Grit: The Key Trait To Learning A New Language (2023 Study)

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Summary: You might have heard about the importance of practice, immersion, or even talent when it comes to learning a new language. However, recent research has highlighted a crucial trait that plays a pivotal role in language acquisition: grit.

This trait, which combines passion and perseverance, has been found to significantly influence success in second language learning. This study delves deep into the world of grit, exploring its impact and relevance in the realm of language learning.

learning new languages

Practical Applications

  1. Personalized Learning Strategies:
    Understanding the role of grit in language learning means you can tailor your learning strategies to nurture and strengthen this trait. For instance, setting long-term language goals and breaking them down into smaller, achievable tasks can help maintain your passion and perseverance throughout the learning journey.
  2. Embracing Challenges:
    Recognizing the importance of grit can empower you to view challenges not as setbacks but as opportunities for growth. When faced with difficult grammar rules or complex vocabulary, instead of getting discouraged, you can use these challenges to fuel your determination and resilience.
  3. Adapting to New Learning Environments:
    In today's digital age, there's a shift towards online and blended learning. With the research emphasizing the need to understand grit in these contexts, you can leverage online tools, apps, and platforms that promote consistent practice and engagement, ensuring you remain gritty even outside the traditional classroom.
  4. Broadening Cultural and Linguistic Horizons:
    The research highlights the dominance of grit studies in Asian and Middle Eastern contexts, primarily focusing on English. For you, this means there's an opportunity to explore grit's role in learning diverse languages and in different cultural settings. Engaging in language exchange programs or immersing yourself in different cultures can offer firsthand experiences to understand grit's universal applicability.
  5. Incorporating Mixed Learning Methods:
    Given the dominance of self-report studies and the need for more qualitative and mixed-method research, you can benefit from integrating various learning methods. Combining traditional textbook learning with interactive sessions, group discussions, and personal reflections can provide a holistic learning experience, enhancing both your understanding and application of grit.
  6. Seeking Feedback and Continuous Improvement:
    Grit isn't just about persistence; it's also about continuous improvement. Regularly seeking feedback from peers, teachers, or language partners and acting on it can help you refine your learning techniques, ensuring you're always on a path of growth and betterment.
  7. Community and Collaborative Learning:
    Joining language learning communities, both online and offline, can offer the support and motivation needed to stay gritty. Collaborative learning, where you learn with peers, share challenges, and celebrate milestones together, can reinforce the principles of grit, making the learning journey more enriching and effective.

By integrating these practical applications into your language learning routine, you can harness the power of grit, ensuring not just proficiency in a new language but also a deeper, more meaningful learning experience.

Key Facts of the Study

  • Grit has witnessed rapid research growth since 2020 in the field of Second Language Acquisition (SLA).
  • Most studies on grit have been conducted in traditional face-to-face learning contexts, suggesting a need for research in online and blended learning environments.
  • The majority of grit research has been centered in Asian and Middle Eastern countries, primarily focusing on English language learning.
  • There's an imbalance in research methods, with a dominance of self-report cross-sectional studies and a lack of in-depth qualitative and mixed-method studies.

Research Performed

The study embarked on a comprehensive journey, reviewing 32 research articles that spanned from 2017 to 2022. These articles, meticulously sourced from three distinct databases, painted a broad and diverse picture of the role of grit in second language acquisition (SLA).

A striking observation from the research was the geographical concentration of grit studies. Many were rooted in specific regions, notably China, Iran, Korea, and Saudi Arabia. This geographical focus not only provided a rich tapestry of cultural insights but also underscored the regional influences on grit and its pivotal role in language learning.

Diving deeper into the contexts of these studies, it became evident that a significant chunk of grit research was anchored in traditional face-to-face learning environments. This observation was particularly intriguing, especially in the backdrop of our rapidly evolving educational landscape. The study, recognizing this shift, made a compelling case for broadening the research horizons to encompass modern learning contexts. These include online remote learning, blended learning, and the increasingly popular mobile learning, especially as the world navigates the nuances of education in the post-pandemic era.

From a methodological standpoint, the study cast a critical eye on the research techniques employed in the reviewed articles. A dominant trend emerged: the overwhelming preference for self-report cross-sectional studies, with a staggering 29 out of the 32 articles adopting this approach. This trend spotlighted a glaring gap in the research landscape, underscoring the pressing need for more nuanced qualitative, mixed-method, and longitudinal studies. Such approaches would undoubtedly peel back the layers, revealing the intricate dynamics of grit in SLA.

The research also ventured into the realms of demographic and linguistic diversity. It was evident that the spotlight, in most studies, was firmly on English language learning. A solitary study ventured beyond English, exploring the intricacies of other languages. Moreover, the primary lens of these studies was trained on tertiary level learners. This focus raised pertinent questions about the role of grit in younger learners and its manifestations in diverse linguistic contexts.

A significant portion of the research was dedicated to unraveling the mysteries of the conceptual and measurement aspects of grit. The study waded through the murky waters of controversies surrounding the factor structure of grit. It also delved deep into the validity conundrums of the commonly used grit scales. Emerging from this exploration was a clarion call for a more rigorous validation and a meticulous refinement of grit measurement tools, especially when set against the backdrop of diverse linguistic and cultural settings.

The associative dynamics between grit and other factors also found a place in the research narrative. The study probed the intricate relationship between grit and emotions, with a particular focus on enjoyment and anxiety. This exploration underscored the imperative to cast the net wider, encompassing a broader spectrum of emotions and psychological constructs. Such an expansive approach promises a more holistic understanding of the interplay between grit and other factors in the language learning matrix.

Lastly, the study turned its attention to the two main protagonists in the grit narrative: perseverance of effort (PE) and consistency of interest (CI). The research narrative underscored the oscillating utility of these components across different studies. It also emphasized the pressing need for future research to approach these components with an unbiased lens, ensuring a balanced examination of both in the broader context of SLA.


Authors: Xian Zhao, Danping Wang

Contact: [email protected]

Image: The image is credited to PracticalPsychology

Original Research: "Grit in second language acquisition: a systematic review from 2017 to 2022" by Xian Zhao et al. FrontiersIn


Grit in second language acquisition: a systematic review from 2017 to 2022

Recent years have witnessed increasing attention to personality strength (grit) due to its merit in goal-seeking language learning processes. Two facets of grit, namely perseverance of effort (PE) and consistency of interest (CI), play a critical role in overcoming learning difficulties and strengthening willpower to pursue learning goals.

The current review seeks to explore various issues related to grit, including its factor structure, the relationship between grit and frequently associated factors, as well as the utility of PE and CI in facilitating language learning.

This exploration is based on the findings of 32 empirical articles published between 2017 and 2022 from three databases. The results indicate that although research which examines the role of grit has entered a fast growth phase since 2020, there is still a need for expansion and diversification in scopes, participants, research methods, and language contexts.

Moreover, previous studies have not adequately addressed the critical issue of grit’s conceptualization and factor structure.

Finally, this study suggests that future researchers should impartially assess the factor structure and nature of PE and CI, to provide more robust evidence to clarify the relationship between grit and diverse emotions and positive institutions, in order to advance understanding of grit in second language learning.

Reference this article:

Practical Psychology. (2023, September). Grit: The Key Trait To Learning A New Language (2023 Study). Retrieved from

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