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An Experimental Study of Language Learning Strategies

: Particular Focus on the Patterns of Strategy Use


by Japanese University Learners of English
KITAKAWA Azumi
Introduction
In recent years, the focus has shifted from the teacher to the learner in foreign/second language
education. There are some learner's factors which affect second language learning, for example,
intelligence, aptitude, personality, motivation, attitude, preferences, beliefs, age of acquisition, target
language, task, environment and in particular, language learning strategies. As one of second language
learners, I have been seeking for the better way since I started learning English in my junior high
school. Then I knew the idea of language learning strategies. According to Oxford (1990), language
learning strategies are actions taken by second and foreign language learners to control and
improve their own learning (p.ix). I wanted to know what kind of strategies other people were
using. Is there the best strategy?
This study will focus on second language learning from the point of view of language learning
strategies. The purposes of this paper are to establish the theory of language learning strategies,
and to examine the relationship between strategies used by Japanese university English students
and their proficiency in English. This paper is a part of my master's thesis in 2008.
This study begins with a chapter on introduction of what language learning strategies is.
The chapter includes; the definition, features and classification of strategies. Language learning
strategies have been researched since in 1980s, but there is not any overwhelming definition or
classification yet. Therefore, we first have to establish more refined definition and classification in
order to conduct the experiment. In chapter 2, we will show the experimental procedures such as
purposes, participants and test materials. In chapter 3, we examine the relationship between
Japanese university English students' strategy use and their proficiency in English. For this purpose,
research findings are presented and discussed. That will make it possible to learn an important
key for better second language learning. There is bibliography at the end of the paper. In this
paper, the word second language learning indicates not only, so-called, second language learning
(SLL) but also be extended to cover the notion of foreign language learning (FLL).
Finally, the experiment makes it clear that there are some patterns of language learning strategies
use by Japanese university learners of English. It will lead to the future step for better second language
learning.
1. Language Learning Strategies
Before it is possible to enter into a detailed discussion of language learning strategies, we must
try to clarify our central conception of them.
1.1. Definition
The word strategy is defined in Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary as [A] Plan that is
intended to achieve a particular purpose, The process of planning something or carrying out a
plan in a skillful way, The skills of planning the movements of armies in battle or war. This
strategy concept has influenced education and is now used in second language learning.
According to Ellis (1994), Stern(1975) was one of the first researchers to take a look at the good
language learner. Stern said In our view strategy is best reserved for general tendencies or
overall characteristics of the approach employed by the language learner, leaving techniques as
the term to refer to particular forms of observable learning behavior. Since then, a lot of
researchers have stated what language learning strategies are. The definitions by Rubin (1975)
and Oxford (1990) are well-known now. Rubin defined strategies as the techniques or devices
which a learner may use to acquire knowledge. Oxford wrote learning strategies are specific
actions taken by the learner to make learning easier, faster, more enjoyable, more self-directed,
more effective, and more transferable to new situations. Ellis (1994) defined them as mental or
behavioral activity related to some specific stage in the overall process of language acquisition or
language use. Takeuchi (2003) added more specifically: Learner's conscious techniques or
actions in learning foreign language which possibly make the task performance or language
acquisition easier, more effective or more efficient when a single or some combined language
learning strategies are used in appropriate stage for the particular activities. In contrast,
Muranoi (2006) defined them as various actions or mental process for facilitating learner's learning.
By for the simplest definition.
Ellis (1994) pointed out that there are four premises for the various definitions of language
learning strategies. Language learning strategies are; general approaches or particular techniques
behavioral(and, therefore, observable) or mental, or both conscious and intentional or subconscious
direct or indirect on interlanguage development. To put the matter simply, each researcher
have a different own definition depending on these premises he/she takes. However, the biggest
difficulty in defining this term is, as O'Malley and Chamot 1990 mentioned, not the difference
in their premises but the framework on which each researcher relied.
