PERSONALITY AS A DETERMINANT OF STUDY AND CAREER CHOICE: AN EMPIRICAL STUDY IN ADVANCED LANGUAGE LEARNERS

A. Rosiers, J. Eyckmans

Ghent University (BELGIUM)
Choosing a study programme and consequently a professional career is a challenging process that is influenced by many factors. Besides the required professional competences – e.g. language professionals need a thorough knowledge of their working languages – there are certain factors that come from within the individual that seem to influence the ultimate choice. These factors are sometimes called individual differences or learner-internal variables and very often they refer to the personality of the learner. This contribution focuses on individual differences between three groups of advanced language learners: interpreter students, translation students and students of multilingual communication. In relation to language learning, individual difference variables have gained a lot of importance over the past decades in Second Language Acquisition Research. With this study we aim to explore whether the choice of study programme and the choice of professional career of these students is determined by individual differences underlying the development of non-linguistic skills. To this end, we look into five personality dimensions (cultural empathy, social initiative, flexibility, open-mindedness and emotional stability) which together gages students’ ‘multicultural effectiveness’ (Van der Zee & Van Oudenhoven 2000). The participants are 91 advanced language learners divided into three groups: translation students, interpreter students and students of multilingual communication. The analysis of the data reveals some distinct differences between the groups, especially between the translation students and interpreter students for the personality traits emotional stability and social initiative. In this paper presentation, we will clarify the five personality constructs and discuss their importance for advanced language learners as well as go further into the results of this study.

References:
[1] van der Zee, Karen I. & Jan Pieter van Oudenhoven, (2000) ‘The Multicultural Personality Questionnaire: A Multidimensional Instrument of Multicultural Effectiveness’, European Journal of Personality, 14: 291-309.