personality Factors

Understanding how human beings feel and respond and believe and value is an exceedingly important aspect of a theory of second language acquisition.

We turn now to a consideration of specific personality factors in human behavior and how they relate to second language acquisition.

Personality factors are the intrinsic side of affectivity within a person that can contribute in some way to the success of language learning.These factors will be dealt below.=)


Basically, self-esteem is a psychological and social phenomenon in which an individual evaluates his/her competence and own self according to some values, which may result in different emotional states, and which becomes developmentally stable but is still open to variation depending on personal circumstances. A definition is very “useful in making the distinction between authentic or healthy self-esteem and pseudo or unhealthy self-esteem” (Reasoner 2004)


Generally speaking, self-esteem is one of the central drives in human beings. When the level of self-esteem is low, the psychological homeostasis is unbalanced, creating insecurity, fear, social distance and other negative  situations. Self-esteem can exercise a determining influence on a person’s life,  for good or bad; when there is very low self-esteem, this may even bring about a need for clinical treatment. However, though in the context of language learning low self-esteem is a non-clinical phenomenon, it can have serious consequences. Students may avoid taking the necessary risks to acquire communicative competence in the target language; they may feel deeply insecure and even drop  out of the class.

Taking these effects into consideration, in the language classroom it is important to be concerned about learners’ self-esteem.

However, this  implies more than doing occasional activities to make students reflect about their  worthiness and competence. As a first step, teachers themselves need to be  aware of their own self-esteem, to understand what self-esteem is, what are the sources and components, and how applications can be implemented in the language classroom. This implementation should be based on a valid framework.


Inhibition is closely related to self-esteem: the weaker the self-esteem; the stronger the inhibition to protect the weak ego. Ehrman (1993)suggests that students with thick, perfectionist boundaries find language learning more difficult than those learners with thin boundaries who favour attitudes of openness and the tolerance of ambiguity. As Brown (1994)noted, language learning implies a great deal of self-exposure as it necessarily involves making mistakes. Due to the defence mechanisms outlined above, these mistakes can be experienced as threats to the self. It can be argued that the students arrive at the classroom with those defences already built and that little can be done to remove them. However, classroom experience shows that the teacher ‘s attitude towards mistakes can reinforce these barriers creating, in the long run, learning blocks, or the self-fulfilling prophecy: “I can’t do it. I ‘m not good at it. ”

In short, , this produces in the learner a deep-seated fear of inadequacy and deficiency. Fortunately, we are witnessing that a growing number of language teachers are becoming increasingly aware that focusing on students’ strengths rather than weaknesses is a powerful way to break down learning blocks and overcome inhibition.

If you want to learn more about inhibition,you can visit this site.




 As learners we have all encountered this feeling, which is no doubt closely linked with self-esteem and inhibition. Any task that involves a certain degree of challenge can expose the learner to feelings of self-doubt, uneasiness or fear. Behind these emotions lies the question: shall I succeed? As second language learning is a highly demanding task, it is very likely to raise anxiety in the learner. Anxiety can be considered a negative factor in language learning, and several teaching methodologies in modern approaches indicate that anxiety should be kept as low as possible.

Brown (1994)makes the distinction between trait anxiety —the permanent predisposition to be anxious —and state anxiety as the feeling that is experienced in relation to some particular situation. Many studies (e. g. Horwitz et al. 1986; MacIntyre and Gardner 1991; Young 1991; Phillips 1992)conducted on state anxiety indicate that foreign language anxiety can have a negative effect on the language learning process. Conversely, Bailey (1983, in Brown, 1994)notes that a certain concern or anxiety is a positive factor. This kind of anxiety is described as facilitating the learning process. In her actual classroom experience, the writer has witnessed that just as tasks without a certain amount of challenge can undermine the learner ‘s interest, assignments without balance and enough support can be disheartening as they can submerge the learner into a state of emotional dullness or paralysis. In sum, a certain degree of concern, anticipation and curiosity can be useful and even necessary to achieve, but too much anxiety can have an inhibiting effect and impede the process of successful language learning.



Empathy, the ability to put oneself in another’s shoes, is also predicted to be relevant to acquisition in that the empathic person may be the one who is able to identify more easily with speakers of a target language and thus accept their input as intake for language acquisition (lowered affective filter).

Empathy appears to interact with other attitudinal factors. Schumann (1975) suggests that “… the natural factors that induce ego flexibility and lower inhibitions (assumed to relate to increased empathy) are those conditions which make the learner less anxious, make him feel accepted and make him form positive identifications with speakers of the target language.’’