For example, Rubin, Oxford and Wenden treated learning strategies as a study of second language
acquisition or language education. They are data-driven researchers who study individual differences
by choosing to describe strategies that learners are actually using. O'Malley, Chamot, Weinsten
and Mayer, on the other hand, look at learning strategies using cognitive psychology. They are
concept-driven studies trying to explain theoretically a point of view of an information-processing
model.
With these points in mind, this paper will adopt the former alternative which Rubin and Oxford
took as their framework. In addition to that, the four premises for language learning strategies
here are; general approaches and particular techniques both behavioral (and, therefore,
An Experimental Study of Language Learning Strategies
observable) and mental conscious and intentional direct or indirect on interlanguage development.
Considering all these researchers' definitions, frameworks and the premises, the team language
learning strategies can be defined as behaviors or mental process which learners use consciously
and that affect directly or indirectly for learning language in this paper.
1.2. Features
Though language learning strategies were defined in the previous section, it would be almost
impossible to show the various roles of the learning strategies for language acquisition or education
in just one sentence. Many researchers are combining the features with the definitions.
Now this paper will also present the feature of language learning strategies. First, recall there are
bases and frameworks that make a definition. Additionally, Takeuchi (2003) offered the following
points to be put in the definition. For one thing, he suggested it was important that learning
strategies themselves were not distinguished by being good or not and just had the possibility to
help learning when they were used for specific tasks with a certain aim (Cohen 1998). As you can
see that language learning study was started from good learner research. Only the techniques
which seemed to contribute second/foreign language learning were called language learning
strategies and the other techniques that did not contribute language learning were excluded
heretofore. What is more, he proposed the relationship between learning stages (beginning,
intermediate and advanced) and language learning strategies use. One final point is that language
learning strategies are effective both when just one item is used and when some are used together
O'Malley and Chamot 1990 . This paper does not take these points into definition just as
Takeuchi (2003) insisted, but have them in the characteristics below.
The features of language learning strategies for this study are largely referred to as JACET
(2005). They covered many problems that had been discussed in previous works, perhaps
because the thesis published in 2005 was relatively new. Now, let us see the features of language
learning strategies in this research.
A) Language learning strategies have a possibility to make language learning easier and contribute
language acquisition (competence and performance).
B) Language learning strategies are what learners can use consciously according to need and
then allow them to become more responsible and self-directed.
C) Some language learning strategies are behavioral (and, therefore, observable) while other are
mental (and, therefore, not observable)
D) Some language learning strategies contribute directly while other contribute indirectly on
interlanguage development
E) Language learning strategies are not distinguished by being good or not and just have effectual
way and non-effectual way.
F) Language learning strategies allow students to properly use the strategies with appropriate
guidance.
G) Language learning strategies use varies as a result of learner's internal factors (sex, age, belief,
aptitude, motivation, personality, learning experience, proficiency, cognitive/learning style,
learning purpose, learning stage, cultural background, intelligence, etc.) and external factors
(target language, task, environment, etc.).
H) Language learning strategies are used single or in combination (interdependent).
1.3. Classification
There are many systems of language learning strategies. Earlier studies, definition and features
were concerned to determine the classification. They are grounded on the strategy system by
Oxford (1990) which bases on the same framework with this research. Her classification is very
popular because it is considered the most inclusive system of language learning strategies at the
present moment. In fact, it was picked up in the section of learning strategy in A Guide to English
Language Teaching Terminology (Shirahata et al, 1999).
Language learning strategies are divided into two major classes: direct and indirect. These two
classes are subdivided into a total of six groups (cognitive, memory, and compensation under the
direct class; metacognitive, affective, and social under the indirect class) (See Figure 1.)
Classification of Language Learning Strategies
- The two classes and six groups
. Cognitive Strategies
Direct Strategies . Memory Strategies
. Compensation Strategies
Learning Strategies
. Metacognitive Strategies
Indirect Strategies . Affective Strategies
. Social Strategies
Each of six groups shown above has some more concrete strategies, as shown in Figure 2.
