The importance of empathy in language teaching

empatia e apprendimento linguistico

The importance of empathy in language teaching

As I referred to in the article “How to make language learning easier for students”, one of the principal and fundamental aspects ensuring this process has positive results is the teacher’s capacity for empathy. As is the case with all emotions, the ability to show empathy isn’t innate. For this reason, every teacher who isn’t capable of feeling it or who hides behind weak excuses like “this is just the way I am” probably doesn’t actually love their job. Let’s look in more detail at what exactly empathy is and why it plays such an important role in the process of learning a new language.

What is empathy?

Empathy can be defined as the ability of one person to share another person’s feelings or experiences (without having to necessarily resort to the use of verbal language). In other words, having a higher-than-average capacity for sensitivity which enables you to understand what the person in front of you is feeling in order to adapt your own behaviour accordingly.

As I have already mentioned, not everyone possesses the natural gift of empathy. Rather it is an ability which can be learned with patience and dedication, using it carefully, also as an opportunity to work on ourselves. Empathy is an instrument which helps us gain a deep, symbiotic understanding of another person’s mental state, allowing us to avoid conflict and therefore concentrate more on joy and positivity.

In what way does being empathic help students during language learning?

If you have been following everything that has been said up to now, it will be clear to you how empathy can facilitate the process of learning a new language. As for any subject, also for studying English, French etc. it is fundamental that the teacher possesses an elevated capacity to empathise with their students. This is essentially for two reasons.

The first is related to the effective results of an empathic teaching process. If the teacher manages to “tune in” to every student using empathic relations, their students will perform better and faster. Imagine how good at maths you could have been if you didn’t have that awful, shouty teacher who made you lose your passion for the subject even before you realised you had it?

The second is linked to the student’s effective happiness and satisfaction. There are in fact many excellent students who however appear to have to make a real effort to study, without ever developing a real passion for the subject they are studying. Thanks to teachers developing relationships based on empathy with their students, as a consequence, their students succeed in developing such a deep love for the subject that they can’t wait to study and learn more.

If you aren’t convinced yet or you want more explanation on how to develop empathy, please get in touch, I am more than happy to help you develop this wonderful emotional tool.