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Learner of English characteristics

Learner characteristics refers to differences between learners, differences that have an influence over their attitude to learning a language and the way they learn it. Different teachers have different teaching styles and use different approaches in the classroom. Different learners have different characteristics and they respond differently to these different teaching styles and approaches.

The most important differences in my opinion are the four listed below:

  1. Learner’s motivation
  2. Learner’s personality
  3. Learner’s past learning language experience
  4. Learner’s learning style

I consider these four differences to be the most important therefore I am going to talk a little more about each of them. However, learner’s age, language level, learning strategies, family’s educational background, and few others, are all important characteristics and a teacher might want to take these into account when teaching.

Motivation

Can you learn a foreign language without a strong motivation? Personally, I can not. According to my experience motivation is strongly related to the family’s educational background. An adult, learns English because he needs it for getting a better job or just because he has to use it for work. Other reasons might be: studying abroad, traveling etc. Children, (here I am talking about the kindergarten kids) do their best to speak English because they think is cool and funny. They just speak and laugh; there is no fear of making mistakes. Teenagers on the other hand, are usually forced by their parents to learn English. Very few of them have a strong motivation for learning English and that is easily visible in their English skills. There are very few learners who truly love English. There is a significant number of learners who learn English just because they need to get a good mark.

Personality

Personalities, beliefs, and attitudes differ among individuals. There are many kinds of personalities and affective variables that have a big influence over foreign language learning but I will mention only two of them (that are true in my and my learners’ case):

  1. People who are more sociable and outgoing seem to have better qualities for language learning.
  2. Tolerance of ambiguity tends to be a hallmark of a good language learner. Levels of tolerance of ambiguity are strongly related to level of creativity which is another important factor in language acquisition.

Past learning experience

Adults and teenagers may have learned English before. Most of these learners are used to learn in a particularly way and know what learning style is the best for them. We, teachers, have to be aware of how our learners have learned before and how they would like to learn now. Teachers may need to explain their methods to those learners who are unhappy with new teaching methods.

Learning styles

Our learning style influences how we like to learn and how we learn effective. Below are some commonly mentioned learning styles with a short description for each of them.

  1. Visual – Learns best through seeing
  2. Auditory – Learns best through hearing
  3. Kinesthetic – Learns best through using the body
  4. Group – Learns best through working with others
  5. Individual – Learns best through working alone
  6. Reflective – Learns best when given time to consider choices
  7. Impulsive – Learns best when able to respond immediately

Teachers must remember that learners might not fall exactly into one specific category. Different cultures use some learning styles more than others. Learners learn with different teachers who have different teaching styles which may change or develop learners’ learning styles.

Conclusion

  1. Learners are not all the same and they don’t learn in the same way.
  2. We can find what our learners’ characteristics are by asking them, observing them, or even giving them questionnaires to complete.
  3. A learner may learn better in a particular way but for sure he/she can learn in more than one way.
  4. Learners can be trained to use different learning strategies.
  5. In a big class is hard for a teacher to meet the learner characteristics of each learner all the time so, the teacher might want to vary their teaching methods so they can match the learner’s characteristics of a range of learners.

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