Some language learning strategies which relate with learning directly are called direct strategies.
All direct strategies require mental processing of the target language, but the three groups of
direct strategies (cognitive, memory and compensation) do this processing differently and for different
process (Oxford 1990). Cognitive strategies, such as practicing or analyzing, enable learners to
understand and produce new language by many different means. Memory strategies, such as
grouping or using imagery, have highly specific functions. They help students store and retrieve
new information. Compensation strategies, like guessing or using synonyms, allow learners to
use the language despite their often large gaps in knowledge.
Other language learning strategies are called indirect strategies because they support and manage
language learning without, in many instances, directly involving the target language (Oxford
1990). Indirect strategies are divided into metacognitive, affective and social. Metacognitive
strategies allow learners to control their own cognition; that is, learners can coordinate their own
learning processes by using study habits such as centering, arranging, planning and evaluating.
Affective strategies help to regulate emotions, motivations and attitudes. Social strategies help
students to learn through interaction with others. Indirect strategies are useful in virtually all language
learning situations and are applicable to all four language skills: listening, reading, speaking and
Figure 1
An Experimental Study of Language Learning Strategies
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An Experimental Study of Language Learning Strategies
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2
An Experimental Study of Language Learning Strategies
writing.
In this classification, the most important points are, position of cognitive strategies, the value of
the strategy of organizing network, and the differentiation between asking for clarification and
asking for verification. Although three direct strategies appear equal, this study argues that cognitive
strategies of greater importance than memory or compensation because cognitive function
includes the works of remembering and covering. They are displayed in juxtaposition for forms
sake. There is no particularly dominant one in three groups under the indirect strategies. Then
let us look at a set organizing networks which is added in social strategies. As we have seen in
Figure 2, social strategies are divided into four sets: asking questions, organizing networks, cooperating
with others and developing cultural understanding. In the case of organizing networks, students
are making friends with peers and making friends with proficient users of the new language.
Oxford's classification of language learning strategies does not include network making, which is
the main reason why, according to Neustupny (1995), her concept for social strategies is restricted.
This study therefore incorporates organizing networks in the list for more input. The strategies
would encourage learners to understand the culture or society of the language being study.
Asking questions in social strategies is divided into two parts in Oxford s study (1990): asking
for clarification and verification and asking for correction, however in this paper, there are three
parts: asking for clarification, asking for verification and asking for correction. In our viewpoint,
clarification and verification are totally different because the former means clarification
request but the latter means confirmation check. Segmentalized classification will be useful to
receive the actual use of strategies in the experiment.
2. Experiment
2.1. Purpose
The purpose of the experiments here is; to examine the relationship between language learning
strategies used by Japanese university English students and their proficiency in English.
2.2. Participants
There were 148 participants in this study (87 male, 58 female and 3 unknown). The participants
were Japanese students enrolled in liberal arts English classes in a university in Iwate, Japan.
Participants were in their first year and from the faculties of Humanities and Social Sciences,
Agriculture and Engineering. In this school, English class levels are divided into three based on
the score of Test of English as a Foreign Language Institutional Testing Program Level 2 test
(TOEFL ITP) , which are elementary, intermediate and advanced. I chose two classes from each
level; one is for Humanities and Social Sciences major students (humanities class) and another is
for Agriculture and Engineering students (science class).
The level of English classes are; elementary science students (N=18) scored between 313-377
out of 500 on TOEFL ITP, elementary humanities students (N=26) scored 350-387, intermediate
science students (N=22) scored 393-403, intermediate humanities students (N=31) scored 413-437,
advanced science students (N=26) scored 407-423, advanced humanities students (N=25) scored
440-490.
The age of participants was from 18 to 21 (M=18.3, SD 0.53). Most of them have been studying
English since their first year in junior high school, although there are a few people who started
studying English from eight to eleven years old. A person who had lived in an English speaking
country over one year was removed. So the participants in this study ware university students
who used Japanese as both mother tongue and home language and have learned English in Japan
mainly from classes at school and their own effort.
