Language learning strategies is a term referring to the processes and actions that are consciously deployed by language learners to help them to learn or use a language more effectively. They have also been defined as ‘thoughts and actions, consciously chosen and operationalized by language learners, to assist them in carrying out a multiplicity of tasks from the very outset of learning to the most advanced levels of target language performance’. The term language learner strategies, which incorporates strategies used for language learning and language use, is sometimes used, although the line between the two is ill-defined as moments of second language use can also provide opportunities for learning.
Language learning strategies were first introduced to the second language literature in 1975, with research on the good language learner. At the time it was thought that a better understanding of strategies deployed by successful learners could help inform teachers and students alike of how to teach and learn languages more effectively. Initial studies aimed to document the strategies of good language learners. In the 80s the emphasis moved to classification of language learning strategies. Strategies were first classified according to whether they were direct or indirect, and later they were strategies divided into cognitive, metacognitive or affective/social categories.
In 1990, Rebecca Oxford published her landmark book "Language Learning Strategies: What Every Teacher Should Know" which included the "Strategy Inventory for Language Learning" or "SILL", a questionnaire which was used in a great deal of research in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Controversy over basic issues such as definition grew stronger in the late 1990s and early 2000s, however, with some researchers giving up trying to define the concept in favour of listing essential characteristics. Others abandoned the strategy term in favour of "self regulation".
Classification of language learning strategies:
O'Malley and Chamot classification:
In 1990, O'Malley and Chamot developed a classification of three types of language learning strategies:
Metacognitive strategies, which involved thinking about (or knowledge of) the learning process, planning for learning, monitoring learning while it is taking place, or self-evaluation of learning after the task had been completed.
Cognitive strategies, which involved mental manipulation or transformation of materials or tasks, intended to enhance comprehension, acquisition, or retention.
Social/affective strategies, which consisted of using social interactions to assist in the comprehension, learning or retention of information. As well as the mental control over personal affect that interfered with learning.
This model was based on cognitive theory, which was commended, but it was also criticized for the ad hoc nature of its third category.
Also in 1990, Rebecca Oxford developed a taxonomy for categorizing strategies under six headings:
Cognitive—making associations between new and already known information;
Mnemonic—making associations between new and already known information through use of formula, phrase, verse or the like;
Metacognitive—controlling own cognition through the co-ordination of the planning, organization and evaluation of the learning process;
Compensatory—using context to make up for missing information in reading and writing;
Affective—regulation of emotions, motivation and attitude toward learning;
Social—the interaction with other learners to improve language learning and cultural understanding.
In later years this classification system was criticized for its problems in separating mnemonic stratgeies from cognitive strategies, when one is a sub-category of the other, and the inclusion of compensatory strategies, which are connected to how a learner uses the language, rather than learns it.
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