|Level/time of competence when learning (Wikipedia)|
I once had the opportunity to interview a language learner. This student was enrolled in a full-time, intensive language program.
She was learning her second language because she was going to go into an international political science course.
She loved the idea of working for a large corporation overseas.
At the beginning of the course, this learner was highly motivated, excited to get up every day and go to class. By the end of the course, she dreaded spending another day in a small room with the same people she had been learning with over the past several months.
When asked, she still had a deep desire to continue her international studies program, but she could not stand the thought of another day in the language program doing the same tasks with the same teacher and the same classmates.
As this learner's experiences demonstrate, different aspects of your language learning environment can impact your motivation.
These aspects can be broken down into three broad categories:
- Curriculum, materials, and teaching method
- A teacher's behavior, personality, and teaching style
- Overall class motivation, cohesiveness, and norms (i.e., does the entire class feel similar about learning goals and how to behave as a class?)
If you are having a positive learning experience in your language program, you can probably identify which of these three elements is helping you maintain your motivation.
Your teacher might be enthusiastic and offer a range of activities during class. You could have a great classroom dynamic where your classmates all feel driven to achieve high results.
Likewise, maybe everyone is taking a conversational Italian class just to have fun! When these elements come together, it can lead to a dynamic and rewarding experience for language learners.
When one element is missing, though, you may struggle to get out of bed when facing another day in class. What can you do to adapt to your learning environment and help boost your motivation?
This is a difficult question to answer and depends on your teacher and your fellow classmates. If you have negative feelings about your classroom learning environment, the chances are good that there is at least one other student who does as well. It can be helpful to approach the teacher in pairs with your suggestions. Strength in numbers!
Here are five proactive ways to help manage your learning environment:
- Let your teacher know when s/he does an exercise that you really enjoy.
- Let your teacher know when s/he has held an excellent class that's motivated you.
- Ask your teacher for additional exercises, books, or homework different than what is being given.
- Ask your teacher if you can complete alternative exercises or homework. Volunteer alternatives. For example, if your teacher wants you to finish three grammar worksheets, ask if you can write a journal entry using those same grammar forms.
- Give your teacher examples of exercises, books, or resources that you find on your own that you enjoy.
Most teachers appreciate proactive students who can help come up with creative ideas for fun ways to learn.
Of course, this all depends on what is culturally appropriate. What may be acceptable in one culture may not be in another. If you're concerned about taboos, consult with someone you trust who is familiar with the learning culture of your host country or teacher.
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: http://www.strategicl2.com.
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