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Shy vs. Outgoing: what's better for learning English?

April 19, 2017

Does personality influence learning style? For many learners of English the idea of speaking to native speakers, or even other non-native speakers is intimidating. For others it is no problem at all. Essentially, this is the introvert vs. extrovert debate.

Language learning is a process, and a part of that process is speaking to people. It takes 1000's of hours of conversational practice to become a highly fluent speaker of any foreign language. Even if you are only a little bit shy then it will be hard to create opportunities to speak to other people, and if you are very shy it will be a huge barrier. If you are shy, then even once those conversations do begin, you might find it hard to keep them going. Usually native speakers are not that interested in talking to someone that they don't really know well, can't speak very well, and isn't very confident.

But conversely, many shyer language learners are able to spend more time reading and listening by themselves, and often develop better skills in those two areas. They often do much better on language tests because, in general, when they do produce language, they are more accurate than extroverts.

There are positives and negatives about being either shy, or more outgoing with your second language. Ultimately, its difficult to change our personalities, but in general comparatively more outgoing speakers will be able to learn to speak with greater ease than introverts. If you are very outgoing then you may need to spend more time focussing on reading and writing by yourself to get a balanced skill set. Shyer learners can try to step out of their comfort zone more often. They can also practice speaking by themselves, but usually that doesn't last long.



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