Language Learning 101: Creating a Favourable Language Learning Environment

Language Learning 101: Creating a Favourable Language Learning Environment

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Learning and teaching are creative, spontaneous and enjoyable. Learning and teaching a language is interactive, experiential and continuous. A favourable learning environment is like a resourceful playground for learners as well as an enchanting stage for teachers. A favourable learning environment is far from given; however, it is created and maintained by both teachers and learners.

In this article series, I will try to compare and contrast various learning and teaching styles that enhance or hamper a favourable language learning environment. The aim of this article series is to prompt learners and teachers to reflect on their own language learning/ teaching approach; and more importantly, both learners and teachers will become more proactive, resourceful and expansive in their language learning/ teaching comfort zone.

In the following four articles, I shall focus on learning styles. They are (i) learner-centred approach vs generic learning, (ii) deep processing vs rote learning, (iii) collaborative learning vs competitive learning, and (iv) resourceful learners vs passive learners.  I shall start with the first set of learning practices with regard to language learning.

Learner-Centred Approach

The generic learning style is characterised by a receptacle learning approach. This learning approach is ineffective as generic learners often reflect or retain little after class. It is because generic learners are viewed and taught as receptacles, somewhat like empty jugs and sponges. For example, teachers “pour” information, facts and contents into learners’ mind regardless of their previous experience. Similarly, generic learners soak up whatever is delivered to them as much and as quickly as possible. Learners lack the incentives to engage in knowledge discovery. As a result, this approach is likely to foster passivity and over-dependence in learners. This type of learners is used to receiving new information, facts and contents that are presented to them. They tend to attend classes with inadequate preparation, passive attitudes and poor interaction.







On the contrary, the learner-centred approach is characterised by learning through doing as well as integrating new skills and knowledge from both past and present experience. The language learning environment will be enlarged when learners incorporate their goals, interests, and daily experience in their on-going language learning experience. When the topic is personalised, learners are more motivated to engage in the dialogue. For example, if you are interested in travelling, why don’t you initiate lessons/ discussions that are related to your favourite destinations or travelling experience.

Moreover, the learner-centred approach enables learners to become active and curious about discovering, problem-solving and applying new skills.

Firstly, using daily experience, observation or interests as a learning tool enhances speaking and listening effectiveness. You will also find it easier to communicate personal experience than abstract ideas or hypothetical situations.

Secondly, you can even practise the target language mentally. For instance, you can practise the target language by thinking in the following ways.

By doing so, you become more effective and instantaneous in assimilating and producing the target language.

Thirdly, experience and context are crucial for effective listening. When learners become more receptive and observant to their surroundings, they are more likely to discover abundant learning opportunities to practise their target language. Learners must keep their eyes open and ears unplugged in order to pick up people’s conversation, gestures and actions that refer to a specific context. Learners immediately pick up the expression and reapply it when the same situation occurs to them in the future.

What a lively and remarkable way of learning! Please continue to read on in the Hills Learning website for more tips on effective language learning, and don't forget when learning or teaching to use a learner-centred approach.    


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