mhismanoglu [at] usa.net
Hacettepe University (Ankara, Turkey)
This paper aims at emphasizing the importance of language learning strategies in foreign language learning and teaching. It summarizes the background of language learning strategies, defines the concept of a language learning strategy, andoutlines the taxonomy of language learning strategies proposed by several researchers. It also takes into account the teacher's role in strategy training and poses questions for further research on language learning strategies.
There has been a prominent shift within the field of language learning and teaching over the last twenty years with greater emphasis being put on learners andlearning rather than on teachers and teaching. In parallel to this new shift of interest, how learners process new information and what kinds of strategies they employ to understand, learn or remember the information has been the primary concern of the researchers dealing with the area of foreign language learning. This paper provides the background of language learning strategies, gives variousdefinitions and taxonomies of language learning strategies presented by several researchers. It also stresses the importance of language learning strategies for foreign language learning and the teacher's role in strategy training. In the last section, the paper exhibits some questions for further research on language learning strategies.
Background of Language Learning Strategies
Research intolanguage 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, areobserved 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 couldbe 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 strategiesused 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), "theconcept 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...