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August 2016

Which Behavioral Traits Are Best for Language Learning?

Useful traits for learning and how to develop them

Ever feel as if some people are better equipped at learning new languages? It's almost as if some have a gift for it. While it would be true that an experienced learner has acquired the skills necessary for confronting the language process, it wouldn't be productive to say that certain overall personalities are better at language learning than others. If anything, all personality types offer their own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to learning a new language. Today we'll take a look at five behavioral traits that are essential for language learning, modes of thinking that anyone can develop.

Patience

Learning a new language takes a lot of time. For many, it's a lifelong process, especially if fluency is the goal. While some of us are more inclined to suffer from a limited tolerance of waiting, patience as a skill can be learned by anyone.

Developing patience while learning a new language begins with forgiving yourself for slowdowns. As learners, especially new ones, we want desperately to dive into the world and speak like a native speaker. But mistakes will happen, vital errors that prove invaluable during the learning process. Being patient means allowing yourself to make these errors without judgment.

Another method for developing patience is akin to meditation. We live in a world where time seems to slip by so quickly. When we meditate or do something we'd rather not be doing (like studying), time comes to a crawl. Learn to love the sensation of slowed time. Studying, like meditation, is an opportunity to find quiet peace in an otherwise hectic world. Let language learning be your safe place from the storm.

Sociability

Being social has little to do with being extroverted or introverted. While extroverts tend to send their energies outward, introverts can develop social skills that are as good or better. Such social skills are necessary when practicing a new language. It's in interacting with other speakers that we truly test our language skills.

For shy learners, work your way up to sociability by finding a comfortable environment in which to speak with others. If you're not ready to go out into the world and meet strangers, find a partner with whom you can video chat with online in the comfort of your own home. As you become more confident, work your way up to face-to-face interactions.

Organization

Learning can be a chaotic process, but learners who are organized benefit from a pathway that is more systematic. This is particularly beneficial because the learning journey is so long.

Keeping track and revisiting what you've learned long ago not only helps for relearning old info you may have forgotten, but also to reinforce past lessons in a new context. That which did not make sense before might be obviously clear now that you've advanced well beyond. Keep track of what you’ve learned with detailed notes. Add variety by ensuring you’ve been studying from various sources and subjects.

Dedication

Dedication as a skill ties in with patience, but takes it a step forward by reminding us that it's important that we learn a little every day. In fact, it's far better to study 15 minutes each day than it is to cram 1.75 hours once a week. Memorisation takes not only time but dedication.

Make daily learning easy by setting realistic goals that you can achieve each day. For example, choose to read a page of a book or a single article each morning before going to work or school. Making sure the quantity is manageable helps to ensure you won't get demoralised.

Focus

Focus is another important trait, one many of us lack in this age of stimuli. There are two ways to achieve focus while language learning: create a comfortable space free of distraction and study in bursts.

While studying, turn off the computer and TV. If you need music, listen to something without lyrics. Get a glass of water and have all your supplies ready. Nothing should interfere with your learning.

For those who have trouble staying focused for long, try studying in bursts. Challenge yourself to study five minutes straight with complete dedication and discipline. When the five minutes are up, allow yourself two minutes to stretch, meditate, or use the restroom. Come back and do it again. Studying in bursts is helpful because we see an end goal in sight. Attempting to study for an hour without breaks is mentally exhausting and hard to sustain if you're a person prone to distractions.

How do you develop the necessary skills for language learning? What behavioral trait has helped you most in the past? Let us know on our Facebook Page, and be sure to “like” TELC English for more articles on culture from around the world!

Picture: (c) Fotolia, DenisNata

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