Learner characteristics refers to differences between learners, differences that have an influence over their attitude to learning a language and the way they learn it. Different teachers have different teaching styles and use different approaches in the classroom. Different learners have different characteristics and they respond differently to these different teaching styles and approaches.
The most important differences in my opinion are the four listed below:
I consider these four differences to be the most important therefore I am going to talk a little more about each of them. However, learner’s age, language level, learning strategies, family’s educational background, and few others, are all important characteristics and a teacher might want to take these into account when teaching.
Can you learn a foreign language without a strong motivation? Personally, I can not. According to my experience motivation is strongly related to the family’s educational background. An adult, learns English because he needs it for getting a better job or just because he has to use it for work. Other reasons might be: studying abroad, traveling etc. Children, (here I am talking about the kindergarten kids) do their best to speak English because they think is cool and funny. They just speak and laugh; there is no fear of making mistakes. Teenagers on the other hand, are usually forced by their parents to learn English. Very few of them have a strong motivation for learning English and that is easily visible in their English skills. There are very few learners who truly love English. There is a significant number of learners who learn English just because they need to get a good mark.
Personalities, beliefs, and attitudes differ among individuals. There are many kinds of personalities and affective variables that have a big influence over foreign language learning but I will mention only two of them (that are true in my and my learners’ case):
Adults and teenagers may have learned English before. Most of these learners are used to learn in a particularly way and know what learning style is the best for them. We, teachers, have to be aware of how our learners have learned before and how they would like to learn now. Teachers may need to explain their methods to those learners who are unhappy with new teaching methods.
Our learning style influences how we like to learn and how we learn effective. Below are some commonly mentioned learning styles with a short description for each of them.
Teachers must remember that learners might not fall exactly into one specific category. Different cultures use some learning styles more than others. Learners learn with different teachers who have different teaching styles which may change or develop learners’ learning styles.