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What Makes a Good Language Learner?

What do you think makes a good language learner? The chances are that your intuition is probably correct. And if you think of friends or classmates who are “good at languages”, you might notice some characteristics that they have in common.

Learner writing different languages

Maybe they’re more extrovert than introvert: the first to put their hand up and have a go at something new even if they’ve never done it before. Do they tend to do well in the same subjects, or do they have similar interests – Music, puzzles, quizzes, chess, Maths? Or maybe they just work hard and are good at everything! In today’s blog, we’re going to be exploring what makes a good language learner - and how you can personally improve!

What Gives Some Learners a Head Start in Languages?

It's fascinating to learn that some of us may have a head start when it comes to learning foreign languages. Factors such as personality, memory skills and auditory ability all play a part, as well as what might seem more obvious - interest and motivation, for example.

Let’s take a look at some of these factors and consider how you can set yourself up to succeed!

So, what type of personality do you have? Are you generally outgoing and happy to take a guess at something when you’re put on the spot, or are you more cautious and worry about making a mistake? Many years ago, researchers such as Horwitz and colleagues identified a specific Foreign Language Anxiety which seems to be negatively associated with successful language learning. If you feel uncomfortable and anxious when you’re expected to speak in a foreign language, be reassured that this is very normal and you just need to find strategies to help. Don’t expect to understand everything and remember that guessing is good when you’re learning a language!

Remember the days when you learnt your times tables off by heart? The ability to learn foreign language material by rote was one of the elements tested by researchers Carroll and Sapon in their 1950s Modern Language Aptitude Test (MLAT) which was designed to predict how well and easily individuals were likely to learn a foreign language. If you find memorising information easy - or are prepared to practise and improve – that’s another step in the right direction.

How “good” is your hearing? Can you easily distinguish similar but different sounds such as bird song? If so, you may find it easier to reproduce the sounds needed to speak a foreign language authentically. Interestingly, infants of different nationalities have been observed to produce the same sounds in the early months of life and then gradually refine their production to mimic and reflect the language they hear around them as the months go by. And this is before they even utter their first words. It seems as though we all had the capacity to produce an infinite range of sounds as babies!

Have you ever considered how you process information? If you are an analytical thinker and can spot patterns and the grammatical functions of words in sentences, you’re likely to possess more of the skills tested by the MLAT – another tick!

Students studying languages

How Can You Improve Your Language Learning?

But if none of the above sounds like you, all is not lost. One of the biggest predictors of successful language learning is MOTIVATION. Think about the bigger picture – why are you studying a language? Is it to help in your career, to get you into your university of choice, or just because you love it (the best reason of all!)? Whatever the reason, motivation outweighs almost every other consideration. And there’s also no substitute for sheer hard work, one factor which is totally under your own control.

Remember that there are plenty of resources available to help you in your language-learning journey. It’s entirely possible to improve your memory skills, develop self-confidence, learn your vocab and seek out opportunities to speak. Whatever your starting point, if you want to learn a foreign language, you certainly can.

And if you think a little extra support from a private tutor will help, contact the team at Titanium Tutors here for more information, and we’ll be only too pleased to assist! Also, keep an eye on our blog for more interesting reads!


Blog Post Crafted by Sue

Sue co-manages our Admin Team, and has a strong school teaching background.

Sue graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Italian and Latin from the University of Hull and subsequently completed an MA in Language Teaching while teaching at Westholme Upper School in Lancashire (where she also set up the Italian Department). As well as her passion for languages and ancient history, Sue loves discovering new countries and cultures. She completed the London Marathon in 2012 and keeps intending to lace up her running shoes again!


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