In my book, English Language Learners: Teaching Strategies That Work, I talk about what researchers have identified as some of the key qualities of a successful language learner: intrinsically motivated, a sense of self-efficacy, willingness to take risks, willingness to learn from mistakes, and a willingness to teach others. I have many references listed in the book, and I’m not going to take up the time or space here to list them.

In another book that I wrote
(with my colleague, Katie Hull), we included a lesson plan talking about this qualities with students. As part of that lesson, I’ve been trying to identify good, short video clips that might illustrate those listed qualities.

(Also, check out Interactive Quiz — Are You A Good Language Learner)

The first thing I’ve done, though, is modify how I talk with students about them. To them, I list the qualities as:

An appetite for learning, perseverance

Being willing to take risks

Being willing to make mistakes and learn from them

Wants to help and teach others

These are the videos I’ve found so far. I’m not done exploring all the suggestions people offered to me last week when I asked for help. I hope that people can keep contributing more ideas, and I’ll continue to add them here. And thanks especially to David Deubelbeiss for pointing me to some of them.

Here are my choices for The Best Videos Illustrating Qualities Of A Successful Language Learner:

An appetite for learning and/or perseverance:

This polar bear cub knows all about perseverance and how it pays off:

As does this boy who wants a soccer ball:

Helen Keller is another great example. The first video is one of her and Mary Ann Sullivan demonstrating how she learned to communicate. The second one is a video clip from a film version of The Miracle Worker:

And we all need to be like Gus!


In this video, Willow The Dog demonstrates the value of perseverance:

This dog does, too:

Here’s a video of someone who wanted to become a professional skier, but broke his back on the slopes while doing a backflip and became a paraplegic. Eight years later he became the first person to perform a backflip on snow in a Sit Ski.

Here’s one definitely demonstrating an “appetite for learning”:

LEARN from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.

Basketball star Steve Nash talks about “You Gotta’ Practice”:

The eagle in this video certainly illustrates an example of perseverance:

This baby giraffe shows she has perseverance:

Perseverance and intrinsic motivation are qualities researchers have found critical for being a successful language learner.

The New York Times has a great article about a young and physically short basketball player who demonstrates both. Here’s a video of him in action:

Being Willing To Take Risks:

This penguin knows what risk-taking is all about:

And these ducklings know, too:

As does this pony:

Being willing to make mistakes and learn from them:

I don’t know if anything beats this famous Michael Jordan commercial:

Here’s the transcript to the Jordan video:

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot…and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Wants to help and teach others:

This is a great scene from “The Color Purple”:


This next resource is not a video, but is a related resource:

Contributions are welcome, along with any kind of feedback.

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