Have you ever noticed how some people just seem to pick up another language while others struggle? Here are 3 characteristics of great language learners that you can learn from:
1. Great language learners realize that language is for communication, not for study. Humans use language everyday to communicate their needs, ideas, hopes, and fears. When beginning learners start out in a classroom with a textbook and a list of vocabulary, it’s easy for the communication part of language to get lost. Classwork, homework, and exams take over and learners develop a ‘study’ mindset.
Think about your own learning. When you sit down to study, are you thinking about tomorrow’s quiz?
If so, you may have fallen into the language-study trap. Take time today to explore websites written in your second language. Find commercials on YouTube, or tune into a foreign language radio station. Immerse yourself in language being used for real communication Language of desire.
2. Great language learners seek out risks. Learning another language means making mistakes. Lots of mistakes. Being told that you are wrong or being told that your accent is incomprehensible can easily damage your self-esteem.
In order to protect their self-esteem, many language learners figure out how to avoid situations where they could make mistakes and appear foolish. They only speak up when they know the answer. They avoid certain grammar structures because they’re unsure of the rule. They talk around words they don’t know instead of guessing. These avoidance strategies mean that these learners stop learning. There’s no opportunity for them to make mistakes and grow from those mistakes.
Are you a language risk taker or risk avoider? Make one of your goals today to take a risk in using your language.
3. Great language learners will do whatever it takes to learn. They are strong and unyielding in their desire to acquire their second (or third, or fourth) language. If that means going up to a tourist and volunteering as a local guide, they do it. If that means only watching movies with subtitles, they do that. When things get difficult, they understand that this is part of the learning process and keep working to overcome obstacles.
How badly do you want to learn your language? What obstacles are you facing? Make a plan to deal with them directly.
To sum up, great language learners realize that language is not about study, but rather about communication and connecting with people. Great language learners are risk takers, not risk avoiders. Opportunities to try out new language features and to make mistakes are the opportunities they use to learn and to progress in the language. Finally, they want to learn. Their desire and drive pushes them forward even when things get difficult.