Proficiency in a foreign language

So, who are those language learners that can achieve language proficiency?

Learners who achieve foreign language proficiency are those who initiate and manage their own learning. It seems pretty obvious, right?

What does it mean?

This basically means that learners who rely only on instruction input fail to master a target language. A Danish researcher Leni Dam believes that learners do not necessarily learn what teachers believe that their students learn.

The only thing that teachers can provide for their learners is raising an awareness of metacognitive aspects of learning. Basically, to help them to become conscious of the whole process of learning, of how they think and learn (Dam, “Developing Learner Autonomy” 42)

Things beyond language learning

Little proposes that students need to be aware of the things that go beyond learning language.

These things can help them to become proficient  learners. He states that learners need to become aware of themselves as learners.

Additionally, they need to know the learning techniques they should impement.

Some learners write their journals to note how well they progressed in mastering personal language learning skills.

Scandinavian students applied this method and it came out as a successful way of learning. Students had to note which learning tasks were well or badly done.  (Little, “Autonomy in language learning” 86)

However, not majority of learners “come into the language classroom with natural ability to make choices about what and how to learn ” (Nunan 134). Because of this, Nunan proposes to switch from being learner centered to learning centered.

What does it mean to be learning centered for language proficiency?

 Learning-centeredness assumes an approach where learners are guided on how to make informed choices (Nunan 134).  Such classrooms are focused not only on language being learnt, but also on learning process.

In this way, learners are aware of the ‘skills and knowledge they will need in order to make informed choices about what they want to learn and how they want to learn” (Nunan 134).

Basically, it does not mean that a teacher should hand over responsibility and power to a learner from the first day, but directs learners at the beginning until they are able to make informed choices. He encourages learners “to move toward the fully autonomous end of the pedagogical continuum” (Nunan 134).

Learning styles and strategies for language proficiency

What are learning styles and why are they important in mastering foreign language?

According to the preferred way of learning whether it is by hearing (auditory learners), seeing (visual learners) or by touching things (kinaesthetic learners) , learners differ in a way they acquire new things. For different types of learners it is important that they follow their preferred way of learning. Someone will learn easier by looking at the charts, images visual learners), others can benefit from listening to the lectures and remembering (auditory learners) while certain people will benefit form actually touching things or conducting other physical activities (cutting things, learning by whole body movement).

Learners need to identify their own styles and strategies that suit them best. Learners should employ critical thinking and make decisions on what and how to learn (Nunan).

He also writes that learners need to become aware of curricula content and pedagogical materials in developing their critical learning skills.

Critical learning skills

Basically, if a teacher is able to involve students in the learning process, it can be beneficial to their learning outcome (Nunan 135).          

Author: Darija Radovanović

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