3 Cardinal Virtues You Need to Be a Better English Learner or Teacher

Are you an English learner whose mother tongue is not English? Do you come from a non-English speaking environment? Or are you an aspiring or practicing teacher of the English language? To be more specific, are you someone whose native language is not English, but have the passion and capability to teach the language?

Then read on, for this post is for you.  Perhaps at some points, you may be having difficulty in your English language studies. Or if you are a beginner teacher of  English, self-doubts sometimes cloud your mind.

Photo by sean Kong on Unsplash

In this article, I want to share 3 cardinal virtues: faith, hope, love — that help English learners and English teachers be better. I won’t be discussing the education/training, skill set and other credentials  an English language teacher must have. I also won’t dwell on how learners can read or speak better and other related learning tips.

Rather, I’d discuss the necessary disposition learners and teachers alike should develop if they are to achieve their learning or teaching goals and succeed. But first, let me stress this, and you can quote me on this:

“One’s being born to the language does not automatically make him/her a good language teacher or fit to be one.”

The English language’s status as a global language plus the rapid exchange of knowledge, information, technology, as well as culture indicate that English language teachers do not have to be native-English speakers themselves. Just like me.

English is only my second language, but it was the main language at home in preparation for my school education. I still use it with my family and friends side by side with Filipino, our native language. Thus, my fluency in the language may be considered at par with English native speakers. I grew up with the language, both at home, in school, and later at work. Aside from that, I have two English teaching certificates, with close to 20 years of EFL teaching experience, in classroom settings as well as in one-to-one classes, and occasional online classes. My English learners ranged from pre-teeners to adults from East-Asia/Pacific, South America, and some parts of Europe.

Reflecting upon my personal experiences as an English learner and an English teacher, these 3 virtues of faith, hope, and love are what I’ve come to believe as most essential.

FAITH It simply means you’ve got to believe in yourself, in your capabilities, in all your efforts. No matter how things get to be difficult, which happens as part of any process, never ever lose heart.

In all my years of studying English in school, from elementary to 2 more years in college, lessons would progress from simple to complex concepts and rules. Sometimes, being young, I’d feel frustrated with the endless class work, homework, quizzes and the like. But in general, I enjoyed my English classes. I looked for ways to make learning easier — like joining study groups with classmates, or even playing “teacher” at home to my younger siblings, teaching them whatever I’d learned in class. I found it a good way to practice whatever I was learning by bringing in others to create fun.

When you’re at your wits’ end, relax, take it easy. Then continue, and keep trusting that you can do it.

If you find learning the language difficult, all the more it is for teaching it.  Why? Because as a teacher, you now have a great responsibility to ensure your students can learn from you. This is the real world. You cannot take things easy and think of excuses for lopsided work. You are also not there to just meet standards, pass all requirements, prepare lessons and materials. Because in the end, it is how you IMPACT your students and their learning that matters. So this can seem too much on your plate if you’re a novice teacher.

But remember, you’ve prepared yourself for this job, and perhaps you still continue to improve yourself and your craft, so believe that you have this work cut out for you.

HOPE Look forward to each day with eagerness to open your mind to whatever new lessons and insights will unfold before you.

In my writing classes, some students would complain, “Teacher, it’s difficult.” Perhaps that must only be a way for them to buffer any failure they thought they might meet — though deep inside they still nursed that hope they would be able to overcome any difficulties.

So I’d always include in my notes and handouts for them words of encouragement:

“Of course, you have a CHOICE.  Do it the EASY way, and say it is difficult, Difficult, DIFFICULT argghhhhh….and STAY as You are now —


No matter how difficult it is, you carry on and DO your BEST because you want to become better, Better, BETTER!!!  :)”

And this is my very same message to you, dear learners and teachers alike. Accept the challenges that go with learning and with teaching. It’s the only way you can overcome any hardships you meet. Look toward your goal and know that each step brings you closer to your destination. Imagine yourself climbing a mountain or swimming in the sea. If you keep looking back afraid to move forward, you might just drown in your fears or slip further away from your goals.

LOVE This I realize underscores everything. You’ve got to love what you’re doing – otherwise everything becomes a chore. With passion, love, and wholehearted dedication to your learning or to your teaching, your learning curve will be short and easy.  Everything will be breezy. That is – you won’t even mind or notice the long hours that you sometimes need to spend poring over books and notes or preparing for the next day’s grind.

Faith, hope, and love — all these boil down to having a POSITIVE attitude, an open mindset — in everything you do. Despite failures, shortcomings, you still can get up and persevere.

To inspire you in your respective journeys, here are useful links to quotes to motivate you.

42 Awesome Inspirational Quotes for Language Learners

How some wise words can inspire English teachers

As an English learner or teacher, what do you think is most essential or useful for you to reach your learning or teaching goals? Share your thoughts down below.



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