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Juan José Lladó, Daniela Silva Nauschuetz CERP del Este Didactics I

Principles of Language Learning and Teaching

Didactics I Principles of Language Learning and Teaching Summary Chapter 6 Personality Factors • This chapter

Summary Chapter 6

of Language Learning and Teaching Summary Chapter 6 Personality Factors • This chapter will deal with
of Language Learning and Teaching Summary Chapter 6 Personality Factors • This chapter will deal with

Personality Factors

This chapter will deal with one of two facets of the affective domain of second language acquisition

The facet exposed in this chapter is the

acquisition • The facet exposed in this chapter is the intrinsic side of affectivity → personality

intrinsic side of affectivity → personality factors within

a person that contribute in some way to the success of language learning.

If theories of language acquisition were only based on cognitive considerations, the most fundamental side of human behavior would be omitted.

Affectivity domain is difficult to describe scientifically.

a large number of variables are implied in the emotional side of human behavior in the second language learning process

difficulty presented by:

the task of subdividing and categorizing the factors of the affective domain

defining terms such as “motivation” or “culture conflict”

other concepts, such as empathy, aggression, extroversion and others, are also difficult to explain empiracally

Systematic study of the role of personality in second language acquisition has led to greater understanding of the language learning process and to improved language teaching designs.

The Affective Domain

Affect → emotion or feeling.

Affective domain → the emotional side of human behavior. It may be juxtaposed to the cognitive side.

The development of affective states or feelings involves a variety of personality factors, feelings both about ourselves and about others.

Benjamin Bloom and his colleagues provided an extended definition of the affective domain:

1. Development of affectivity begins with →

domain: 1. Development of affectivity begins with → receiving . Individuals must be aware of the

receiving. Individuals must be aware of the

environment sorrounding them and be conscious of everything that it is in it, and be willing to receive and give a stimulus to their controlled or selected attention

2. Individuals must go beyond receiving →

attention 2. Individuals must go beyond receiving → responding, committing themselves in at least some small

responding, committing themselves in at least

some small measure to a phenomenon or a person. May be acquiscence in one dimension, but in other it could mean that the person is willing to respond voluntarily and receives satisfaction from that response.

3. Third level of affectivity →

from that response. 3. Third level of affectivity → valuing. Placing worth on a thing, a

valuing. Placing worth on a thing, a behavior or a person.

Values are internalized, so valuing takes characteristics of beliefs or attitudes.

4. Fourth level of affective domain →


of values into a system of beliefs,

determining interrelationships among them, and establishing a hierarchy of values within the system.

5. Finally, individuals become characterized by and understand themselves in terms of their

value system

. They act accordingly with the values they have internalized.

Notions of: receiving, responding and valuing are both fundamental and universal.

Second language learners need to be receptive both to those with whom they are communicating and to the language itself, responsive to individuals and to the context of communication, and willing and able to place a certain value on the communicative act of impersonal exchange.

Kennet Pike (1967) said that language is behavior, that is, a phase of human activity which must not be treated in essence as structurally divorced from the structure of nonverbal human activity.

Affective Factors in Second Language Acquisition

Understanding how human beings feel, respond, believe and value → important aspect of a theory of second language acquisition.

Consideration of specific affective factors in human behavior and how they relate to second language acquisition:


Is probably the most noticeable aspect of any human behavior.

It could easily be claimed that no successful cognitive or affective activity can be made without some degree of self-esteem, that is, belief in your own capabilities to successfully perform that activity.

Malinowski (1923) noted that all human beings have a need for phatic communion → defining onself and finding acceptance in expressing that self in relation to valued others.

Personality development universally involves the growth of a person's concept of self, acceptance of self, and reflection of self as seen in the interaction between self and others.

Definition of self-esteem (Coopersmith, 1967)

Self-esteem → personal judgement or evaluation which individuals make and customarily maintain of themselves.

It expresses an attitude of approval or disapproval, and indicates the extent to which they believe themselves to be capable, significant, succesfull and worthy.

It is a subjective experience which the individual conveys to others by verbal reports and other overt expressive behavior.

People derive their sense of self-esteem from the accumulation of experiences with themselves and with others, and from the external world around them.

Three general levels of self-esteem have been described to capture its multidimensionality:



General or global self-esteem. Relatively stable in a mature adult, and is resistant to change

except by active and extended therapy. It is the general evaluation one makes of one's own worth over time and across a number of situations.


