Wednesday, November 23, 2016



Background of Language Learning Strategies

Research into language learning strategies began in the 1960s. Particularly, developments in cognitive psychology influenced much of the research done on language learning strategies (Wiliams and Burden 1997:149). In most of the research on language learning strategies, the primary concern has been on "identifying what good language learners report they do to learn a second or foreign language, or, in some cases, are observed doing while learning a second or foreign language." (Rubin and Wenden 1987:19). In 1966, Aaron Carton published his study entitled The Method of Inference in Foreign Language Study, which was the first attempt on learner strategies.After Carton, in 1971, Rubin started doing research focussing on the strategies of successful learners and stated that, once identified, such strategies could be made available to less successful learners. Rubin (1975) classified strategies in terms of processes contributing directly or indirectly to language learning. Wong-Fillmore (1976), Tarone (1977), Naiman et al. (1978), Bialystok (1979), Cohen and Aphek (1981), Wenden (1982), Chamot and O'Malley (1987), Politzer and McGroarty (1985), Conti and Kolsody (1997), and many others studied strategies used by language learners during the process of foreign language learning.

Definition of a Language Learning Strategy

The term language learning strategy has been defined by many researchers. Wenden and Rubin (1987:19) define learning strategies as "... any sets of operations, steps, plans, routines used by the learner to facilitate the obtaining, storage, retrieval, and use of information." Richards and Platt (1992:209) state that learning strategies are "intentional behavior and thoughts used by learners during learning so as to better help them understand, learn, or remember new information." Faerch Claus and Casper (1983:67) stress that a learning strategy is "an attempt to develop linguistic and sociolinguistic competence in the target language." According to Stern (1992:261), "the concept of learning strategy is dependent on the assumption that learners consciously engage in activities to achieve certain goals and learning strategies can be regarded as broadly conceived intentional directions and learning techniques." All language learners use language learning strategies either consciously or unconsciously when processing new information and performing tasks in the language classroom. Since language classroom is like a problem-solving environment in which language learners are likely to face new input and difficult tasks given by their instructors, learners' attempts to find the quickest or easiest way to do what is required, that is, using language learning strategies is inescapable.
Language learning strategies language learners use during the act of processing the new information and performing tasks have been identified and described by researchers. In the following section, how various researchers have categorized language learning strategies will be shortly summarized:

Taxonomy of Language Learning Strategies

Language Learning Strategies have been classified by many scholars (Wenden and Rubin 1987; O'Malley et al. 1985; Oxford 1990; Stern 1992; Ellis 1994, etc. ). However, most of these attempts to classify language learning strategies reflect more or less the same categorizations of language learning strategies without any radical changes. In what follows, Rubin's (1987), Oxford's (1990), O'Malley's (1985), and Stern's (1992) taxonomies of language learning strategies will be handled:

Rubin's (1987) Classification of Language Learning Strategies

Rubin, who pionered much of the work in the field of strategies, makes the distinction between strategies contributing directly to learning and those contributing indirectly to learning. According to Rubin, there are three types of strategies used by learners that contribute directly or indirectly to language learning. These are:
  • Learning Strategies
  • Communication Strategies
  • Social Strategies

Learning Strategies

They are of two main types, being the strategies contributing directly to the development of the language system constructed by the learner:
  • Cognitive Learning Strategies
  • Metacognitive Learning Strategies

Cognitive Learning Strategies

They refer to the steps or operations used in learning or problem-solving that require direct analysis, transformation, or synthesis of learning materials. Rubin identified 6 main cognitive learning strategies contributing directly to language learning:
  • Clarification / Verification
  • Guessing / Inductive Inferencing
  • Deductive Reasoning
  • Practice
  • Memorization
  • Monitoring

Metacognitive Learning Strategies

These strategies are used to oversee, regulate or self-direct language learning. They involve various processes as planning, prioritising, setting goals, and self-management.

Communication Strategies

They are less directly related to language learning since their focus is on the process of participating in a conversation and getting meaning across or clarifying what the speaker intended. Communication strategies are used by speakers when faced with some difficulty due to the fact that their communication ends outrun their communication means or when confronted with misunderstanding by a co-speaker.

Social Strategies

Social strategies are those activities learners engage in which afford them opportunities to be exposed to and practise their knowledge. Although these strategies provide exposure to the target language, they contribute indirectly to learning since they do not lead directly to the obtaining, storing, retrieving, and using of language (Rubin and Wenden 1987:23-27).

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