Linguists defined risk-taking as an ability of being eager to try out new information intelligently regardless of embarrassment in linguistics. Risk-taking is  one of the important parts in learning second language. Because of a strong intention of achieving success on learning something they yearn for mastering, language learners are willing to absorb new knowledge from their teacher spontaneously but how to interact with teacher? The easiest manner is to take the risk. Although it may be impulsive and too awkward to make a mistake, a good learner should require this characteristic to succeed in Second Language Acquisition. According to Brown, “interaction requires the risk of failing to produce intended meaning, of failing to interpret intended meaning, of being laughed at, of being shunned or rejected. The rewards, of course, are great and worth the risks” (2001, p. 166). In other words, risk-taking is a crucial interactive process to learn a language in the ESL/EFL classroom. Therefore, if a language learner interacts with the teacher automatically, he/she can acquire a foreign language without any difficulty.

According to Brown, “The key to risk-taking as a peak performance strategy is not simply in taking the risks. It is in learning from your ‘failures’. When you risk a new technique in the classroom, try a new approach to a difficult student, or make a frank comment to a supervisor, you must be willing to accept possible ‘failure’ in your attempt. Then, you assess all the facets of that failure and turn it into an experience that teaches you something about how to calculate the next risk” (2001, P.428). In this case, it is essential to accept the fiasco and internalize it as the learning experience. Afterward, language learners can master that language gradually.


Let us  show how to encourage risk taking


1. Demonstrate risk-taking

First, find something at which you’re pretty good and let your students see you do it. Then make the point that regardless of your current performance level, you will never improve at that activity unless you are willing to push yourself to the point of making a mistake.

For instance, you can demonstrate this by bringing a basketball into your classroom and doing a ball-handling drill in front of your students. Then, you can  tell them you have a choice: you  can do it slowly and perfectly forever, or you can try to improve your performance a little and risk making a mistake. Well, you want to get better, so you start to move it more quickly and in few new ways. (Usually students in the front row start to get a little nervous at this point, so  you move to an area of the room where you  know a flying ball won’t break a window or injure a kid.) Eventually, you mess up, drop the ball, take a bow, and remind your students that even though the ball escaped you  this time, you’ll be able to hold onto it a little longer next time because when you make a mistake, it’s an opportunity learn. In other words, you will be better tomorrow because you were willing to take a risk in the classroom today.

2. Be willing to fail

Second, be willing to try something at which you are terrible, and insist that your students celebrate your willingness to try.

3. Build risk-taking into your classroom management

Develop a management system that rewards students who support their classmates and provides consequences for those who bully, taunt or tease. The rewards can be as simple as extra points on assignments if the whole class applauds after each presentation. The consequence could be a seat outside the door researching the presentation topics instead of listening to what classmates have learned.

Other means

You need to let your students know that you understand that trying new skills and learning new material can be intimidating, especially when so many of those efforts are taking place in a classroom that is full of their peers. Somehow, you need to let them know that you appreciate and support all of their efforts, and that you will insist that their classmates demonstrate that encouraging attitude as well.

Finally, make it clear that effort will lead to improvement. Your applause for the participation is sincere, but so is your belief that they can do better — that they can achieve mastery of the material. You will be there to encourage, guide and help them recover from missteps. You will also be there to help them celebrate the accomplishments born of their courage and work.


Motivation is often defined as a psychological trait which leads people to achieve a goal. For language learners, mastery of a language may be a goal. For others, communicative competence  or even basic communication skills could be a goal.

Brown says that motivation is an inner drive,impulse,emotion or desire that moves one to a particular action.Motivation is typically examined in terms of the intrinsic and extrinsic orientation of the learner.Those who learn for their own self-perceived needs and goals are intrinsically motivated and those who pursue a goal only to receive an external reward from someone else are extrinsically motivated.

Extroversion or Introversion

Another level of learning styles depends on whether a person is an extrovert learner or an introvert learner. Extroverts are very social, can often read others, enjoy being part of a group and often work well with others. Extroverts enjoy participating in lively, thought provoking discussions. They may often speak just to fill the silence, are interested in trying new things, and focus on the outer world.

Introvert learners work better alone, are very self-motivated and prefer solitary activities. They often march to the beat of a different drum. Introverted learners prefer to process ideas by thinking to themselves. They will speak only when they have processed an idea, rehearsed it, and prepared themselves to share the information. When they are forced to comment before completely processing, they often feel pushed and feel they have said something unproductive. Introvert learners often have the ability to understand their own feelings, motivations and moods. They focus on the inner world of ideas and are often quietly thinking through problems when you think you are being ignored.



My name is Emine. I'm a student in FLE at METU. I like reading adventure and criminal books, trekking, archaeology and learning new languages.
This entry was posted in Introduction to the Personality Factors in SLA. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Personality Factors

  1. Merista says:

    thanks, your post is help me so much. but could you please put the references. that’s will be better 🙂

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