A Very Specific Type of Learner

Source of the image: allthingslearning blog

Right after reading Tony Gurr’s new post, a thought hit me.

If one believes that he/she will only learn if they go to another country will not be motivated enough to invest on it anywhere else.

Suddenly that explained a lot.

Just yesterday I heard this from an intermediate student who is 15 years old. Let me make it clear that she is one of the best type of student you can have in class. She is kind, interested, engages in activities easily, always in a good mood, smart, but she still thinks that we only learn English WELL if we live abroad and speak with native speakers. I say speak English well, because she is a real prove that you can learn English without ever leaving your own country. Now that the first barrier as she once thought was not so possible had been removed, now it is a matter of speaking English well. And the assumpiton is that well would be speaking like a native. Another misleading belief as such a thing does not exist. However most of the students think like that.

Here is another example. Today out of the blue a teen asked me whether I learned American or British English. And I said. English. period. Then, I had to share one more piece of my experience as a language learner as she didn’t seem satisfied with my reply. I thought she knew that I had lived in London, but she seemed to have forgotten it somehow. So, I told her that my first contact was with English, Australian and New Zealander.  I lived with them for while. My first christmas was in a pub surrounded by their friends. It is strange to think about it now. I had never paid attention to this detail until now. Surprised she asked me if they were able to understand each other. “What English did you learn then?” My student asked. Odd question. I was in London living with those people and I had never had to worry about that. I was more focused on being able to communicate with them.

For me language has always being the mean not the end.

Tony’s post on motivation led me to question the students’ motivation to be there in the first place.

Are they there because they want to or they have to?

The answer to that question makes a huge impact on the amount of investiment they will make.

If they are there because they want to, do they really believe they can learn it?

If they believe they can, then they will.


2 thoughts on “A Very Specific Type of Learner

  1. I love the curiosity in this post: yours and your student’s. Language is such a mysterious entity isn’t it. What I mean when I talk about language may not be what another person hears. I face this often with our course participants. They still seem to hold on to the belief that they can’t speak “well” because they don’t sound like a “native English speaker.” And as your post alludes to, what does that sound like anyway? 🙂


  2. Rosie,

    Yes…a VERY important thunk…for many of us…all over the world.

    Many Turkish students (esp. in ELL prep schools) often express similar beliefs – you’ve seen that I call this the “Lise 5 Sickness” 😉 The thing is that (IMHO) they have had the “love” of LEARNing “beaten” out of them…by years and years of non-EDUcation…sad, so sad.

    Is all lost…when they get to University…when they “have to” do a year (or two) in Hazırlık? I hope not…!

    Accepting institutional ELL for what it “is” is the first step…with a “promise” to do business differently…and a “contract” to co-create a very “different”, more collaborative LEARNing space – is what we need. I believe…and I may be shot down for this…this is ALSO possible in High School…Primary (if “we” decide to breathe life into this “vison” of LEARNing). Some TEACHers already do it, a lot of TEACHers already do it…it’s not impossible…we just need more “will”…and a lot of support to make it happen 😉



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