Language learners come from diverse backgrounds, each with their unique strengths and challenges. Yet, a common thread unites us all—the presence of inner voices and characters that guide our language learning journey. In this article, Anneli Beronius Haake (author of Teach Yourself Complete Swedish) explores these inner characters, drawing inspiration from the 'Six Characters of Drama' concept outlined in Gary van Warmerdam's book, "MindWorks." These inner characters play a pivotal role in shaping our approach to mastering a new language.
The Judge is a significant character in many of our minds. It's the one that's always comparing, making us feel 'worse than' or 'better than' others. This inner critic sets unrealistic standards and can be overly critical. If your Judge is always whispering 'worse than' in your ear, you might find yourself being excessively hard on yourself.
The Victim often accompanies the Judge. It accepts these judgments and amplifies them. This mentality breeds fear, making you anxious about not knowing or losing control. The fear can lead to avoidance of challenging situations and feeling vulnerable when you’re in new situations.
The Villain character takes various forms, including the Rebel and the Saboteur. It's responsible for self-sabotage, procrastination, and undermining your own progress. The Saboteur may even convince you to give up on something, reinforcing the Judge's negative verdict.
The Hero character seeks admiration and praise from others. It can be a driving force for excellence, but it often leads to external motivation, sidelining the enjoyment of the learning process. Internal motivation is important when learning a language; the satisfaction coming from personal progress, and genuine curiosity of what you are learning.
The Entitled character believes it deserves instant results without putting in the necessary effort. For the Entitled, the challenge lies in recognizing that learning something new requires hard work and personal responsibility.
The Self-Sacrificer character willingly sacrifices personal well-being for minimal gains. This can manifest as wanting to please others, or seeking external validation through being good at something.
Now, let's introduce you to six common Language Learner Characters that you might recognize within yourself:
- The Diligent Student:
If you're the Diligent Student, you're committed and follow instructions diligently. But beneath that dedication, there might be a dash of Hero and Self-Sacrificer. The challenge? Maintaining motivation when it's driven by external factors. Find ways to nurture your internal motivation by exploring personal interests, taking control of your learning journey, and setting your own goals.
- The Grammar Nerd:
Grammar Nerds love delving into intricate grammar intricacies, exceptions, and even etymology. While hours of linguistic discussions may be your comfort zone, practical application, such as speaking, can pose challenges. Hidden within may be a Hero character, finding satisfaction in intellect. Focus on balancing your internal and external motivation and don't forget to put your language knowledge to practical use!
- The Nervous Perfectionist:
Nervous Perfectionists are hyper-focused on getting everything right, often hindering their fluency. They might feel nervous about speaking, fearing errors. The voices of the Judge and the Victim dominate this character, and challenging your inner Judge is crucial to minimize self-doubt and make progress.
- The Clock-In Clock-Out:
Clock-In Clock-Out learners attend lessons but do nothing in between. Homework is neglected, and excuses abound. This character often has traits of entitlement, expecting progress as a by-product of financial investment. To see significant progress, it's important to establish realistic study routines and embrace useful tools like trackers and planners.
- The Happy but Sloppy Speaker:
Happy but Sloppy Speakers enjoy speaking but may overlook grammar and structure. The Rebel or Saboteur might promote procrastination. The Entitled character might suggest they are justified in ‘just having fun’. Identifying the dominant character is the first step for a Happy but Sloppy Speaker to progress.
- The Resolution Breaker:
Resolution Breakers set ambitious language learning goals, often in January or September, only to lose momentum a few months later. The Judge and Saboteur characters is often found here. The Judge may insist they must learn due to external pressure, eroding confidence over time. Meanwhile, the Saboteur encourages procrastination and thoughts that it's too difficult. To maintain momentum, it's crucial to nurture internal motivation and establish a realistic study routine, so you can keep going when your motivation wanes.
Most language learners fall into one or more of these categories, and it's important to recognize and comprehend your inner characters. You don’t need to get rid of them, but you need to understand and manage them to ensure they don't dominate your language learning journey. So, which learner character are you?