Situational or specific self-esteem.

Refers to one's self-appraisals in particular life situations,

such as social interaction, work, education or different personality traits. The degree of specific self-esteem a person has may vary depending upon the situation or the trait in question.



Task self-esteem. Relates to particular tasks within specific situations. Example: in the

educational domain, task self-esteem might refer to one subject-matter area.

Adelaide Heyde (1979), studying this three levels of self-esteem, found that they are all correlated positively with performance on the oral production measure, with the highest correlation being task self-esteem and oral production measures.

Different studies revealed that self-esteem appears to be an important variable in second language learning.

Does self-esteem causes language success, or dos language success causes self-esteem? Both are interacting factors.

Teachers really can have a positive and influential effect on both the linguistic perfomance and the emotional well-being of the student.

Attribution Theory and Self-Efficacy

Bernard Weiner → attribution theory focuses on how people explain the causes of their own successes and failures.

Weiner and others describe attribution theory in terms of four explanations for success and or failure in achieving a personal objective:



perceived difficulty of a task


Internal to the learner

External circumstances outside of the


Example: failure to get a high grade on a final exman in a language class might for some be judged to be a consequence of their poor ability or effort, and by others to the difficulty of exam, and perhaps others to just luck → this is where self-efficacy comes in.

If learners feel like they are capable of carrying out a given task, that is, a high sense of self- efficacy, and appropriate degree of effort may be devoted to achieving success.

Not being successful in a task may be attributed by those with high self-efficacy to not enough effort, but rarely they would “excuse” a bad performance to bad luck. Learners with low self- efficacy would, in contrast, attribute failure to external factors as well as lack of ability.

It is essential that studes believe in themselves in order to succeed a set of tasks.

One of the most important roles of successful teachers is to facilitate high levels of self-efficacy in their students.

Willingness to Communicate

A factor related to attribution and self-efficacy → extent to which learners display willingness to communicate as they tackle a second language.

Willingness to communicate (WTC)

“underlaying continuum representing the predisposition toward or away from communicating, given the choice” (MacIntyre, 2002)

“the intention to iniciate communication, given the choice” (MacIntyre, 2001)

MacIntyre proposed a number of cognitive and affective factors that contribute to the WTC:



intergroup climate

two levels of self-esteem:

situational self-esteem (as described earlier)

global level labeled as “L2 self-confidence”

Higher levels of WTC were associated with learners who experienced social support, particularly from friends, offering further evidence of the power of socially constructed conceptions of self.


Another variable that is closely related to self-esteem and self-efficacy → concept of inhibition

Human beings, in the understanding of themselves, build sets of defenses to protect the ego

Newborn baby → has no concept of its own self, gradually learns to identify a self that is distinct from others

Childhood → growing degrees or awareness, responding and valuing create a system of affective traits that individuals identify with themselves

Adolescence → the physical, emotional and cognitive changes of the individual bring on mounting defensive inhibitions to protect a fragile ego.

This process of building defenses continues into adulthood.

Higher self-esteem and ego strenght → more able to withstand threats to their existance, so their defenses are lower

Weaker self-esteem → maintain walls of inhibition to protect what is self-perceived as a weak or fragile ego, or a lack of self-confidence in a situation or task.

The human ego encompasses what Alexander Guiora (1972) and Ehrman (1996) referred to as

language ego

or the very personal, egoistic nature of second language acquisition.

Meaningful language acquisition involves some degree of identity conflict.

Guiora (1972) through a experiment, concluded that a direct relationship existed between empathy (a component of language ego, closely linked to inhibition) and pronunciation ability in second language. Later on there were some critiques made towards this study but nevertheless, Guiora research team provided and important hypothesis that has tremenduos intuitive support.

Ehrman (1999, 1993) provided further support for the importance of language ego in studies of learners with thin (permeable) and thick (not as permeable) ego boundaries.

Such findings along with Guiora's earlier work, have given rise to a number of techniques that reduce inhibition in the foreign language classroom → creation of contexts in which students are encouraged to take risks, to orally try out hypotheses, in order to break down some of those barriers.

Mistakes can be viewed as threats to one's ego.

