The Psychology of the Language Learner: Individual Differences in Second Language Acquisition, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Psychology of the Language Learner

Individual Differences in Second Language Acquisition, 1st Edition

By Zoltán Dörnyei


282 pages

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pub: 2005-11-30
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Research results over the past decades have consistently demonstrated that a key reason why many second language learners fail--while some learners do better with less effort--lies in various learner attributes such as personality traits, motivation, or language aptitude. In psychology, these attributes have traditionally been called "individual differences." The scope of individual learner differences is broad--ranging from creativity to learner styles and anxiety--yet there is no current, comprehensive, and unified volume that provides an overview of the considerable amount of research conducted on various language learner differences, until now.

Each chapter in this new volume focuses on a different individual difference variable. Besides a review of the relevant second language literature, Zoltán Dörnyei presents a concise overview of the psychological research involving each topic. A key concern for the author has been to define the various learner factors as measurable constructs and therefore the discussion includes a summary of the most famous tests and questionnaires in each domain.

A wide range of readers will benefit from this book--students in linguistics, applied linguistics, modern languages, and psychology programs; second language teachers participating in in-service training courses; and researchers in second language acquisition and psychology.


"This book is a substantial resource because, in thoroughly reviewing the literature, Dörneyi provides succinct summaries of many prominent instruments used to measure different ID variables. The breadth of perspectives in this book is wide enough to offer not only an updated ID paradigm for SLA, but also a critical review of the recent development and expansion of the core variables within individual-learner differences….this book would appeal to graduate students and professionals in the fields of linguistics, psychology, and education. It should also serve as a comprehensive reference book for second/foreign language teachers who aim to understand the psychology behind students' acquiring a second language."


"Make no mistake—Zoltán Dörnyei's The Psychology of the Language Learner: Individual Differences in Second Language Acquisition is a significant addition to the literature on language learning…Let us look at what is good—even great—about Dörnyei's book….it was written by an author with an outstandingly broad and deep grasp of his subject matter: the subtleties, historical development, and connections to general theoretical work in disciplines including psychology and professional education….the author's writing style is not stiff or stilted. The book reads a bit like a transcript of an instructor's lecture… informal and candid. It is a really good read, to paraphrase book blurbs more often associated with mystery or mainline fiction works rather than with academic texts. Another strong point of the book centers around the author's belief in the necessity of defining the various learner factors in operational terms as much as possible….Dörnyei includes summaries of the best known and most successful tests and questionnaires in each conceptual area. This book seems to be a labor of love for the author…it is an impressive work."


"…SLA researchers should make this book part of their libraries….it is a useful reference tool for providing greater theoretical coherence to future SLA research."

Canadian Modern Language Review

"This is a very up-to-date and comprehensive summary of current research into IDs and their effects on second language learning, particularly as it takes place in instructed settings. Zoltán Dörnyei's clear sense that existing constructs need revising comes through consistently, and his suggestions about how this could be done are relevant, insightful, and often innovative….I am confident the book will be very welcome to readers."

Peter Robinson

Aoyama Gakuin University, Japan

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface. Introduction: Definition, Brief History, and Taxonomy of Individual Differences. Personality, Temperament, and Mood. Language Aptitude. Motivation and "Self-Motivation." Learning Styles and Cognitive Styles. Language Learning Strategies and Student Self-Regulation. Other Learner Characteristics. Conclusion.

About the Series

Second Language Acquisition Research Series

The Second Language Acquisition Research series presents and explores issues bearing directly on theory construction and/or research methods in the study of second language acquisition. Its titles (both authored and edited volumes) provide thorough and timely overviews of high-interest topics, and include key discussions of existing research findings and their implications. A special emphasis of the series is reflected in the monographs dealing with specific data collection methods or instruments.  Each of these monographs addresses the kinds of research questions for which the method/instrument is best suited, offers extended description of its use, and outlines the problems associated with its use. The volumes in this series will be invaluable to students and scholars alike, and perfect for use in courses on research methodology and in individual research.


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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Cognitive Psychology