Friday, July 5, 2013

10 Traits of Great Language Learners

by Erin N O'Reilly, PhD

If you're a language learner, or have ever spent time working with language learners, you've probably noticed that some people seem to 'get it' faster than others. While arguably some of this can be attributed to intelligence, there are strategies all learners can use to become great.

Here's a list of 10 traits that strategic language learners practice that make them great language learners.

1. Actively participating in the learning process

Great learners develop their own learning plans and set their own learning goals. Teachers? Well, they help, but often times they serve more as a tool along the journey than the ultimate source of knowledge. These learners take full responsibility for their own proficiency goals.

2. Achieving goals by controlling different areas of learning

If a learner knows that s/he needs to work on listening to reach his/her goals, then by golly s/he will seek out more and different types of listening instruction and input. If you're reading this article, you probably fall into this category since you found the article by doing some sort of search on language learning and are interested in improving your skills.

3. Controlling cognitive (planned thoughts) and emotional states

For controlled cognitive states, strategic learners know that it's important to remember to take notes while reading or to take time to organize a study group. What about emotions? Are you tired? Are you stressed out before a test? Do you have strategies for dealing with these feelings?

4. Controlling observable performance

Even if you're nervous, can you get through your speaking test with apparent ease? What about when you're speaking and you know that you stutter? Do you have a compensatory strategy for overcoming this?

5. Controlling the learning environment

Learners have a range of preferences for their ideal learning environment. Do you know where you learn best? Do you need to turn off your cell or instant messenger? Do you need to invite study partners over to help keep you on track?

6. Controlling beliefs about language learning and performance

Do you believe that you can learn another language? What happens when you receive a low grade on a test? Do you still believe in yourself and your abilities? Great language learners think about their current skills and performance goals as something that is inevitable.

7. Moving declarative knowledge to procedural knowledge by using strategies

Automaticity, moving from having to think about how to conjugate a verb while speaking to being able to conjugate automatically without thinking, is a skill that takes time,. Using strategies (like seeking out opportunities to practice) can speed up this process.

8. Choosing strategies based on the situation, preferred learning style, and what works best

Which strategies do you use and when? The effectiveness of strategies varies wildly depending on who you are, the language task, and your language level. Culture also comes into play. What strategies can you use with your teacher? With an elder from your target language community? With your friends?

9. Realizing that no strategy is appropriate all of the time

You change. Your context changes. Your language skills improve. Logically, your strategies need to change with you to remain effective. Flashcards today may not be the best way to learn new vocabulary when your skills improve.

10. Understanding the relationship between effective strategy use and increased language proficiency

Strategies can and do make a difference in learning outcomes. Have you taken time to reflect on the strategies you currently use and your performance?

Where are you on this list? Are you a great language learner?

Interested in learning more? Erin N. O'Reilly is a language coach specializing in second and foreign language learning strategies, helping learners at all levels reach their potential. You can learn everything about how to learn another language here:

Article Source:'Reilly,_PhD

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