Today I would like to share a story about one of my students since it is inspirational for me and I thought it would be the same for everyone else.
This student came to our school about ten months ago with zero knowledge of the language they wanted to learn. Their positive attitude and perseverance every single week worked extremely well in their favor.
I have to say this student missed just one class in more than ten months due to a dental procedure. When you start taking a class, the first key to success is to actually be there week after week. You may not always have time to study or do homework, but being there is crucial.
The other thing that impressed me about this student is that they came to every class with a perfectly sharpened pencil, literally — ready to take notes, make mistakes and learn from the experience. They always had all their materials and notebook with them. Another key to success is being prepared with the right tools and ready to do the work, physically and mentally.
This student not only did what I asked them to do at home, but constantly searched for extra resources to learn from and was showing me their notes and impressions of these each time we met. They had at least one day per week dedicated to studying the language and they were not planning or doing anything else on that day. Allotting time and effort to your studies is very important, and doing more than what your teacher asks amplifies and speeds up your progress.
Don’t get me wrong, this student, like any other and even more so, had a lot of difficulty studying a new language. However, despite these difficulties, they never gave up nor did they ever display a negative attitude towards learning. That is not to say they were not frustrated a bunch of times, but they continued trying regardless. You may feel helpless in the beginning, but don’t tell yourself: “I can’t talk in this language” or “The other students are more advanced than me”, or “I can’t do it”. Believe in yourself and realize that with the right amount of effort anything is possible. Some students are not ready to put in their effort. Without this, it is not possible to keep up or advance. Do the work and keep going, this is the only secret.
When they wrote something down and especially corrected something, this student was an example of neatness. They were not happy until they erased all the markings of the error and rewrote the word(s) correctly. Sometimes this would take a longer time, but this was what they always did and for me it was like watching a work of art. I was thinking to myself: “I would completely trust this person to do something for me because they are so organized and neat, striving for perfection.” Being neat and organized certainly helps in anything you do.
Another important aspect of language learning that this student always did very well on is speaking in the target language. They were tirelessly trying to do so even though it took a long time to communicate something and they were often getting stuck. Many times, especially in the beginning, they were using words from their native language and I was helping them say them in the target language. Don’t be afraid to get stuck or make a long pause to think about how to express something. This is part of learning, and it is good to train your brain to do so. When some students are faced with this challenge, they quickly revert to their native language, which is a big mistake. Don’t choose the easy way out, keep trying!
At this point in time, my student is not perfectly fluent in the language they started to learn ten months ago, and they still have difficulties. But it is absolutely AMAZING to see their progress and how they can express themselves now in the target language, with a lot of vocabulary they have learned and an easiness that was not there a little while back. They recognize it themselves and are grateful.
For me as a teacher, this student is a model and an inspiration. I admire them, will never forget them, and am excited about their future.