Almost two dozen L2 strategy classification systems have been divided into the following groups: (1) systems related to successful language learners (Rubin, 1975); (2) systems based on psychological functions (O’Malley & Chamot, 1990); (3) linguistically based systems dealing with guessing, language monitoring, formal and functional practice (Bialystok, 1981) or with communication strategies like paraphrasing or borrowing (Tarone, 1983); (4) systems related to separate language skills (Cohen, 1990); and (5) systems based on different styles or types of learners (Sutter, 1989). The existence of these distinct strategy typologies indicates a major problem in the research area of L2 learning strategies: lack of a coherent, well-accepted system for describing these strategies.
Researchers must reconceptualize L2 learning strategies to include the social and affective sides of learning along with the more intellectual sides. The L2 learner is not just a cognitive and metacognitive machine but, rather, a whole person. In strategy training, teachers should help students develop affective and social strategies, as well as intellectually related strategies, based on their individual learning styles, current strategy use, and specific goals.
Research should be replicated so more consistent information becomes available within and across groups of learners. Particularly important is information on how students from different cultural backgrounds use language learning strategies. L2 teachers need to feel confident that the research is applicable to their students.
More research on factors affecting strategy choice would be helpful. Learning style is an important factor, along with gender, age, nationality or ethnicity, beliefs, previous educational and cultural experiences, and learning goals. Additionally, it is likely that different kinds of learners (e.g., analytic vs. global or visual vs. auditory) might benefit from different modes of strategy training.
Teachers must have training relevant to their own instructional situations in three areas: identifying students’ current learning strategies through surveys, interviews, or other means; helping individual students discern which strategies are most relevant to their learning styles, tasks, and goals; and aiding students in developing orchestrated strategy use rather than a scattered approach.
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Chamot, A.U., & Kupper. L. (1989). Learning strategies in foreign language instruction. Foreign Language Annals, 22, 13–24.
Cohen, A.D. (1990). Language learning: Insights for learners, teachers, and researchers. Boston: Heinle & Heinle.
Naiman, N., Frohlich, M., & Todesco, A. (1975). The good second language learner. TESL Talk, 6, 58–75.
O’Malley, J.M., & Chamot, A.U. (1990). Learning strategies in second language acquisition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Oxford, R.L. (1989). Use of language learning strategies: A synthesis of studies with implications for strategy training. System, 17, 235–247.
Oxford, R.L. (1990a). Language learning strategies and beyond: A look at strategies in the context of styles. In S.S. Magnan (Ed.), Shifting the instructional focus to the learner (pp. 35–55). Middlebury, VT: Northeast Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.
Oxford, R.L. (1990b). Language learning strategies: What every teacher should know. Boston: Heinle & Heinle.
Oxford, R.L., & Crookall, D. (1989). Research on language learning strategies: Methods, findings, and instructional issues. Modern Language Journal, 73, 404–419.
Oxford, R.L., Park-Oh, Y., Ito, S. & Sumrall, M. (1993). Learning Japanese by satellite: What influences student achievement? System, 21, 31–48.
Ramirez, A. (1986). Language learning strategies used by adolescents studying French in New York schools. Foreign Language Annals, 19, 131–141.
Reiss, M.A. (1985). The good language learners: Another look. Canadian Modern Language Review, 41, 511–23.
Rubin, J. (1975). What the “good language learner” can teach us. TESOL Quarterly, 9, 41–51.
Sutter, W. (1989). Strategies and styles. Aalborg, Denmark: Danish Refugee Council.
Tarone, E. (1983). Some thoughts on the notion of “communication strategy.” In C. Faerch & G. Kasper (Eds.), Strategies in interlanguage communication (pp. 61–74). London: Longman.
Thompson, I., & Rubin, J. (1993). Improving listening comprehension in Russian. Washington, DC: Department of Education, International Research and Studies Program.
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This report was prepared with funding from the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Dept. of Education, under contract no. RR93002010. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of OERI or ED.
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Adapted with permission from:
Teemant, A. & Pinnegar, S. (2007). Understanding Langauge Acquisition Instructional Guide. Brigham Young University-Public School Partnership.