Benefits of love languages in the classroom

Ira Wardhani

Ira Wardhani is an ESL and BIPA (Indonesian Language for Foreign Speakers) Teacher, having graduated from Indonesia University of Education. She has been teaching in both informal and formal institutions for eight years, conducting various seminars to accelerate language improvement among teachers, students, government officials and entrepreneurs. Ira is also a content writer for her personal website, set up as a platform to share her thoughts with the world. In this blog, Ira introduces the topic of love languages and how to communicate with students.

Praising is recognized as one of the most effective tools to motivate students. Many learners give in to discouragement when facing lessons they deem too arduous. Plagued with self doubt, students may suffer from low self esteem.

Praising helps shift students’ mindset away from the false belief that tells them they are not intelligent enough to understand certain topics. It is also used to reward students or build a social relationship with them (Brophy, 2008). However, some leaners may not recognize this as a reward. Since teachers have to work with a vast variety of different students, they need to find the most effective way to communicate affirmation.

What are love languages?

Heavily discussed among academics are Chapman and Campbell’s (2015) five types of languages; service, quality time, words, gifts and touch. Each indicates what kind of treatment makes people feel most loved. The students whose love language is touch will not feel as appreciated when they are only given a verbal compliment. It does not mean that they cannot enjoy other treats, but that they are in need of having their love language spoken to them. If you are a language learner or an expatriate, you will understand the craving for conversation with someone who speaks the same language. Unfortunately, people feel the same way when their love language is not communicated to them.

How can love languages be applied in your classroom?

Show appreciation for students’ effort and achievement through mastering their love languages! To determine students’ love languages, you can start by giving them a questionnaire and conducting an observation. This should not take too much time, as their reaction to our treatment is sometimes obvious.

  • Words:
    You may give positivity-boosting compliments to students whose love language is words. These words of praise can be expressed in a spoken or written manner. Since some students prefer being praised in private rather than among their friends, teachers can write the words of encouragement on their papers after grading them. Be careful when making negative comparisons, giving criticism, or using sarcasm with students whose love language is words. Toxic humor in the classroom will also change their behaviour, but in the wrong direction.
  • Quality time:
    Attend students’ drama performances or sports matches if their love language is quality time. Using events such as school competitions will save you time, as they are held inside your work place. Often, teachers are asked to administer or help with these events, so the only effort you will have to make is to show your enthusiasm during their performances. If you still don’t have time for this, use the performances they deliver in the classroom.
    Quality conversation discussing their interests, obstacles and difficulties in their study will also work; engage them in a dialogue about the topic of the lesson when you go around checking on your students. Do not interrupt them during their class presentation or look at your watch, as this will empty their emotional tank. If you have to, let them know about the time allocation beforehand so they will voluntarily stop when the time is up.
  • Touch:
    Pat their shoulders or give them a high five for touch. However, be fully aware that different cultures perceive touch in different ways. There are several types of physical contact that teachers can or cannot make, depending on the culture, students’ genders and ages. In some cultures, shaking hands with the opposite sex might be off limit. In others, hugging is considered platonic. Don’t give students praise for doing their job, such as when collecting their homework, but when they comprehend certain objectives. Always make sure that the type of physical contact you make is appropriate.
  • Service:
    Offer help with students’ projects if their love language is service. Avoid rejecting their requests for help. When you really cannot squeeze it into your schedule, offer another time. For example, ‘Can we have the extra class on Wednesday instead?’. Students will often simultaneously ask for help or elaboration during your lesson. Tell this type of student that you will try to get to them as soon as you are done helping others.
  • Gifts:
    For students whose love language is gifts, allocate a budget for giving them small gifts when making progress and remember their special days if possible. Even if you don’t do this, unexpected gifts are still incredibly flattering. Pick a budget-friendly present, as for gifts people it is not the cost, but the thought that counts. The higher their level of achievement, the more thoughtful the gift could be.


Use their love language!

It is very easy to project your own love language on to your students. A teacher whose love language is words will often only praise their students with words, as it sounds meaningful to them. E.g.: ‘You are doing a very good job!’ or ‘I am proud of your progress.’ Even though they will still benefit your students, they might not be as effective if the students do not share the same love language. Over using praising phrases makes them sound less genuine. This might also imply that you give short shrift to what you are really praising. Mastering love languages gives you countless creative ways to stimulate your students’ participation and enthusiasm in your class. The ambience of your class will improve and the friendship you build with your students will be stronger. It will be easier for students to receive constructive criticism and advice that you offer when they appreciate your attention.

Regardless of how much you care about your students, if you do not communicate it in terms they can understand, they will never be able to feel it. The truth is you can train students (and discipline kids) only after their emotional needs have been fulfilled. Even though it may seem like hard work at the beginning, understanding love languages will help you and your students in both the classroom and beyond!

If you’d like to carry on exploring motivation in young learners, take a look at ‘8 ways to harness children’s natural excitement to advance learning’


Chapman, G. and Campbell, R. (2005) The Five Love Languages of Children

Brophy, J. (2008) Motivating students to learn

  • Omar Khahyam

    Alan Maley mines a long running lode of creative ideas again dighing deep and wide to uncover practical nuggets for classrooms.Prof Stephen J Hsll

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