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How Mindset Affects Learning Languages

Not everyone learns in the same way or at the same pace. Over time, researchers have identified trends explaining how and why people learn new material. The research still has a long way to go, but there are some commonalities linking data collected by different researchers. Most importantly, contemporary studies indicate an individual’s mindset influences learning outcomes. Researchers like Stanford’s Carol Dweck suggest individuals with a growth mindset are more likely to succeed than those with a fixed mindset.

People With a Growth Mindset Believe They Can Learn

Students who want to achieve, and believe they can improve their skills, are more likely to do so. Other studies conclusively show the human brain does, in fact, have the ability to grow when properly “exercised.” Having a growth mindset encourages that type of growth. That is why students interested in a topic tend to learn more than ambivalent students, even when the ambivalent student might be seen as more intelligent by other measures.

Students with a fixed mindset, on the other hand, decide they “are not good at math” or some other subject. The net result is that they will be less likely to achieve simply because they’ve told themselves they can’t. When anyone becomes comfortable with the status-quo, they are unlikely to improve their skills. That is especially true when learners exhibit a language learning difficulty.

Why Do Some People Find It Harder to Learn a New Language?

When children are very young, they generally find it easy to learn a language. In fact, children raised in homes where multiple languages are spoken routinely find it easy to learn two or even three languages. However, as people age, that ability to learn a new language is generally lost. By the time students reach high school or college age, many find it almost impossible to learn a new language. Why?

Most importantly, as Dweck’s research indicates, the learner’s mindset is an important element determining the perceived difficulty of learning. Students come to believe they can’t easily acquire a new language, and that attitude makes it virtually impossible to learn.

Can Learners Change Their Mindset?

Some people seem to take some sort of pride in not learning. However, others understand that a mindset is self-constructed and, therefore, can be changed. By making a conscious decision to overcome a language learning issue, anyone can learn a new language.

About Liz Blake

Liz Blake is a language enthusiast who takes a special interest in linguistic anthropology and how language affects the way people interact and see the world. In her spare time she likes to read, garden, and most of all: travel!

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