Even if you’ve never heard of the Myers-Briggs personality test, you’ve probably seen the results in the form of four-letter combinations, like INFP or ESTJ. The test goes through phases of popularity — for a time people would even post their Myers-Briggs type on their dating app profiles. Additionally, its scientific validity is the subject of criticism, but it remains a common tool for employers and individuals to assess personality types.
While personality tests like these are far from definitive, they can provide helpful clues about how you work best, and thereby, how you learn best. Read on for some tips on how to approach language learning based on where you fall in each of the four Myers-Briggs categories. If you don’t know your personality type, you can take a quick online version of the test here.
The 4 Pillars of Myers-Briggs
Introverts vs. Extroverts
This is the Myers-Briggs category that translates the most directly to an appropriate language-learning approach. If you’re an extrovert (E), you like being around people and get your energy from being out in the world with others, so finding a community will be an important part of your language-learning journey. You can join a Facebook group or other online forum, or even better, participate in a language class or a Meetup group for language learners, in which you can practice with those who have similar goals.
For introverts (I), the ideas and thoughts in your own head are where you prefer to devote your time and energy. This means solitary study, perhaps through an app like Babbel, is probably the most effective way for you to learn a language. Once you get far enough in your lessons, you would probably enjoy reading books, watching movies or TV shows, or listening to podcasts in the language you’re learning.
Intuitive vs. Sensing
This set of traits relates to how you understand the world and specific problems that arise. If you’re intuitive (N), you tend to look at the big picture and to learn by thinking a problem through. You’re also very interested in the future and what’s possible. This could guide your motivation to stick with your new language. Take some time to think about why you’re learning and the opportunities that are potentially in your future. This could be a powerful way to keep pushing yourself to the finish line.
Sensing (S), on the other hand, means you look primarily to the facts and to your own observations and experiences. You prefer to have a practical reason for learning things and remembering details that are important to you. When it comes to learning a language, you may be more motivated to follow through if your language skills will be useful in your career or in speaking with family members. During your studies, focus on learning vocabulary and grammar that’s relevant to you and that you would actually use in the real world. This will help you focus and stick with your learning.
Thinking vs. Feeling
If you fall under the thinking (T) category, you prefer to apply logic and facts consistently when making decisions. You’re task-oriented and tend to like technical and scientific fields. Thus, thinkers will likely enjoy the technical aspects of learning a language. You should spend a lot of time on mastering grammar rules to help improve your writing and speaking abilities. You may also wish to use a textbook or dictionary to supplement your studies.
If you’re categorized as feeling (F), you make decisions based on values and what’s best for the people involved in a given situation. You tend to like fields involving people skills or communications and are concerned with social harmony. For you, language-learning should focus on forging connections with others and on how native speakers actually talk in social situations. Rather than worrying too much about grammar, you should make sure you’re comfortable speaking, and that your pronunciation skills are solid. You may also want to pick up some slang words and idiomatic expressions that locals use.
Judging vs. Perceiving
If you are categorized as judging (J), you like to have a plan with set goals and deadlines. When it comes to language learning, you’ll be most comfortable if you map out your study plan from the start. Choose what time of day you’ll study and for how long, and set objectives you’d like to accomplish each week. An app might appeal to you because it’s highly organized — it tracks your progress and shows you what lessons lie ahead.
If you fall under the perceiving (P) category, you prefer to be flexible and spontaneous and tend to keep plans to a minimum. For you, scheduling your language lessons may even be demotivating. Instead, you should try a “go with the flow” approach and tackle a lesson when you feel a burst of energy or are particularly motivated. Perceivers also tend to work better right before a deadline, so maybe try learning just a few weeks before a trip abroad or a date with a native speaker.