By Charles Duquette of Maryland English Institute
There’s no such thing as being born good at languages. However, there are people who learn languages well. But that has nothing to do with them being naturally good at it. It has to do with their attitude and the way they approach their learning.
1. GOOD LANGUAGE LEARNERS AREN’T AFRAID TO TAKE RISKS.
A Dutch friend of mine speaks English, Spanish, German, French, and, of course, Dutch. I asked her once what she thought was most important in learning a language. She answered immediately: courage.
Good language learners are willing to face the fear of making mistakes. They experiment and take risks. For example, they try out different ways of learning vocabulary until finding the way that suits them best. They are not afraid of making mistakes because they know that with every mistake, they gain a small victory toward improving their language.
2. GOOD LANGUAGE LEARNERS FIND A STYLE OF LEARNING THAT SUITS THEM.
You may already have heard or read about learning styles. The idea is that everyone has their own style of learning that suits them best. You want to figure out how you learn best and apply your preferred learning styles to your language learning.
When you learn something new, do you like to talk about it or think about it? Do you prefer to get new information in pictures or words? Do you find it easier to learn facts or to learn concepts? These are just a few of the questions that help you discover how you best learn. Visit http://www.engr.ncsu.edu/learningstyles/ilsweb.html for more.
3. GOOD LANGUAGE LEARNERS ARE ACTIVELY INVOLVED IN THEIR LEARNING PROCESS.
Good language learners take responsibility for their own learning. Besides regular language classes, they create opportunities to use the language. They know practice is very important. And they are willing to take risks and to appear foolish if necessary.
Good language learners are independent. They do not expect to learn English just by sitting in the classroom, and they do not rely on their teacher for all their language learning. They are organized and active. They look for creative ways both inside and outside the classroom to test out what they have learned.
4. GOOD LANGUAGE LEARNERS TRY TO FIGURE OUT HOW THE LANGUAGE WORKS.
Good language learners try to understand the language as a system. They pay attention to form and look for patterns. They develop good techniques for improving their pronunciation, learning grammar and vocabulary. They welcome mistakes as a way of learning more about the language.
5. GOOD LANGUAGE LEARNERS KNOW THAT LANGUAGE IS USED TO COMMUNICATE.
Good language learners pay attention to meaning. They have good techniques to practice listening, speaking, reading, and writing. They push themselves to speak and try to become fluent. They look for opportunities to talk with native speakers.
6. GOOD LANGUAGE LEARNERS ARE LIKE GOOD DETECTIVES.
Good language learners are always looking for clues to help them understand how the language works. They make guesses and ask people to correct them if they are wrong. They compare what they say with what others say. They keep a record of what they have learned and think about it while they monitor themselves.
7. GOOD LANGUAGE LEARNERS TRY TO THINK IN THE LANGUAGE.
It may not be easy at first, but thinking in English is worth cultivating as a vital skill that will improve all areas of your language learning. To help you think in English, carry on a dialogue with yourself in English when walking along, sitting on a bus, or taking a break from other studies. Use English whenever and wherever you can.
8. GOOD LANGUAGE LEARNERS REALIZE THAT LANGUAGE LEARNING IS NOT EASY.
Good language learners know that it takes time and effort to become proficient, and that there will be periods where progress seems very slow. They are realistic in setting learning goals. They are able to assess their own strengths and weaknesses, and to evaluate their own approach to learning. If their learning method isn’t working, then they find a better method.
9. GOOD LANGUAGE LEARNERS ARE ALSO GOOD CULTURE LEARNERS.
Good language learners have a good attitude toward the culture where the language is spoken. They know that learning a language means learning the culture as well. They learn the customs of nonverbal behavior and the important values of the culture. They learn how to behave in stores and restaurants, how to behave with strangers, and how to behave in society. They learn courtesy conventions; for example, they learn that “How are you?” is a greeting formula in English, not a real question. A good language learner knows that language and culture are two sides of the same coin.
10. GOOD LANGUAGE LEARNERS HAVE A LONG TERM COMMITMENT TO LANGUAGE LEARNING.
Good language learners work through their feelings of frustration and their lack of confidence. They are able to cope with the challenges of language learning; they can live with having good language days and bad language days. They don’t let themselves give up, instead reminding themselves how important it is to keep going – even when they don’t feel like it.
Charles Duquette is a Lecturer at Maryland English Institute, University of Maryland.
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