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Are you a good language learner?

October 3, 2010

J. Rubin listed the following characteristics of a ‘good language learner’:

1. The good language learner is a willing and accurate guesser.

2. The good language learner has a strong drive to communicate, or to learn from communication.

3. The good language learner is often not inhibited.

4. In addition to focusing on communication, the good language learner is

prepared to attend on form.

5. The good language learner practises.

6. The good language learner monitors his own speech and the speech of others.

7. The good language learner attends to meaning.

Rubin J. (1975) What the good language learner can teach us. TESOL Quarterly 9(1): 41-51.

Good points but maybe a trifle too technical. I would add being open-minded, culturally-sensitive and ready to tune into other ways of thinking.

A new language is more than just a new system of symbols or vehicle for communication. It’s a new culture and a new mode of thinking.

Any more additions to the list?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. James permalink
    March 22, 2011 3:57 am

    I love your blog Alex!

    A very thought-provoking post.

    The idea that a language is also a culture is very appealing, but is it a little tricky to pin down? It’s hard to prove or disprove.

    I’m thinking in particular when a language is used as a lingua franca. For many English learners the language *is* purely a system of symbols for communication – so, for example, Chinese use English to do business with Koreans. You could argue ‘English has tense, Mandarin doesn’t, so it’s a new way of thinking’ – but I’m not sure if there’s a cultural code switch or anything else very profound.

    • March 23, 2011 12:57 pm

      Hi James,

      Thanks for your comment. Yes, you have raised a very important issue which is hotly debated by both the academia and plain folk these days. Is English as lingua franca a language in its own right? Has it lost the cultural connections with England, the USA and other English-speaking countries and become a global phenomenon? Another question that arises – and it’s one which different teachers and researchers answer differently – is whether the aim of EL teachers around the world is to teach the ‘international version’ of English or use native varieties as a model.

      Personally, I tend to think there are many Englishes, and the English spoken in England for example is still deeply rooted in the culture, despite the fact that there are growing numbers of immigrants speaking it too. I am emotionally drawn to that ‘pure’ English and I attempt to teach it to my students, along with knowledge of and feel for English culture. (I used to be a fan of the US some years ago but I have been converted by Britain lately 🙂

      All the best,

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