Your Emotional Health Affects Your Language Learning Ability

Do you know someone whose emotional wellness is affected negatively when typical Winter weather rolls in? It happens to approximately 10 million people in the United States, and is called Seasonal Affective Disorder. What does this have to do with learning Spanish? Nothing directly, but it’s the affective part that applies. (Just in case you didn’t know) Affective spelled with an “a” at the beginning means “having to do with moods, feelings and attitudes” (New Oxford American Dictionary).
The ability to learn a new language is affected by our emotional state, especially our stress level regarding our ability to learn a language. This isn’t a disorder, but it has been called the “affective filter” by world renowned linguistic expert Stephen Krashen.
I’ve never heard Mr Krashen explain the filter analogy, but I’ll go out on a limb here, and attempt to illustrate. Essentially, the more anxiety you feel about your ability to learn a new language, the more the affective filter gets clogged. It’s like an air filter in a car, an air conditioner, etc. When dirt clogs the openings of the filter, less air gets through. So, when our affective filter gets clogged by emotional debris, like low self-confidence, high anxiety, etc., learning slows down.
To summarize the language of Krashen’s academic theory, I would say that, for best language learning results, we want to be relaxed and feel that we truly can succeed at learning the language.
If you want to find the best way to learn Spanish on the Internet, Krashen has said, “The best methods are … those that supply ‘comprehensible input’ in low anxiety situations, containing messages that students really want to hear.” That rules out nearly all of the language learning programs and games on the Internet. But, it includes Proficience eSpanish.
Where this program shines is in its low anxiety, high comprehensible input approach. A teacher who used this in her class not long ago told me that her students were learning when using the program, and that she thought it would be great for learners who have a naturally high affective filter. Yes, foreign language teachers actually do use the term “affective filter” freely when geeking out on language learning talk. 🙂

Hopefully the program’s story of Robert and Gabriela is something that learners can be interested in. Not everyone likes the same kinds of stories, but no matter how entertaining learners find it, it’s still a LOT better than random grammar sentences with no relevant context (i.e. the typical high school foreign language homework assignment). That’s my opinion, anyway.

I invite you to try the first three lessons, and decide for yourself. They’re free, and you will really learn Spanish. Look at the endorsements to see what others have said. You’ll understand everything, and the Spanish will stick with you. It might even relax you and improve your attitude. (Can’t hurt, might help!)

Let me know what comments, questions, observations, etc. you have. I want to know what works for you, what can improve your experience, and any relevant thoughts that come to mind during the lessons. May you enjoy what you see and hear, and learn what you need to know.

Mark Mayo has an M.A. in Instructional Design for Second Language Education, and lives in Northern California with his family and two dachshunds.

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2 thoughts on “Your Emotional Health Affects Your Language Learning Ability

  1. I think your use of silly humor, relaxation reminders and easily answerable questions helps to lower affective filters. It’s definitely fun to learn this way. You are really good at this.

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