When examining the role of gender on the acquisition of language one must consider that there are numerous ways in which it can affect language use and development. Gender is a variable that can affect language use and acquisition as a result of biological, psychological effects, or socio-cultural influences differences between the two. Bialystok (1979) Language learning strategies are believed to play a vital role in learning a second or foreign language, as they may assist learners in mastering the forms and functions required for reception or production in the second or foreign language and thus affect achievement (cited in Hashemi, 2012). It involved the mental and communicative procedures learners use in order to learn and use language (Nunan, 1999). Some of these strategies are performed individually; whereas others will be required the participant of other people. In general, language learning strategy (LLS) is specific behavior or an action taken by the learner to facilitate acquisition, retention, retrieval, and performance (Rigney, 1978 cited in Ghani, 2003) which make the learning easier, faster, more enjoyable, more self-directed, more effective, and more transferable to new situations (Oxford,1990).
Language learning strategies have been found to correlate with language proficiency and performance (Kamarul Shukri et al., 2008; O’Malleyet al., 1985; Politzer & McGroarty, 1985). Therefore, most educators now accept the assumption that the use of learning strategies has become guidepost for determination of high from low skilled learners (Brown et al., 1983). They have also begun to recognize the influence that learning strategy use may have on the acquisition of a second or foreign language (Abraham & Vann, 1987; Chamot, 1987; Cohen & Aphek, 1981; Hosenfeld, 1977; Wenden, 1991). They also acknowledge that learners can be taught to learn the language if they are also taught the strategies that facilitate language acquisition. For a variety of reasons language, learning strategies are of great importance to language learning.
Appropriate of LLSs can lead to higher achievement, more self-confidence on the part of learner, and greater autonomy. The special emphasis is placed on O’Malley and Chamott’s (1990), Oxford’s (1990), as well as Brown (2000) learning strategies taxonomies. Different researchers have classified language learning strategies into different categories the most general categorize are metacognitive, cognitive, and social affective strategies. The LLS taxonomy contains three categories: a) Metacognitive strategies b) Cognitive strategies c) Social/affective strategies. Although different classifications of learning strategies have been proposed, the classification of O'Malley would be chosen as the basis of the present study. O'Malley's (1985) Classification of Language Learning Strategies Metacognitive Strategies can be stated that is a term to express executive function, strategies which require planning for learning, thinking about the learning process as it is taking place, monitoring of one's production or comprehension, and evaluating learning after an activity is completed. Among the main metacognitive strategies, it is possible to include advance organizers, directed attention, selective attention, self-management, functional planning, self-monitoring, delayed production, self-evaluation.
Cognitive strategies are more limited to specific learning tasks and they involve more direct manipulation of the learning material itself. Repetition, resourcing, translation, grouping, note taking, deduction, recombination, imagery auditory representation, key word, contextualization, elaboration, transfer, inferencing are among the most important cognitive strategies. Socioaffective Strategy as to the socio/affective strategies, it can be stated that they are related with social-mediating activity and transacting with others. Cooperation and question for clarification are the main socio/affective strategies (Brown 1987, pp.93-94). In recent years, researchers have identified key areas of individual differences that can influence the choice and the frequency of LLS use (Chang, 2003; Griffiths, 2003; Kamarul Shukri et al., 2009; Lan, 2005; Macaro, 2001; O’Malley & Chamot, 1990; Oxford, 1990; Rubin, 1975). Considering the fact that language-learning strategies can promote language achievement and that knowledge about these strategies may progress instruction, it is important to study how learners use learning strategies.
Gender differences have been found in many areas of human social and cognitive development. Studies indicated that females show more interest in social activities than males, females are less competitive and more cooperative than males (Maccoby & Jacklin, 1974). Research studies also claim that females are better than males both in second and first language acquisition (Larsen-Freeman & Long, 1991). In language learning strategy research, many studies across different cultures show more frequent strategy use by females than males, especially the social-based strategies (Oxford, 1995 & Mohamed Amin, 2000). However, some findings revealed that males employed more strategies than females (Zamri, 2004), and some even suggested that there were no significant differences between males and females on their use of language learning strategies (Chang, 1990; Chou, 2002). Politzer (1983) studied learning strategies of 90 undergraduate foreign language learners enrolled in French, Spanish and German courses in the U.S. and found that female learners used social learning strategies more often than males.
After studying the LLS used by more than 1,200 undergraduate university learners, Oxford and Nyikos (1989) concluded that gender difference had a profound influence which indicates that females used strategies more frequently than males. Punithavalli (2003) with 170 ESL learners in Selangor, Malaysia found that female learners used greater strategies in and outside of classroom compared to the male learners. The results did not show a significant difference between male and female learners in using learning strategies for their examination.
The study conducted by Nazali (1999) to find out the use of LLS among the secondary school learners who were learning Malay as a first language showed that females significantly surpassed males in their use of classroom strategies, and out of classroom strategies. The result of Green and Oxford’s (1995) study on 374 ESL/EFL showed that female learners used memory, metacognitive, affective, and social strategies more frequently than male learners. Chang (2003) investigated the use of LLS by a group of high school learners in Taiwan who were learning English. The study found that females significantly surpassed males in the use of LLS as a whole. The results also showed that females significantly used cognitive, compensation, metacognitive, and social strategies more frequently than males. The results of Lan’s (2005) study of 1,191 Taiwanese elementary school learners indicated a significant difference between boys and girls in the frequency of strategy use. Girls in this group reported to use significantly more strategy than boys. In the Malaysian context, Embi (2000) conducted a study to investigate the LLS of secondary school learners learning English. The result of his study indicated that females reported using overall LLS more frequently than male learners. The result also showed that females use more classroom and out of classroom strategies, and exam language strategies than males. Oxford (1993,p.83) summarizes the gender related LLS research in the following manner: whenever strategy research has considered gender, it has usually demonstrated gender differences in strategy frequency, with females choosing to use particular sets of strategies more often than males. Females especially tended to use general study strategies, social strategies, affective strategies and certain conversational or functional practice strategies more frequently than males across a number of studies, usually showing a greater range of frequently used strategy categories. However, gender differences are not necessarily universal.
For instance, Tran’s (1988) study discovered that Vietnamese male immigrants to the U.S. used more strategies than the females did. He claimed that employment situation may influence the use of strategies as well as gender. Wharton (2000) studied learning strategies of 678 university learners learning Japanese and French as foreign language in Singapore. Unexpectedly, the results showed that LLS were used significantly by males. Wharton (2000) speculated that when the subjects were very experienced second language learners, so gender difference in the use of strategies was not significant. Zamri’s (2004) study in Malaysia also reported a similar result, as male learners used strategies more often than females when they were learning Malay language as a first language. Existing research shows that motivation (Kaylani, 1996), cultural background (Oxford, 1996), attitudes and beliefs (Oxford et al 1990) and gender (Kaylani, 1996) are some of the factors which influence choice of strategies used among students learning a FL. Bacon (1992) investigated strategies that learners used when listening to authentic second language texts of two levels of difficulty. She reported that women used a significantly higher proportion of metacognitive strategies than men. They were more likely to plan for the listening, monitor their comprehension and evaluate their strategy use than men. On the other hand, men reported more bottom-up strategies than women. Men also reported a significantly greater use of translation strategies than women. They appeared to be in more favor of cognitive strategies than metacognitive strategies. Some studies provided contradictory evidence regarding gender difference in language learning strategies.