The digital wave has instigated significant changes into every sphere of life including the process of learning. Facebook is one digital tool that that has revolutionized the learning of English language by foreign students. There is a considerable correlation between the usage of English in the social media and the corresponding language growth of those involved. To be considered is how personality affects this form of learning. Personality traits determine how easily a person interacts with the social media especially Facebook. There is a nearconnection between personality qualities and English usage on Facebook by students who seek to learn English as the foreign language. There are five major personality traits that bring out this matter clearly; dutifulness, agreeableness, openness to experience, neuroticism, and extraversion(Po-Chi Kao, 2014, p 17).
Facebook is a system of Web 2.0 technology, a social media platform that avails of people opportunities for interaction, socializing, and communicating. It has revolutionized the communication zone to a level never seen before. It connects people with friends and relatives, colleagues and their bosses. In the school setting, Facebook connects teachers to students; it connects students with one another. As a result, it creates a virtual community of teachers, instructors, and students. In this platform, teachers can post assignments to students through a class Facebook group (Suthiwartnarueput, 2012, p 196). Online instructional videos can also be uploaded. It has made what could be done physically to be achieved virtually. There are functions such as the ‘likes’ button that ignite conversation and feedback from users.
It is important to realize that the language used in Facebook is English. The software professionals who created Facebook designed it in the English language. Therefore, every user has at least to possess a simple command of the English language. As a result, foreign language students who seek to learn English can use it to practice and learn the language quickly via online interactions. Facebook has enabled knowledge exchange in dimensions such as online meeting and discussion that were impossible in the recent past. Through, Facebook, students of English can exchange ideas, interact, collaborate and socialize with their colleagues in virtual setting(Shih, 2013, p 52).
As regards the using of Facebook as a learning tool, it is important to remember that most Facebook users are young; between the ages of 14 and 30. As of July, 2011, over 500 million individuals were using Facebook to power their interaction, communication and to socialize.Students fall into this category and, therefore, this is a site that can easily be an extension of the classroom. Facebook creates a virtual community that is aided by information technology. It is built entirely on the communication and interactions between users for interrelating, contributing and sharing knowledge collectively (Muhammad, 2010, p 3). During the learning of English, a student acquires new insights through a procedure of attempts that are self-motivated and exploration of existing knowledge of vocabulary, grammar, tenses, conjugation and so on. Students are encouraged to participate in active conversations with their fellow students and teachers in English. They are also urged to cooperate with others in social activities that will give them avenues of learning new grammar or vocabulary (Shih, 2013, p 52).
Studies on the impacts of Facebook on the EFL learning skills continue to elicit sufficient interest among researchers. A study done by Shih involved categorizing students into three groups on the basis of their scores. These categories were namely high, medium, and low scores. Students in the high score group scored over 90 points, and those in the medium category scored between 70 and 89 points. The low score students group on the other hand scored less than 70 points. These were results before integrating the use of Facebook into the learning of English in order to evaluate its effects. After the introduction of the Facebook-integrated learning process, the students were required to post their English assignments on Facebook. The students then evaluated their peer’s work and offered sufficient feedback (Kao, 2014, p 18).
Shih noted a significant improvement in the scores of students in all the three categories; high, medium and low. There was a credible development on various specifics regarding the learning of English language. These areas includedthe organization of paragraphs, vocabulary, grammar and content of their assignments. The content evaluation was made possible by the use of the ‘like’ button. Probably, after the students posted their work online, during peer review, they liked each other’s work based on content. Also, it’s possible that the likes were also as a result of a student having the right tenses, interesting grammar and proper choice of vocabulary. Through this platform, it was possible for students to access their peer’s work and in the process do self-evaluation in comparison to the others that they encountered (Kao, 2014, p 18). Furthermore, the convergence of various media platforms have affected how content flows from one medium to another. Hence, this has affected communication in social media platforms like Facebook (Shifman 7).
In fact, every student is possible to have had a desire to do better next time, probably get the most likes. Therefore, the creation of this kind of motivation is essential in building significant enthusiasm in the learning of English as a foreign language.It is known that sufficient knowledge of English grammar not only assists students to compose paragraphs in Standard English but also diminishes the use of vernacular or non-standard English. For example, non-standard English involves usage of objective pronouns in the place of subjective pronouns, omitting of some prepositions, application of double negative form, and errors in irregular verb forms. Students will be under pressure to use Facebook to interact with others using the English language. However, they will be careful to avoid eliciting dislikes when they commit simple grammatical mistakes (Suthiwartnarueput, 2012, p 197).
Therefore, they will try as much as possible to know the right grammar because when they write comments on Facebook, It will be like an evaluation platform. Also, the emergence of internet memes has affected the language used in Facebook. Shifman describes memes as a particular idea presented as a written text or in a language that differs from academic language. The use of memes is described as abstract and controversial, and does not promote the use of English (Shifman 13).
The availability of Facebook and the ease with which it can be accessed is an added advantage to students seeking to learn English as a foreign language in terms of being an enabler for collaborative learning. Cooperative learning plays a chief role in the learning of languages by escalating both the level and the enthusiasm injected in participation. In the research done by Shih, the improvements noted were made possible mainly because Facebook offers several opportunities to the students in assessing other students. The students indicated a huge advancement in their sentence structure, grammar, vocabulary and organization of the words. It was mainly through the observation of their peers’ work that the students evaluated themselves. They gained knowledge and essential skills from the comments made by their peers, feedback and writings of fellow students (Muhammad, 2010, p 4). The most fascinating aspect was that the scholars injected huge efforts in correcting, improving and modifying their work on the basis of the work posted by their peers.
