This article is to give you a little insight on getting the most out of language learning based on your Personality Type. It covers two personality typing tools, The Enneagram and MBTI; and the understanding of these tools, can help teachers and students connect to be effective partners in education.


Our personality shapes the way we interact with the world: how we learn, work, and communicate. Psychological insights can help us become more perceptive about our fears, the recurrent sources of our unhappiness, and the desires that lead us into wasteful conflicts and illusions. They can also provide valuable insight into learning processes, thereby helping you choose learning strategies (and italki language teachers!) that best suit your unique motivations, manner of processing information, and communication style. When learning a language, or anything else for that matter, this means less frustration and struggle, and more progress and enjoyment.


Personality typing is a great starting point to better understand your preferences and behaviours. As a teacher, I interact with many students, all with unique perspectives, values, and preferences. When we study personality types, we can better understand how and why others see the world differently from us. Aside from encouraging greater compassion and acceptance of others, knowledge of this can help shape teaching and learning style. This can make a big difference in how quickly a language can be learnt.


This article focuses on two personality profiling tools that can help teachers and students connect to be effective partners in education. After reading it through, perhaps you as either a teacher or student (or both) can gain a better appreciation of yourself and the person you are learning from or teaching to.



The Enneagram



The Enneagram, developed by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson, is a powerful and insightful tool for understanding ourselves and others. It is a sort of toolbox which explains how the different drivers of personality work and how the coping strategies (personalities) which we develop in response to those play out in practice. It can therefore increase overall levels of emotional intelligence, because it enables us to better understand how and why others see the world differently from us. This ultimately leads to better teamwork during the learning experience.


Each person has a dominant Type (there are nine in total), and each Type has a different motivation. Our motivation is a powerful force that drives most of our behaviour. If a teacher can support and reinforce a student's motivation, it can encourage quicker learning. Below is a summary of the motivation and learning style for each Type. You can discover your Type by taking the tests suggested at the end of this article.



The nine types


1. The Serious Hard Worker

  • Motivation: to be good and correct.
  • Focus: what's wrong (what's not as it should be).
  • Strategy: follow rules, standards, and principles so closely that they will meet all expectations.
  • Learning Style:
    • Attentive in class, takes thorough notes.
    • Wants to know the rules.
    • Learns in a logical, step by step manner.
    • Meticulous attention to detail.



2. The People Pleasing Mentor

  • Motivation: to be appreciated.
  • Focus: other people and their needs.
  • Strategy: earn appreciation by being kind to others.
  • Learning Style:
    • Wants emotional connection to the lesson.
    • Focuses on people and applications.
    • Learns well from role models.
    • Connects with passionate, joyful teachers.



3. The Star of the Class

  • Motivation: to be successful.
  • Focus: results and achievement.
  • Strategy: to win the esteem of others.
  • Learning Style:
    • Desires to improve skill and ability.
    • Reduces lesson to key concepts and results.
    • Hands-on, experiential learning.
    • Eager to jump into action.



4. The Misunderstood Creative

  • Motivation: to find a special and unique identity.
  • Focus: what's missing.
  • Strategy: withdraw from convention and get people to notice how they are different.
  • Learning Style:
    • Needs personal, emotional connection to lesson content.
    • Waits until the mood strikes to study.
    • Pours their soul into their work.
    • Very sensitive to criticism (personal rejection).



5. The Intellectual Outsider

  • Motivation: to be competent and intelligent.
  • Focus: what they wants to know and do well.
  • Strategy: withdraw from the world to study it.
  • Learning Style:
    • Learns best through observation (lecture, books).
    • Comprehension before participation.
    • Satisfaction with full comprehension of a topic.
    • Analysis, finding patterns, speculation, analysis paralysis.



6. The Questioning Friend

  • Motivation: to be supported and secure.
  • Focus: uncertainties, risks, dangers, the unknown.
  • Strategy: seek guidance from those they trust
  • Learning Style:
    • Questions, questions, questions.
    • Detailed, rational analysis.
    • Prefers structure, framework, justified rules.
    • Good at finding problems or deviations.



7. The Cheerleader

  • Motivation: to be happy and fulfilled.
  • Focus: the positive.
  • Strategy: seek happiness/excitement in the world around them.
  • Learning Style:
    • Learns quickly.
    • Learns by association.
    • Mental exploration and experimentation.
    • Can jump into the middle of things without needing the big picture.



8. The Challenger

  • Motivation: to protect themselves and be in control.
  • Focus: power and justice.
  • Strategy: assert their independence.
  • Learning Style:
    • Independent, minimal supervision.
    • Wants to get their hands dirty.
    • Enjoys class discussions, especially debates.
    • Prefers the practical to theory.



9. The Accommodating Companion

  • Motivation: to be at peace.
  • Focus: other people's point of view.
  • Strategy: denies own wants and opinions to accommodate others.
  • Learning Style:
    • Immersion.
    • Experiential exercises, physical movement.
    • Repetition.
    • Routine, predictability, structure.



Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)




MBTI is based on Carl Jung's theory of psychological type. Jung observed that people tend to behave in predictable ways or patterns and called these patterns "types". Each type is one part of the three dimensions of personality he identified:


  • Extroversion-introversion
  • Sensing-intuition
  • Thinking-feeling


According to Jung, each person prefers one of these cognitive functions and finds it most natural to rely on it in everyday situations. His work was expanded in 1962 by Isabel and Katharine Briggs, who added a fourth dimension: judging-perceiving. This gives us four possible pairs of personality traits:


  • Introversion (I) or Extroversion (E)
  • Intuition (N) or Sensing (S)
  • Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)
  • Judging (J) or Perceiving (P)


Aside from providing valuable insight into your learning processes, the MBTI also helps you to understand your preferences and behaviours, how you process information, and how you make decisions. Let's take a closer look...



Extroversion (E) v. Introversion (I)


Contrary to popular thinking, Introversion does not imply shyness, and Extroversion does not necessarily mean outgoing or good social skills. Rather, this preference tells us how people "charge their batteries". Introverts find energy in their inner world of ideas, concepts, and abstractions. Extroverts find energy in things and people. The majority of students are Extroverts. They learn best by explaining to others. They do not know if they understand the subject until they try to explain it to themselves or others.


Introverted students want to develop frameworks that integrate or connect the subject matter. It's believed that people can hold seven (plus-or-minus-two) chunks of knowledge in their minds at any given time. If each knowledge chunk contains a specific fact, then the amount of knowledge possessed is limited. But if each chunk contains many interconnected facts, a network or framework of facts, then the amount of knowledge is almost unlimited. To an introvert, disconnected chunks are not knowledge, but merely information. Knowledge means interconnecting material and seeing the "big picture". Introverted students need to learn how to chunk, or group and interconnect, knowledge (e.g. using tools like compare/contrast tables, flowcharts, or concept maps).



Sensing (S) v. Intuition (N)


The majority of student are Sensing types. They rely on their five senses. They are detail oriented, desire facts, and trust them. Intuitive people on the other hand, seek out patterns and relationships among the facts they have gathered. They trust hunches and their intuition and look for the "big picture".



Thinking (T) v. Feeling (F)


Some of us decide things impersonally on analysis, logic, and principle; whilst others make decisions by focusing on human values. Thinking students value fairness. What could be fairer than focusing on the logic of a situation and placing great weight on objective criteria in making a decision? Thinking students like clear courses and topic objectives.


Feeling students value harmony. They focus on human values and needs as they make decisions or arrive at judgments. They tend to be good at persuasion and facilitating differences among group members. Feeling students like working in groups, especially harmonious groups.


About 64% of all males have a preference for Thinking, while only about 34% of all females have a preference for Thinking.



Judging (J) v. Perceptive (P)


Some of us like to postpone action and seek more data. Others like to make a quick decision. The majority of students are Judging types. These people are decisive, self-regimented, and likes to plan. They focus on completing the task, only want to know the essentials, and take action quickly (perhaps too quickly). They plan their work and work their plan. Deadlines are sacred. Their motto is: just do it!


Perceptive people are curious, adaptable, and spontaneous. They start many tasks, want to know everything about each task, and often find it difficult to complete a task. Deadlines are meant to be stretched. Their motto is: on the other hand...


So, the MBTI is another tool to help you understand your key learning drives. The clearer and deeper the answer to the following questions each Type receives during the learning process, the greater their interest in the topic (and therefore absorption of information); below is a “cheat sheet” for your reference:



  • ESTJ - Does this solve a problem? (their interest in studying something is driven by the desire to gain practical experience in the implementation of certain ideas or activities).
  • ISTJ - Is this practical and useful to me? (want to gain experience in successfully implementing plans or carrying out hands-on activities).
  • ENTJ - Will this help me solve a problem? (want to learn about ideas of popular interest, as well as by the need to find practical solutions to pressing problems).
  • INTJ - Why is this so? (enjoy the search for ideas that can answer not only fundamental questions, but also practical questions of popular interest).
  • ESTP - Will learning this help me act more effectively? (want to find practical solutions to pressing problems).
  • ISTP - How does this work? (want to learn skills that will allow them to work actively with, e.g. operate, maintain, and repair, various devices and systems).
  • ENTP - In what ways can the given problem be solved? (want to find solutions to complex, intellectually challenging tasks).
  • INTP - How is this structured? (enjoy the search for solutions to fundamental issues, and want to get to the bottom of how complex systems work).
  • ESFJ - Will this help me in work with others? (want to gain new skills and put them into practice).
  • ISFJ - Will this help me in my work? (enjoy the possibility of applying what they learn to practical work).
  • ENFJ - Is this helpful to people? (want to find solutions to people-related issues).
  • INFJ - Is it good for people? (want to find solutions to people-related issues).
  • ESFP - Am I enjoying this? (enjoy the possibility of using what they learn to bring joy to others).
  • ISFP - Is it beautiful? (enjoy the possibility of receiving aesthetic pleasure from something).
  • ENFP - What solutions to people-related issues does it provide? or How is this relevant to other people? (the more positively they think that people will respond to the subject, the greater their interest and enjoyment in it, and the greater their desire to apply what they learn).
  • INFP - Are we doing the right thing? (want to find solutions to issues facing humanity).


Well, I hope you found this all interesting. I hope that by discovering your personality type, it will help you make better choices that enable you to learn a language quicker. If you want help learning English in a fun, effective way, please visit my teacher profile here.


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Hero image by Jeremy Bishop (CC0 1.0)