Essentials For Language Learners, Part 2: Essentials 6-10

Yesterday we posted about Essentials 1-5, Communication, Comprehension, Joy, Variety, and Trust. Today we complete the list with Essentials 6-10.  (In case you missed it, see the original article, “What Makes ‘Whatever’ Work: Essentials For Any Language Program,” on which these learner-specific articles are based.)

6. Personalization

Do your approach and materials take into account your own life, interests, and personality? This will maximize the compellingness of your language-learning materials and activities, making you more eager to stick with the process.  It will also make the actual content you interact with more memorable.

7. Differentiation

Are your approach and materials suited to your learning preferences and current ability?  As mentioned in yesterday’s article, attempts to push yourself through excessively difficult materials usually backfire. The only time such pushing is likely to be effective is if you have a deep, personal interest in comprehending particular content, and if, after pushing through, you immediately go through the content again, more quickly, for comprehension and enjoyment.
Books, Gadgets, and Toys 300x199Note that, by “learning preferences,” we don’t mean the the dated divisions between “learning styles” such as visual, auditory, and kinesthetic that you may have grown up with and that have been seriously questioned by researchers, but, rather, preferences such as whether to learn alone or in a group, at home or in public, on the go or in dedicated sessions, etc. As for your materials, I suggest that you try several programs and many different sources, hold on to what works for you, and don’t worry if a supposedly successful program or method doesn’t work for you.

8. Ownership

What sort of control do you exercise over your learning? Have you developed habits or practices of which you are proud? How do you decide when to abandon or adopt a method or materials? How do you monitor your learning process, and how do you respond to discouraging spells? Many different answers to such questions could be involved in your increasing fluency, but it will probably be good for your confidence at least to have your own answers.

9. Community

Do you have a community (one or more other people, online or face to face) with which you can practice the language, find materials, and share encouragement?  Do you have at least some language-learning practices that themselves strengthen community?  Some programs and habits are more conducive to community-building than others.

10. Sustainability

Can your practices and habits last? (Do you have the time, energy, interest, and resources?) Even if it is sometimes hard work to keep them up, do your practices and habits provide joy and refreshment? This isn’t only about not burning out, but also about the increased success that joy throughout your language-learning life is likely to bring.


If you have questions about any of these—either about the general ideas or about how to follow up on your reflections on them—please comment below or use the Contact Form.  As always, feel free to use the same Contact Form to request resources, services, or article topics that would be especially interesting or helpful to you. Happy indwelling!

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