FC The Learner : Lesson 1

The Learner : Lesson 1


Hi everyone! My name is Elaine Horwitz, and I am the Director of the Graduate Program in Foreign Language Education here at the University of Texas at Austin. I’ve worked with new language teachers for around 30 years, and I’m very interested in helping you be the best teacher that you can become.


I have written a book recently, Becoming a Language Teacher: A Practical Guide to Language Learning and Teaching. My specialty in language learning research has been thinking about language learners and what they bring to the language learning process. The 2 areas of research that I’ve looked at particularly are issues of language learning anxiety — why some people feel that learning and using a second language is particularly stressful — and learner beliefs about language learning. We live in a culture where we think things like “You can go to a language school and learn a language in 2 or three months,” or that “Children learn languages effortlessly and perfectly, quickly.” So I have spent a good deal of time researching how learners’ anxiety and their beliefs impact how they learn a language in your classroom.

In this module, we are going to talk about how you can help your students become more successful language learners. So far, the modules in this course have generally addressed how you as a language teacher should teach various aspects of your target language. In this module, I’m going to try to do something different. I’m going to focus on the emotions that learners bring with them into the language classroom. I think that it’s very important that you as a language teacher understand your students’ perspectives on learning a language. Learning a second language is different than learning other school subjects and students often have feelings, both positive and negative, about expressing themselves in a new language.

In this module, you will come to understand how students’ motivations for learning the new language, their beliefs about language learning, and their anxiety over using the language may influence how they approach their language learning. In addition, I am going to give you a number of suggestions about how you can help all your students become more successful language learners.



1 Why FL Teachers Need to Know About Learners
Explores effective language teaching through understanding your students and the feelings they bring with them into the classroom.
2 Motivation
The many types of motivations learners have for studying a language.
3 Anxiety
Examines the anxiety that some learners experience when learning and using a new language.
4 Beliefs
Some of the preconceptions and misconceptions learners commonly have about how to learn a language.


The Learner’s Perspective

If you are a new language teacher, you are probably worried about whether you will be able put into practice all the teaching suggestions that you have encountered in this course. But in planning your lessons, it is also important that you keep your specific language learners in mind. Language learning will be a new experience to many of your learners, and they may be unsure about what language learning entails and how to go about it.


Why it is important to take the perspective of learner.
Duration: 01:19

Many new teachers approach their new teaching assignments with a certain amount of anxiety. Consequently, new teachers tend to focus on themselves while somewhat more experienced teachers focus more on the subject matter. The most mature teachers are able to think about their subject matter in the context of the needs and abilities of their specific learners and plan instruction that takes both into account.
As a new language teacher, what are your most important concerns? Do you identify with the description of new teachers?


Stages of concern.
Duration: 00:49

Disconnect Between Teachers and Learners

When learners are given a forum to voice concerns about their own learning process, often issues surface that shed light on misconceptions that might be hindering their learning experience. Listen to some of the feedback from a second semester French class.

Asking learners what they want to tell teachers.
Duration: 01:20

Language learners and teachers can have very different ideas about what the learners should be doing in class. Listen to the experience of one well-meaning instructor.


Language learners and teachers have different impressions about what is going on in the classroom.
Duration: 01:34

Think about your experience as a language learner. Can you remember any instances where you thought that you were doing what the teacher wanted but later realized that you were supposed to be doing something else?
Learner Characteristics
Three learner characteristics have consistently been found to be consequential for language learning: motivation, anxiety, and beliefs about language learning.
Motivation involves both the reasons that learners have for learning a language as well as the intensity of their feelings. For example, some learners only study the language because of a language requirement, while others expect to use the language in their future career. In addition to having different reasons for language learning, people who hope to use the language for career purposes probably have a stronger motivation than those people who simply hope to pass a language requirement.
Think about why you chose to study your target language in the beginning? What made you decide to become serious about learning your language?


Anxiety includes uncomfortable feelings when learning or using the new language. Several studies have found that approximately 1/3 of American foreign language learners experience anxiety in response to language learning (Horwitz, Tallon, and Luo, 2009). Most anxious language learners feel uncomfortable when speaking or listening to the new language, but some language learners also find writing or even reading to be anxiety-provoking.
Did you ever feel anxious when using your target language? What did you do to overcome that anxiety?

Learner Beliefs

Beliefs about language learning are important because they influence how students approach language learning and the language learning strategies that they choose to use. Many language learners, for example, think that they are too old to learn a foreign language well.
Think about some of the advertisements for language study, such as ads for Rosetta Stone or Berlitz that you have encountered. What do these advertisements imply about how long it takes to learn a language? How might such advertisements influence your students’ expectations?



[Module Instructor Dr. Elaine Horwitz]. 2010. [Language Learner]. In Foreign Language Teaching Methods. Carl Blyth, Editor. Texas Language Technology Center, University of Texas at Austin. http://coerll.utexas.edu

The material is provided free of charge for those that wish to study it.

How ever a no obligation  exam is available at the end of this module.