One of the best things for anyone learning anything—particularly for my students who are working on learning another language—is to find something that you enjoy. This much is pretty obvious because, when we think about all the things we’ve ever done, it’s clear that we really struggle to get through anything we don’t want to do. People engage far more and with more focus when they like what they’re learning, regardless of the difficulty.
So I try to work with my students to design their own lessons. I don’t like to set most of the parameters and force them into learning vocabulary that they may not want to engage with right now. If my goal is to have a conversation with someone, why would I want to spend time talking about something that bores both of us? It’ll be a really long lesson, and they won’t want to do it again. Seriously, it feels like a punishment when you have to force yourself through something or when it’s something that you just have no opinion on.
With one of my students, we’ve been focusing a lot on magic tricks. They apparently used to do them and were really into it. This is something that I found out almost entirely by accident, when I started showing videos of magic tricks to elicit conversation about how they thought the trick was done. Except they started showing me the magic tricks that could be done, explaining them as they went. Occasionally, they needed me to jump in to help give them vocabulary, but you could see how happy it made them to share what they knew with someone!
Every time I work with students, I’m given more evidence that learning should be about what we need. What keeps us most engaged? What do we like to do?
How can that make us enjoy learning again?