THE ROLE OF SELF-ESTEEM IN LANGUAGE ACQUISITION

Ever wonder why it is so very easy for a young child to master a new language? It is because children are not easily intimidated, they are eager to learn and most importantly they do not care if they make mistakes. This carefree attitude is essential for language acquisition. Learning a new language requires a certain amount of risk taking. Not everyone feels comfortable speaking in front of other people, especially strangers. The learning environment has to be a place that is conducive to risk taking. It is the responsibility of the instructor to determine how he or she will make the classroom a safe place for all learners to feel comfortable and welcomed.

Once a student feels comfortable he or she can thus begin to open up so he or she can start the process of acquiring the skills necessary to learn how to speak the language. Since language is a set of skills to be acquired; the student must be given ample opportunities to practice over and over again. That is why chain drills are very important. Before long, the student will develop a huge sense of accomplishment, and with that comes the building up of his/her self-esteem.

I have had students who flatly refused to participate in the chain drill activities. They reasoned that they do not want to make a fool of themselves. Consequently, the students in question failed the class and ended up dropping it at the end of first semester. What I learned from these situations is that students with low self-esteem are too afraid to make mistakes; they are usually very shy and keep to themselves.

Early on in my teaching career, I was able to achieve great successes with the students who were risk takers; most of these students had very high self-esteem. They had achieved a high degree o f success in other areas, so it was easy for them to apply that in my class too. High self-esteem and desire to learn goes hand in hand, you can’t have one without the other. Both are essential for acquiring the skills necessary to learn a new language.

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