What Should English Language Teachers Know About Language learning strategies? by Annapoorni Balan SignUp
What Should English Language Teachers Know About
Language learning strategies?
Prof. Annapoorni Balan Bookmark and Share


 Language learning strategies are used consciously and/or subconsciously when the learners process the target language “input” and produce their “output”. Sadtono (1996)  indicates that differences in achievement in second language learning are often related to differences in strategy use. Many projects have tried to identify whether it is possible to facilitate English language learning with certain LLS, or whether English language learners can modify their own strategies and learn new ones that are more productive (Hedge, 2000). According to Carter and Nunan (2001), Ehrman and Oxford (1989), Hong-Nam and Leavell (2006) and LoCastro (1994), there are many factors affecting the learner’s strategy use such as age, gender, motivation, learning environment, learning style, personality, cultural background, and career orientation. For the purposes of generalizing a more thorough picture of LLS, this article revisits and investigates stereotypes about Asian learners’ LLS, teachers’ perceptions of their students’ strategy use, the relationship between the use of LLS and the target language proficiency, and the influences of sex differences on the strategy use. Language Learning Strategies 
  According to Hedge (2000), researchers who wish to investigate the literature on LLS should be aware of the following facts. First, there have been various labels given to strategies, such as “language processing strategies”, “tactics”, “plans”, and “techniques”, with no easy equivalences among them. Second, since the early studies of the good language learners’ characteristics by Frohlich, Naiman and Todesco (Hedge, 2000,) in the 1970s, different authors have clarified and discussed different ways of classifying LLS, and various frameworks have been developed, such as those of Chamot, Ellis, Kupper, O’Malley, and Oxford (Hedge, 2000). Kumaravadivelu (2006) notes that it is only during the 1970s that researchers began to study systematically the learners’ explicit and implicit efforts to learn a second language. Rubin (1975) defines learning strategies as “the techniques or devices which a learner may use to acquire knowledge”. Besides, Rubin (1987) states that LLS “affect learning directly” and “contribute to the development of the language system which the learner constructs”. Focusing on the competence, the goal of any language learning, Tarone (1983) defines LLS as “an attempt to develop linguistic and sociolinguistic competence in the target language” . Looking at the consciousness characteristic of LLS, Cohen (1998) defines LLS as “the steps or actions selected consciously by learners either to improve the learning of a second language or the use of it or both”. The term   language learning strategies now refers to what learners know and do to regulate their learning (Kumaravadivelu, 2006). According to Oxford’s (1990) taxonomy, LLS are “operations employed by the learner to aid the acquisition, storage, retrieval and use of information” and “specific actions…to make learning easier, faster, more enjoyable, more self-directed, more efficient, and more transferable to new situations”. Oxford categorizes LLS into direct strategies (including memory strategies, cognitive strategies, and compensation strategies) and indirect strategies (including metacognitive strategies, affective strategies, and social strategies). Memory strategies help learners store and retrieve new information, for example, using rhymes or flashcards to remember new words in the target language. Cognitive strategies are devices applied by learners to better understand and produce the target language, such as writing notes, messages, letters or reports in the target language. Compensation strategies are intended to make up for missing knowledge while using the language, such as making guesses to understand unfamiliar words in the target language. Metacognitive strategies allow learners to control their own cognition including the planning, organization, evaluation and monitoring of their language learning, for example, looking for opportunities to read as much as possible in the target language. Affective strategies refer to the methods that help learners regulate their emotions, motivations and attitudes, such as trying to relax whenever being afraid of using the target language. Social strategies include the ways of interacting with other people in the context of language learning, such as asking a speaker to slow down or to repeat something in the target language.
 Stereotypes or Preconceptions about Asian Learners and Their Language Learning Styles and Strategies 
Cortazzi and Jin (1996) and Hird (1995), working in the Chinese context, spoke of a culture or tradition of language learning, which might determine students’ strategies and behavior in English language classrooms. When Cortazzi and Jin asked Chinese students what made a good learner, surprisingly the highest scoring category from the list of eleven points was “hard-working”. Hird (1995) was impressed by the traditional Chinese class, in which individual interpretations were not fully appreciated and the students were considered to be in class to receive the target language rather than construct it. In other words, these learners were considered as passive and rote learners. 
  However, the study by Watkins, Reghi and Astilla (1991), comparing the responses to learning process questionnaires by Filipino and Nepalese students to those previously reported by similar aged Australian and Hong Kong students, showed that a similar structure of learning processes was reported in each culture. Little evidence was found to support the conception that Asian learners were more prone to rote learning than the Australians were. It was amazing that the Nepalese students tended to employ higher levels of both deep and achieving approaches to learning than the other students did. Similar findings were presented by Littlewood (2000) who examined some common preconceptions about Asian learners and their learning attitude, in particular, the belief that they see the teacher as an authority figure and as a fount of all the knowledge. From the responses by students in eight Asian and three European countries, Littlewood (2000) indicated that there was actually less difference in attitudes to learning between Asian and European countries than between individuals within each country. His article underlines the need to explore in greater depth the nature and extent of cultural influences on learning in general and language learning in particular. Findings of many other investigations conducted in China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Australia show that Asian learners in general are not passive and rote learners who always stick together, adopt surface strategies to learning, and lack the skills for analysis and critical thinking. A great number of Asian students of English are described as motivated, effective and strategic learners (Chalmers & Volet, 1997; Hess & Azuma, 1991; Hollaway, 1988; Kember & Gow, 1989; Marton, Dall’Alba & Tse, 1993; Tang, 1993). Teachers’ Perceptions with regard to their Students’ Use of LLS Although issues related to individual learner factors and learner variables have received much attention, issues related to teachers have not been researched thoroughly (Griffiths, 2007). According to Cortazzi and Jin (1996) and Hird (1995), Asian teachers traditionally expect the learning output to be error-free, and they greatly value memory strategies. Some other researchers pointed to the influence of teachers on modifying usual stereotypes of Asian learners. Howe (1993) and Lewis and McCook (2002), with their studies in Vietnam, addressed the popular misconception of passivity among Asian students  

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