I want to ask you four questions that will help you think about whether you are a good language learner. Answer these questions honestly:
- Are you aware of your own learning style, and do you try to learn in ways that suit you?
- Do you do things outside of class that give you the chance to learn and use English?
- Are you curious about English? Do you try to understand how the language works?
- Do you have a realistic sense of how long you’re willing to learn English, and try to overcome your feelings of frustration?
For years, researchers have known that some people are better at learning languages than others. The question is why.
While it is true that people have different learning styles – and some methods may not be appropriate for all learners – it is also true that there are some qualities that all effective language learners share.
Here are four qualities shared by all good language learners.
1. A good language learner is aware of her learning style.
We’ve written previously about different learning styles (see What’s Your Learning Style?). As we learned previously, some learners are visual, some auditory, and some are kinesthetic. But what is true is that effective learners know their own style.
Effective language learners think about how they learn, and use techniques that match their preferences. They also experiment often, so they don’t get stuck. But the point is that they know themselves, and make intelligent choices when it comes to study and practice.
2. A good language learner is independent.
Effective language learners understand that they will not learn to speak a new language just by sitting in class. They do not rely on a teacher to totally direct their learning. In fact, classroom learning is often just a small part of their learning process.
Effective language learners seek out opportunities to use English – or whatever language they’re studying – in the real world. They know practice is very important, and do not fear making mistakes. They also extend their practice by reading and listening as much as they can. In other words, they basically direct their own learning, and use teachers and classmates as resources to help themselves learn.
3. A good language learner is curious.
Effective language learners try to understand how the language works. They pay attention to form, and look for patterns. If something works in one context, they see if it works in a different context. In other words, they try to understand the language as a system.
But this doesn’t mean they ignore communication. They understand that grammar and pronunciation rules are only useful if they enable communication. Trying new things out in the real world – this is how effective learners are able to test their assumptions, and deepen their understanding of the language.
4. A good language learner is realistic.
Effective language learners understand that learning to speak a new language takes time and effort. They understand that there will be times when they do not seem to be making progress. They accept this because they have realistic expectations about how long it takes to become fluent.
When effective language learners become frustrated or lose confidence, they understand that they are normal. They review the basics, use what they know, and don’t worry about mistakes. They know that even when progress seems slow, so long as they continue, they are moving forward.
What Do You Think?
Are you an effective language learner? Do you have other tips you can share? Let us know in the comments section below!