Internally → one's critical self and one's performing self can be in conflict: the learner performs something “wrong” and becomes critical of his or her own mistake.

Externally → learners perceive others as critical, even judging their very person when they make a mistake in a second language.

Earl Stevick (1976) spoke of language learning as involving a number of forms of “alienation” between:

the critical me and the performing me

my native culture and my target culture

me and my teacher

me and my fellow students

This alienation is a result of the defenses that we build around ourselves.

These defenses inhibit learning and their removal can therefore promote language learning.

Risk Taking

One of the prominent characteristics of good language learning (according to Rubin and Thompson) is the ability to make intelligent guesses

Risk taking → important characteristic of successful learning of a second language.

Beebe (1983) described some of the negative ramifications that help grow fear of risk taking both in the classroom and in natural settings:

Classroom → a bad grande, failing an exam, a reproach from the teacher, facial expressions of classmates, punishment or embarrassment imposed by oneself.

Outside the classroom → they fear looking ridiculous, they fear frustation coming from a listener's blank look showing that they have failed to communicate, among others, but perhaps the worst of all, they fear a loss of identity.

The classroom antidote to such fears (according to Dufeu) → stablish an adequate affective framework so that learners “feel comfortable” as they take their first public steps in the strange world of a foreign language.

We might be tempted to assume that taking more high risks will mean positive results in second language learning, however, this is not usually the case → individuals with a high motivation to achieve are moderate, not high, risk-takers. Anxiety

Construct of anxiety plays a major affective role in SLA.

Spielberger (1983) defined anxiety as “the subjective feeling of tension, apprehension, nervousness, and worry associated with feelings of uneasiness, frustration, self-doubt, apprehension or worry”

Can be experienced in different levels

Trait anxiety → deepest, or global level. Is a more permanent predisposition to be anxious.

State anxiety → at more momentary or situational level, is experienced in lation to some particular event or act.


Language anxiety → focuses more on situational nature of state anxiety.

Three components have been identified in order to break down the construct into researchable issues:

1. Communication apprehension, arising from learners' inability to adquately express mature thoughts and ideas

2. Fear of negative social evaluation, arising from a learner's need to make a positive social impression to others

3. Test anxiety, or apprehension over academic evaluation

Another insight that could be applied to understanding anxiety: debilitative anxiety vs facilitative anxiety, or “harmful” and “helpful”. Other authors preferred to identify tension as a more neutral concept to describe the possibility of both “dysphoric” (detrimental) and “euphoric” (beneficial) effects in learning a foreign language.


Human being is a social animal → maintains the bonds of society through language.

Transaction → process of reaching out beyond the self to others, language is a major tool used to accomplish that process.

Empathy in common terminology is the process of reaching beyond the self to understand what another person is feeling. Language is one of the primary means of empathizing.

Guiora defined empathy as “a process of comprehending in which a temporary fusion of self- object boundaries permits an immediate emotional apprehension of the affective experience of another”.

Two necessary aspects to the development and exercising of empathy:

an awareness and knowledge of one's own feelings

identification with another person

Meaning you cannot fully empathize or know someone else until you adequately know yourself.

Communication requieres a sophisticated degree of empathy, in order to communicate with others you need to understand their affective and cognitive states.

Oral communication → it is easy to achieve empathetic communication because there is instant feedback from the hearer. A misunderstood word or phrase can be question by the hearer and then rephrased by the speaker.

Written communication → requires a special kind of empathy, cognitive empathy. Writer must communicate ideas by means of a very clear empathetic intuition and judgement of the reader's state of mind and structure of knowledge.

Second language learning → problem of empathy is bigger

learners-speakers must not only correctly identify cognitive and affective sets in the hearer, but also they must do so in a language they are insecure.


Extroversion and its counterpart, introversion → important factors in SLA.

This terms are often misunderstood due to the tendency to stereotype extroversion.

Extroversion → is the extent to which a person has a deep-deated need to receive ego enhancement, self-esteem and a sense of wholeness from other people

Introversion → receiving that affirmation within oneself.

One study led by Busch explored the relationship of introversion and extroversion to English proficiency in adult Japanese learners. She hypothesized that extroverted students would be more proficient than introverts, but results did not show that. In fact, introverts were significantly better than extroverts in their pronunciation.

When discussing extroversion and introversion, it is important to take into consideration the cultural aspect of it.