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Growth Mindset in Language Learning

Hey there! How's it going? This is Lauren, your friendly neighbourhood Language Mindset blogger and a fellow language enthusiast. Are you ready to dive into an exciting post? Let's get started and explore the fascinating world of languages together!

Growing up in the UK, I was always led to believe that my ability to learn languages was a gift. Whenever anyone found out I could speak French and German, they’d always reply something like, “I wish I was good at languages.”

As a kid, I’d smile awkwardly and secretly wonder if there was a special gene I was lucky enough to have. 

But as I got older, I realised it wasn’t about having a ‘language gene’. It was about having a growth mindset.

What is a growth mindset?

A growth mindset is a term coined by educational psychologist, Carol Dweck. It’s a belief and understanding that you can develop and improve your skills through hard work and perseverance - that no challenge is too big or too difficult to conquer if you put your mind to it.

Learners who have a growth mindset embrace challenges and see them as opportunities to learn. They’re far more likely to achieve their goals because they believe they can. 

A growth mindset is crucial in language learning because it takes time, effort and determination to succeed. 

So, how can you help your kiddo develop a growth mindset? Let’s take a look. 

Praise effort, not talent 

Sentences like "They're just good at languages" or "They have a talent for languages" may sound harmless, but they can indirectly impact a person’s motivation for learning a language. 

When language learning success is attributed to natural talent, it suggests that it's impossible to achieve without some kind of magic. 

To help children view challenges as obstacles they can overcome rather than signs they’re not cut out for this, it’s important to praise their effort and hard work rather than their innate talent or intelligence. 

Simple ways to do this are by switching sentences like,

"You're so smart!" [avoid this]

"I'm proud of how hard you worked to learn those new words." [encourage this!]

Encourage Persistence

Part of developing a growth mindset is instilling the determination to persevere through challenges. This is one of the most valuable skills a young language learner can learn to continue learning and create a lifelong love for languages.

If your kiddo really isn’t enjoying a particular approach to learning their target language, try changing it up. Everyone has the ability to master a second language, but not everyone learns in the same way. 

Teaching your kiddo to recognise when a method isn’t working for them helps eliminate the possibility that they’ll view themselves as the problem. 

Reflect on their progress

Progress in a second language often feels slow and sticky. While your kiddo may have picked up new phrases easily during one class, the words might not flow as easily the next. 

When this happens, it’s easy to let negative thoughts creep in. One powerful way to overcome this is to teach them to regularly reflect on how far they’ve come. By comparing where they’re at now with where they were a few weeks or months ago, you instil them with confidence that they can achieve more.

Use Positive Language

Negative self-talk can impact our confidence and motivation with language learning. 

When we hit a plateau in our learning, it’s easy to tell ourselves things like "I'm just not good at languages" or "I'll never be able to speak fluently, so why bother trying?", which only makes it harder to push through.

If your kiddo expresses such thoughts, encourage them to reframe their feelings into something more positive. For example:

  • "I might not be fluent in French yet, but with practice and dedication, I can improve my speaking skills."

  • “I didn't do well on that language quiz, but I'll review my mistakes and use them as a guide to study more effectively next time."

These are just a few ways you can empower your kiddo to develop a growth mindset and become a lifelong language learner. Do you have any strategies to add? Share them in the comments - we’re always looking for new ideas!

Ready to start learning?

If you’re looking for a way to help your kids develop a language mindset, you’ll love our weekly live language clubs. They’re available in Spanish, French, Italian and now Mandarin and Japanese. Learn more about them here. 

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