Al- Shehri discovered fascinating pointers through his study that involved 33 male students who were taking English major in a Saudi Arabian University. He noted that students enjoyed spending a lot of hours hooked up on Facebook. These students were had the capability of organizing their thoughts and ideas from the information available from various online sources. Moreover, Al-Shehri, found out that Facebook assisted in the promotion of positive interaction between the teachers and students through comments, discussions, negotiations, and questions (Kao, 2014, p 18).
Participation in Facebook improves the language skills of students. When the meanings of education are properly attended to, the mechanics of learning take care of themselves. It helps students rely less on their mother tongues. Students in Facebook are more successful in English learning in such an environment as they lay emphasis on the experience of making meaning as opposed to the mechanics of grammar learning. Motivation is another advantage that Facebook brings into the learning of the English language. The confidence levels in this social media platform are also high, and this is an essential ingredient in the learning of a foreign language like English. The discovery of new words, the learning of new words through peers or classmates, the looking up of new words learned in Facebook, and the usage of these new words in writing are elements that assist students to learn (Muhammad, 2010, p 7).
Personality traits of students play a critical role in their learning of the English language. There are some characters that find it easy to learn English through social media sites like Facebook while others don’t. These personality traits are based on five major scopes. These are interpersonal, attitudinal, emotional, motivational and experiential because people differ in various ways and this impact on their approach to learning English as a foreign language. Researchers identified categories of introvert and extrovert students. It was discovered that introverted students chose to work themselves and attained better results in written tests while the extrovert students preferred interacting with others and got better scores in oral tests (Ong, 2011, p 181).
In addition, according to a research carried out by Moody, it was determined that the intuitive students were able to grasp common concepts and performed better in tests that involved essays. On the other hand, sensing students found memorizing facts and details more appealing and thus were inclined to objective tests that included a set of choices. These results were reached through the use of distinct personality measures. Some students can have a poor attitude towards both the use of Facebook and English language. Others would just hate Facebook because they are shy and don’t love to interact with others. Others may have a splendid attitude towards English as a language but may not favor the use of Facebook as a tool for learning. Some students lack the sufficient motivation to use Facebook and learn while others only need Facebook to have the drive to learn the foreign language. Interpersonal differences affect the interacting nature of students (Kao, 2014, p 22).
The concrete findings of the research and the results that were gotten point to a number of dynamics, which propose elucidations to the researchers about the better performance of students in learning of English over others. Extroverts are engaged more on Facebook and so performed better in English as compared to the introverts. It is because they have more friends online and spend a lot of time on social media. Extraversion helps in the learning of languages. Introverts were found to be less active on Facebook and so do not have many friends and they spend considerable time offline thus impacting adversely on their performance. Students that have neuroticism were found also to use English on Facebook at low rates. These individuals are known to be anxious and emotionally unstable thus are not able to have many friends in the social arena (Kao, 2014, p 22).
They would most likely fear communicating in a foreign language like English on Facebook for fear of adverse criticism. It also points at esteem issues and lack of motivation and confidence necessary to take on challenges like learning a foreign language. Neuroticism reduces the achievement in learning English. On the other hand, conscientiousness was positively linked to English usage on Facebook. Conscientious individuals are hardworking and success-oriented. Therefore, they are bound to take every advantage on Facebook to advance their English language skills.That is how personality impacts on the learning of English as a foreign language (Ong, 2011, p 183).
English usage on Facebook coupled with the personality traits of students can help in the learning of English as a second language. An outgoing personality will most likely have many friends on Facebook that enables him or her to interact and socialize extensively. It helps in the learning as opposed to not being able to interact with others. Facebook offers the best virtual community for communication and education that includes assessment and peer reviews. However, Facebook is disadvantageous to shy and anxious students who cannot use the language online. It is also time-consuming and can adversely affect the overall academic performance of students. Care should be emphasized to ensure that this mode of learning is wholesome.
Muhammad Kamarul Kabilan, Norlida Ahmad. Facebook: An Online Environment for Learning of English in Institutions of Higher Education. Penang: University of Malaysia, 2010.
Ong E Y, Ang R P. "Narcissism, Extraversion and Adolescents' Self-Presentation on Facebook." Personality and Individual Differences (2011): 180-185.
Po-Chi Kao, Philip Craigie. "Effects of English Usage on Facebook and Personality Traits on Achievement of Students Learning English as a Foreign Language." Society for Personality Research (2014): 17-24.
Shifman, Limor. Memes in Digital Culture. Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2013. Print.
Shih, Ru-Chu. "EFFECT OF USING FACEBOOK TO ASSIST ENGLISH FOR BUSINESS COMMUNICATION COURSE INSTRUCTION." The Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology (2013): 52-59.
Thanawan Suthiwartnarueput, Punchalee Wasanasomsithi. "Effects of Using Facebook as a Medium for Discussions of English Grammar and Writing of Low-Intermediate EFL Students." Electronic Journal of Foreign Language Teaching (2012): 194-214.