Language learning skills

In this section the aim is to reflect on and develop your language learning skills. How and where do you learn best? What is self-assessment and why is it a useful skill to learn? How can you utilise your language skills in learning something new?

In this section, the aim is

  • to learn to identify your strengths and areas of growth as a language learner,
  • to learn to set objectives for yourself and to assess your learning,
  • to understand the importance of feedback and assessment in learning,
  • to find the best ways for you to learn languages,
  • to understand how language learning outside school supports learning and how to make the most of it, and
  • to reflect on the possibilities for language learning after general upper secondary education.

Language learning skills and strategies

Language learning skills refer to both concrete ways of learning a language, such as memorising or listening to music in the target language, and to an understanding of contexts or places in which you learn best. The latter refers, for example, to listening to music to improve concentration or to a preference to work in groups instead of individual work to discuss difficult issues.

Language learning skills also include the skills to assess your own learning, to develop your study skills further, and to set goals for your learning. It is also important to learn how to give and receive feedback as well as how to assess the feedback you receive.

Also important in learning is finding the motivation to learn as well as ways of learning that suit you best. It is also important to get feedback on your own learning and skills for three reasons: to better understand what you know now, where you could improve, and what you could strive for in the future. Motivation can be intrinsic and arise from the inside, or it can be linked to specific goals.

Tasks:

Self- and peer-assessment

Self-assessment is done to monitor and assess learning to help you identify your strengths and areas of growth as a language learner. By assessing your learning, you can find new ways of learning that enhance your learning and motivate you. Self-assessment also provides you with a deeper understanding of which learning strategies have worked well for you in the past and could be applied when learning new skills.

Peer-assessment not only provides a new perspective for your learning, it also helps you develop your teamwork skills and skills in supporting others in their learning.

Self- and peer-assessment also help you set goals for developing your language proficiency.

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Giving and receiving feedback

An important part of learning to learn is learning to give, receive, and process feedback. Feedback helps you understand your own strengths and areas of growth, and to learn to identify and describe your skills. Reviewing feedback provides a good basis for reflection on what learning objectives you could set for yourself and methods for achieving them.

What is good feedback?

Feedback should be clear, constructive and encouraging. The starting point for giving feedback is what someone can do. Feedback can also be given at different levels: it can be holistic and focus on a broader issue such as the structure of a text, how well a presentation communicates, or how fluent someone’s speech is. Feedback can also relate to smaller details, such as the intelligibility of pronunciation or the appropriateness of word choices in a given register.

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Setting goals and monitoring your progress

In school you learn to organize and plan your own learning, as well as to set goals for your learning. Planning your studies will help you get a clearer understanding of your workload and to schedule your studies accordingly – moreover, to set goals that are realistic and do not overload you. Monitoring your progress will also help you optimise your learning: in which areas are you content with your skills and which areas still require time for growth?

Goals can be set for different time frames, for example, according to your proficiency level. Consider, for example, whether it would be more reasonable to set goals for the next period instead of the end of general upper secondary school. In contrast, in some instances it is more sensible to reflect on the language needs of possible summer jobs, further studies, or working life.

Evaluating whether you have managed to meet your goals presents you with the opportunity to critically reflect on your language learning strategies. From time to time it is useful to reflect on what works and what doesn’t, and to even consider whether your goals have changed along the way.

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Making the most of multilingualism

When you start learning a new language, you don’t start from scratch. Knowledge of different languages can be made use of when learning new languages and when developing existing skills. For example, you already have knowledge of how different kinds of text work, versatile communication skills, as well as knowledge of vocabulary, structures, and communication strategies in other languages. All this is useful when learning a new language. For example, English can be helpful in learning German because of the similarities between that specific set of languages.

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Lifelong language learning

After general upper secondary school, developing language skills continues in your free time, further studies, and working life. This sub-section focuses on ways of developing language proficiency in different areas of life after general upper secondary school.

Developing language skills outside of school

In addition to learning at school, it is useful to consider how and where you learn languages in your free time. For example, especially English plays an important role in media and popular culture, which both supports learning English as well as increases motivation to learn it at school. In the same way, you can look for material in other languages that you know. Hobbies can also be a way of learning to learn, that is, to find new ways of learning that suit you best.

It is not always obvious where you can use your language skills in your free time. It may also seem that there are few opportunities to use different languages in your everyday life or that the opportunities you do recognise do not match your interests. Seeking opportunities to use and learn languages in your everyday life maintains and develops your language skills, your skills in learning new things, and your sense of self-efficacy as a language user.

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Developing language skills in further studies and working life

A wide range of language skills are needed for working life and further studies. Languages are used in different situations and for different purposes (e.g., to break the ice, for everyday interaction at the workplace, in presentations) and require different levels of proficiency (e.g., brief conversations or extensive written reports). In addition to needs regarding skills in various languages, broader communication skills, such as negotiation and interaction skills, are also of great importance in any aspect of life.

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