How Different Learning Styles Affect English Language Acquisition

Photo of students TOEFL practice LearnEnglish

It might surprise you to learn that more people speak English as a second language than as a first one. At last count, there were around 350 million native English speakers, compared to an estimated 1 billion second language learners. Although ESL teachers often assume that learners will face difficulties based on the degree to which their mother tongue differs from English, there are other important factors. Perhaps the most pressing consideration is the difference in learning styles and how they can affect instruction. With that in mind, here are the most common language learning styles educators should address.

Visual Learner

As you might have guessed, visual learners learn best by looking and seeing. They enjoy reading because it lets them see the words they are learning. Adding pictures to the mix often helps them acquire knowledge because they have a knack for connecting words and visual aids. When teaching a class, an astute English teacher can cater to visual learners by incorporating the following visuals: pictures, posters, charts, maps, videos, cartoons, computer graphics, worksheets, board games, puzzles, and flash cards.

Auditory Learner

Auditory learners always acquire knowledge best when they hear it. They typically respond well to spoken instructions and have a good ear for foreign languages. As a general rule, they will not need to see words written out in order to learn them. Although listening is an essential activity in language instruction, it can occasionally be overshadowed by textbook learning. For the sake of the auditory learner, it is important for an ESL teacher to balance written and spoken activities. Stories, songs, poems, riddles, oral activities, and verbal instructions are all helpful to these students.

Tactile Learner

Many younger students are considered tactile learners because they learn best by touching and manipulating objects. Of the language learning styles we have discussed today, tactile activities are often the most fun for students. Activities these learners enjoy include drawing, making models, arts and crafts, playing board games, and songs with gestures. English teachers can use touchable puppets and toys to help these learners internalize new vocabulary.

Studies have shown that the most successful ESL teachers find a way to cater to the needs of students with different language learning styles. The examples above can help any educator incorporate an even mix of learning activities into their lesson plans.

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