In our time people are looking for ways to acquire proficiency in a foreign language more than ever before. They do it in order to gain valuable skills, and help make themselves more marketable in the workforce. Employers are searching for employees who are proficient in a diverse range of foreign languages but are increasingly reporting severe shortages in foreign language speakers.
Learning a language well depends on so many different factors, and learners are also different. Some learners may be more successful due to such uncontrolled factors as gender, intelligence, age, etc. But, to some degree, they do have control over what strategies they employ, although we still do not really know to what extent this has a positive impact.
Here are some characteristics of a successful language learner described by researchers.
For successful language learning you must be self-confident, well-motivated and have no difficultieds in learning languages. You can be assertive most of the time, and can be either spontaneous or cautious, depending on the situation. You have to be strong-willed, interested, opinionated, passionate, intellectual, creative, stubborn and energized. In order to achieve a considerable level of successful language learning you have to be out-going and talkative, and interested in foreign cultures. One important factor is your ego permeability which can be called "flexible ego". This refers to your lack of fear of using a language incorrectly: you shouldn't be afraid of making mistakes or even being foolish. Finally, to always embellish your language learning experience, you must not rest on your laurels, and always continue to learn.
Successful language learners appear to use a wider range of strategies in a larger number of situations than weaker learners.
Some learners may not be aware of which strategies they use or which strategies are available. A good teacher can therefore help these learners to recognize the power of using strategies of successful language learning by integrating learner-strategy training into the regular lesson, teaching them how to evaluate each strategy, and how and why to use them. It is important though that the individual language tasks, and the characteristics of each learner, are taken into account when implementing such training. Some learners may be resistant to change, and the teacher should be creative to find tactful and delicate approaches.
These are just a sample of ideas, and more activities have been suggested by, for instance, Oxford. What is important is that the students find the ways that suit them best. In order to offer instruction in many traditional languages and LCTLs, colleges and universities are turning to alternative solutions to traditional language instruction.
Many institutions are developing new formats for teaching. But we have to be aware that recent development is not a guarantor of our success.
Our personal qualities are more important in successful language learning and we can develop them in our way to become self-initiating learners, taking responsibility for our learning, and creating our own learning opportunities.