Development as a Language Learner


While teaching and learning language are sometimes perceived as merely providing and obtaining a particular set of prescriptive forms, language is a structural and multifaceted system that integrates knowledge about cultural and social phenomena. This paper aims to examine my personal development as a language learner based on the scholarly sources studied within the first year of university. The most important issues that should be taken into account include the definition of language, its association with culture, and multilingualism, as well as learning styles and theories. In general, I assess my first year of language learning as successful yet requiring further steps toward mastery.

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Evaluating Personal Development as a Language Learner

The languages ​​people speak and learn directly affect their personality. This statement was proposed by Benjamin Lee Whorf, an American linguist, who was confident that each language is able to convey a particular world view, so that a language has a strong influence on speakers (Subbiondo, 2015). From my point of view, my speaking three languages and current language learning are reflected in my personality. I notice that my communicative and interpersonal skills have become more elaborate, and it is much easier for me to cooperate with other students in working on team projects (Weber & Horner, 2012). Most importantly, my worldview has also changed and expanded as I have become more open to various cultures and to society as a whole.

It is worth noting that contemporary globalisation, expressed in the movement of people and the mixing of cultures, leads to the appearance of changes in the natural triptych of people-state-nation. The links between languages ​​and national / cultural identity are weakened and multiplied (Shohamy, 2006). It goes without saying that the mother tongue has a special meaning for each person, but this does not mean that he or she is unable to accept other languages​. Knowledge of other languages ​​does not jeopardise the special ties with one’s native language, yet it serves as the foundation for further development of a person (Holliday, 2006). Bilingualism has a positive effect on the formation of flexibility of mind and analytical abilities, and people knowing several languages are more likely to interact with native speakers.

One of the areas that are worth turning one’s attention to is comprised by the analytical skills that language learners master during language acquisition. The related learning activity draws on the leading role of the mechanism of reflexive self-esteem. The students build scientific knowledge, skills, and ways of learning while studying the field of individual activity in the dynamics of personal development. The affective, also known as empathic, qualities involve interest and self-motivation and a sustained need to study languages and use them in real communication (Cohen, 2003). In addition, I have a desire to know the language and culture “from the inside,” to understand not only grammar, vocabulary, and other issues, but also people and the traditions represented by a language.

The fact that I live in England allows me to better embrace the local culture and comprehend the interactions between citizens. Chomsky stated that a language is a mere derivative of grammar, which is quite a narrow understanding of the core of language (Liddicoat & Scarino, 2013). While I partially agree with Chomsky, it is also essential to add that a set of cultural issues are influenced by linguistic perspectives. I am German and Spanish, and studying in England has increased my interest in language learning as a way to connect with the new culture and find new friends.

I would like to stress that many cultural aspects of Spain and England are quite different, which makes it even more exciting to learn about how other people live. For example, both countries were colonial empires in the past, and their ties with former colonies are still strong, which determines migration flows and leads to cultural exchange, including in such areas as food, music, et cetera. Siesta is a famous afternoon sleep, a tradition that the Spaniards still adhere to, especially outside the big cities. In turn, despite the fact that the traditions of English tea-drinking are several centuries old, they have not lost their relevance. During cultural ceremonies and less significant events, language learners come to understand not only specific linguistic details, but also how the representatives of the local culture speak, behave, react, and view one another.

The constructive nature of educational and cognitive activity is realised in the process of creating a learner’s personal foreign language product. On the one hand, this is manifested in the creation of certain material and ideal language speech products (Wei, 2011). On the other hand, it represents the discovery of a new solution to an already known problem, the development of personal ways of learning, and the accumulation and transfer of experience. In my view, language learning is closely related to self-improvement as it promotes developing such skills as creative thinking, memorisation, and decision-making. For example, when I had to write an essay or compose a dialogue with my classmates, it was useful to come up with metaphors and similes to discuss one idea or another. At the same time, I should state that I started to use my creative thinking more often both in language learning and studying at the university as a whole. This shows that language learning affects a person by developing his or her imagination, which is beneficial for other disciplines and for forming connections with people as a socially important construct of life.

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In turn, the creative nature of learning activity is expressed in the fact that it is associated with resolving a particular problem or finding the most effective way to solve cognitive tasks (Kramsch, 2006). Namely, I can note my creative findings as well as accumulating experience, which has impacted the formation of my style of learning and self-development. The creative qualities I have developed include active involvement in the process of studying in order to take advantage of opportunities for the practical use of the language. Consistent with Kramsch (2006), I have also strived to accumulate productive skills for communicative and educational activities in the field of the language being studied. Based on my strong desire to learn a new language, my overall journey to receiving a degree was also improved due to the positive impact of these skills on my decision-making and problem-solving abilities. In other words, I believe that language learning contributes to understanding other nations, their cultures, and education in general.

