Many foreign language teaching methods have emerged throughout history, most of them trying to ratify or reject the validity of the principles and tenets of the previous ones and providing new guidelines for language teaching. However, these methods will never work for all students even if they are the most innovative and engaging one. The reason why this happens is because each student has a different learning style.
Howard Gardner translated these different learning styles into multiple intelligences, that is, each student is born with a specific intelligence that will determine his/her way of learning. In what follows, the seven intelligences that this author developed will be briefly described.
Linguistic intelligence involves sensitivity to spoken and written language, the ability to learn languages, and the capacity to use language to accomplish certain goals. This intelligence includes the ability to effectively use language to express oneself rhetorically or poetically; and language as a means to remember information.
Logical-mathematical intelligence consists of the capacity to analyze problems logically, carry out mathematical operations, and investigate issues scientifically. In Howard Gardner’s words, it entails the ability to detect patterns, reason deductively and think logically.
Musical intelligence involves skill in the performance, composition, and appreciation of musical patterns. It encompasses the capacity to recognize and compose musical pitches, tones, and rhythms. According to Howard Gardner musical intelligence runs in an almost structural parallel to linguistic intelligence.
Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence entails the potential of using one’s whole body or parts of the body to solve problems. It is the ability to use mental abilities to coordinate bodily movements. Howard Gardner sees mental and physical activity as related.
Spatial intelligence involves the potential to recognize and use the patterns of wide space and more confined areas.
Interpersonal intelligence is concerned with the capacity to understand the intentions, motivations and desires of other people. It allows people to work effectively with others. Educators, salespeople, religious and political leaders and counsellors all need a well-developed interpersonal intelligence.
Intrapersonal intelligence entails the capacity to understand oneself, to appreciate one’s feelings, fears and motivations. In Howard Gardner’s view it involves having an effective working model of ourselves, and to be able to use such information to regulate our lives. (Smith, Mark K. 2002, 2008)
Teachers, therefore, need to take into account all intelligences in order to satisfy the students’ necessities. The students must have the same opportunities to learn something. For this reason, understanding the different types of intelligence will help the educator’s task. If the learner feels that it is easy for them to learn something, their motivation will increase and the process of learning will be much more effective.
Thus, appropriate educational activities for each intelligence type must be found. In the following chart, there are some examples of activities that could correspond to each intelligence kind.
Ilustration 1: Rodgers, Theodore S. (2001)
All in all, the student is the most important element in the teaching process, therefore, all teachers must take into account their personal characteristics and, particularly, their type of intelligence which determine their learning process.
Smith, Mark K. (2002, 2008) ‘Howard Gardner and multiple intelligences’, The encyclopedia of informal education. Retrieved from: http://www.infed.org/mobi/howard-gardner-multiple-intelligences-and-education.
Gardner, H., & Hatch, T. (1989). Multiple intelligences go to school: Educational implications of the theory of multiple intelligences. Educational Researcher, 18(8), 4-9.
Rodgers, Theodore S. (2001). Language Teaching Methodology. University of Hawaii.