Character Building Through Language Learning

Posted on July 16, 2011

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Character, defined as all the qualities and features that make a person, groups of people, and places different from others (Hornby, 2000 Oxford Advanced Learner Dictionary) has drawn increased attention from educators in almost all disciplines.

Positive characters include numerous traits. ( . . . .) mentions perseverance, interpersonal communication, tolerance, emotional control, optimism, and positive thoughts. Obviously, only some of them are pertinent to language learning endeavour. The paper outlines the relations between language learning and character building by highlighting the main stages in learning, and relating them to positive characteristics that promote success in the learning.

According to Making Ethical Decisions: The Six Pillars of Characters in http://josephsoninstitute.org/MED/MED-2sixpillars.html there are six elements to a good character, which include Trustworthiness. Respect. Responsibility. Fairness. Caring. Citizenship

Learning another language, especially after puberty, calls for continuously hard efforts in order to succeed. This is an opportunity for a learner to take on persevering attitude, a steadfast commitment to achieving some specific communicative goals, and an unwavering spirit that prevents one to despair amidst enormous difficulties or occasional failure.

Once the ability to utilize the linguistic knowledge has enabled one to communicate, another aspect of positive character comes relevant. At this stage, one has to learn how to communicate effectively with others. Effective communication entails a few other skills such as listening attentively and expressing thoughts in appropriate and well-structured verbal expressions. Closely related to this, particularly when the learning process is still very much unfolding, is the willingness to learn from others’ feedback about how effectively the communication has been going on. A shy learner who rarely attempts to speak or write is deprived of the invaluable chances of receiving this kind of feedback. On the other hand, a talkative learner who is overly inclined to the message may miss the hints offered by their interlocutors about his or her accuracy in pronunciation or grammar. Even with deliberate corrections from the interlocutors, they may still fail to reflect on his or her dismal qualities of the language forms. Thus, at this stage, there is even a wider opportunity for self-conscious learners and an observant teacher to continuously strive for improvement in the way they communicate.

Throughout the learning stages, a learner may have to face challenges, seemingly insurmountable difficulties, peer’s or teachers’ negative reactions, and even failure. This is where a good emotional control comes into play. It serves to hold the learner steady despite some undesirable events that he or she experiences during the language learning process. Cases abound in real classes, where learners give up learning because they perceive that the learning goal is simply beyond their ability, or where they stop making progress after receiving harsh corrections or negative reactions to their faulty performance. It is at this stage that character development becomes relevant. Teachers should see to it that all learners go through this emotionally-critical period safely. For this to happen, deliberate instructions and guidance that shapes their correct emotional state should be given.

Since language learning is a collective effort, learners should also be taught that cooperative attitude with their peers and teachers may benefit them greatly. This comprises another area where character development plays a significant role.

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