To what extent do monolinguals and bilinguals differ in terms of HEXACO personality traits? How do balanced and unbalanced bilinguals vary in terms of personality? What are the reasons for speaking multiple languages? An exploratory analysis.

Vanessa Whiteley

Abstract


Previous research indicates that bilinguals have higher scores in certain personality traits than monolinguals; the present study examines further evidence for this claim. Participants: N = 256 (F = 170, M = 86) completed a questionnaire-based survey asking about language use in up to four of their spoken languages, as well as their reasons for taking up each new language; they then completed the HEXACO 60-item personality inventory (Appendix 2). To compare monolinguals and bilinguals, independent-sample t-tests were used to analyse differences in each of the six personality traits between the two groups. One-way ANOVAs were used to analyse personality differences between monolinguals, balanced bilinguals and unbalanced bilinguals. Content analysis of reasons for speaking a new language resulted in 5 extracted themes: education, relocation, native, leisure, and work. Bilinguals showed significantly higher openness to experience compared to monolinguals; ANOVAs showed that balanced bilinguals were significantly higher in honesty-humility than unbalanced bilinguals; balanced bilinguals were significantly higher in conscientiousness than monolinguals and unbalanced bilinguals; and monolinguals were significantly lower in openness to experience than both balanced bilinguals and unbalanced bilinguals. Content analysis revealed the main reason for taking up a new language was education, followed by leisure - involving reasons such as the longing to take up the language. This study adds to the literature of bilingualism and personality, while suggesting the importance of education in learning languages and highlighting the need to investigate the direction of the relationship between language learning and personality.


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