The active interaction and cooperation with other subjects of educational activity can be shown in mutual goal-setting, evaluation of the process of creating an educational product and the result, and the transfer of experience (Reynolds, 2014). At the same time, the leading role is played by reflexive self-assessment, the proper performance of which is likely to assist a learner in finding both strengths and weaknesses to build on. According to Moore (2006), multilinguals are more sensitive about the communicative intentions and needs of their interlocutors and have greater flexibility in using a wider range of communication strategies. Knowledge of two languages ​​inevitably causes a person to reflect on language as such along with its functions (Kramsch, 1999; Sylvén & Thompson, 2015). For instance, I tend to pay attention to the characteristics of both languages and perceive them as an object of reflection, not just as a way of expressing thoughts. I think that the ability to express one thought in several languages ​​gives a learner the opportunity to see the language as one particular system among many others, which leads to a special awareness.

Multilingualism increases metalinguistic ability, including metalinguistic competence and awareness, which involves comprehension of the form of the language. In other words, the ability to recognise the sounds of a language (phonological awareness), grammatical rules (syntactic awareness), and grammatical markers (morphological awareness) are essential signs of successful learning (Jessner, Allgäuer-Hackl, & Hofer, 2016). Such awareness is a significant component of cognitive development due to its connection with language ability and general literacy. Personally, I evaluate my metalinguistic awareness as moderate since I can listen to another person’s speech and determine its meaning without significant effort, while some improvement is also needed to increase my language level (Jessner et al., 2016). In addition, my written language awareness is also appropriate compared to the yearly learning outcomes. Nevertheless, there has been significant progress in my learning compared to the beginning of the year at university. I believe that more theoretical work and practical assignments will be beneficial to achieve this goal.

The influence of multilingualism on mastering a third language is related to social motivation to a certain extent. Researchers have proposed a model with three latent variables: multilingualism, motivation, and achievements (Dörnyei, Henry, & MacIntyre, 2015). This model shows a causal trajectory linking multilingualism through social motivation with the results achieved in the possession of a third language. The socially-oriented contextual character of a learning activity, or the extent to which it is included in the context of the student’s real-life activity, is associated with the research or design of a specific educational product (Dörnyei et al., 2015). At the same time, the principle of orientation towards the future professional activity of the student is becoming a leading principle of learning. Personally, I feel a strong connection between my language learning, social attachment, and career opportunities, which supports the relevance of this model.

Language learning strategies and methods substantially affect students’ approach to learning. The views of Wilhelm Vietor seem to be especially relevant for the social and technological condition of the world today. Vietor assumed that teachers should focus primarily on language patterns rather than grammar to enable students to learn a language faster and more effectively (Richards & Rodgers, 2001). If we take into account that today, there are a variety of opportunities to learn provided by the Internet, concentration on language patterns seems to be essential. For instance, Facebook and other social networks, special websites, courses, and so on are among the options to study theoretical aspects and practice a language with other students and native speakers.

The direct method, which refers to the creation of an environment similar to first language learning, is also viable and reflected in my experience. Since I live in a country that is the native cultural setting for the language I am learning, I clearly understand that doing so is much more useful than merely studying abroad. As claimed by Lantolf and Beckett (2009), the sociocultural theory explains how exactly second language acquisition occurs through internalisation and mediation. According to Cohen (2010), the latter means that the social environment contributes to the synchronisation of speech and gestures, as also stressed by Vygotsky’s general theoretical claim. In turn, the process of internalisation is associated with the imitation of native speakers’ language and their non-verbal communication (Cohen, 2011). From my experience, I can also mention many examples when I consciously or unintentionally imitated the language of my local friends. More to the point, I think that the strategies of learning mentioned here have helped me in conceptualising and developing my linguistic knowledge and personality as a whole.


Language learning is important for developing one’s personality as it positively impacts cultural awareness and educational success in general. This paper has discussed how critical thinking, problem solving, and decision-making skills are also improved in the course of language learning. Personally, I found that my first year at university was quite successful due to social inclusion, motivation, and the opportunity to immerse myself in the new culture. While some progress is evident, further language learning is critical to my career, personal development, and productive social ties.

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Cohen, A. D. (2003). The learner’s side of foreign language learning: Where do styles, strategies, and tasks meet? IRAL: International Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching, 41, 279–291.

Cohen, A. D. (2010). Focus on the language learner: Styles, strategies and motivation. In N. Schmitt (Ed.), An introduction to applied linguistics (2nd ed., pp. 161-178). London, UK: Hodder Education.

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Holliday, A. (2006). Native-speakerism. ELT Journal, 60(4), 385-387.

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Kramsch, C. (1999). The privilege of the intercultural speaker. In M. Byram & M. Fleming (Eds.), Language learning in intercultural perspective: Approaches through drama and ethnography (pp. 16-31). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Kramsch, C. (2006). From communicative competence to symbolic competence. Modern Language Journal, 90(2), 249-252.

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Lantolf, J. P., & Beckett, T. G. (2009). Sociocultural theory and second language acquisition. Language Teaching, 42(4), 459-475.

Liddicoat, A. J., & Scarino, A. (2013). Intercultural language teaching and learning. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.

Moore, D. (2006). Plurilingualism and strategic competence in context. International Journal of Multilingualism, 3(2), 125-138.

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Wei, L. (2011). Moment analysis and translanguaging space: Discursive construction of identities by multilingual Chinese youth in Britain. Journal of Pragmatics, 43(5), 1222-1235.

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