In this paper, let us call students whose proficiency is high in advanced class advanced students
or successful learners, students in intermediate class intermediate students, and students
whose proficiency is low in elementary class elementary students or unsuccessful learners.
The term good learner(s) was shown in the previous studies by Rubin or Oxford and now it is
popular in this area of study. However, this paper will not use the word because this term have
not really explained or defined yet.
2.3. Material and Procedures
The instrument used for collecting data was the Likert scale questionnaire. Also, a background
questionnaire was used to learn participants information such as gender, age, major, mother
tongue, language spoken at home, English learning experiences and English learning environment.
It was intended to find and remove students with above average levels of experience.
The Likert scale questionnaire was used to research which language learning strategies participants
are using and how they are using them. It is a self-scoring, paper-and pencil survey and consists
of 63 items. Participants are asked to respond on a five-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (never or
almost never) to 5 (always or almost always) for statements like I usually try to say or write new
expressions repeatedly to practice them. I made this questionnaire based on the classification of
language learning strategies in this study using examples from Strategy Inventory for Language
Learning (SILL) by Oxford (1990). Now, even the pioneer, Oxford, encouraged the use of
research learning strategies which suit the learner s own situation or learning environment. She
encouraged people to invent new strategy inventory because researchers in the field concerned
that SILL came out of a particular kind of environment such as Defense Language Institute (DLI),
Foreign Service Institute (FSI) or Peace Corps in North American area (Takeuchi 2003). This
time, I made the question sentences more concrete and gave examples of the items which
seemed difficult to understand.
For the advanced science class and intermediate humanities class, these materials were administered
during the English classes. For the other four classes, they were distributed in the English classes
and corrected in the next class, which means that learners responded at home as volunteers. The
differences were due to whether or not the each teacher could spare time to let their students do
the questionnaires. Both distributions and corrections for all classes were done in June 2007.
3. Results and Discussion
First of all, we will see Japanese university students general use of language learning strategies.
An Experimental Study of Language Learning Strategies
In 1.3., it was pointed out that language learning strategies were subdivided into a total of six
groups: cognitive, memory, compensation, metacognitive, affective, and social (See Figure 1.)
The mean of all strategies was 2.62. Oxford (1990) defined that if the score is over 3.5, it can be
said that the strategy is usually used. If the score is under 3.5, people need to be trained to use the
strategy more frequently (In this paper, let us call these strategies usually-used strategy(ies). )
It seems reasonable to suppose that the mean 2.62 is low if we consider Oxford s number of 3.5.
Usage order and mean (number shown in parentheses) were as follows: cognitive strategies
(2.86), compensation strategies (2.81), metacognitive strategies (2.74), social strategies (2.61),
affective strategies (2.34), and memory strategies (2.29). The use of six strategy groups was
roughly the same because the range of the data was only 0.57. From a bigger point of view, direct
strategies held the first, second and last places, and indirect strategies held the third, fourth and
fifth places. With all memory strategies as an exception, indirect strategies were not used by
Japanese university English students compared with direct strategies.
Now, let us expose the relationship between language learning strategies used by Japanese university
English students and their proficiency in English. As mentioned in 1.2., learner s factor affects
the use of learning strategies. Proficiency is one of the most important internal factors.
3.1. Strategy use and class level
To begin with, we will see in-depth data on the use of language learning strategies for each
class level: elementary, intermediate and advanced.
Elementary class
The mean of whole language learning strategies used by elementary students was 2.42, which
was 0.20 points lower than the mean of all participants. The highest score was 3.52 for the strategy
of translating (cognitive). The lowest score was 1.50 for using check-list (affective). There was
just one usually-used strategy: translating (3.52) (Numbers in parentheses means the score of the
strategies.)
Intermediate class
The mean of whole language learning strategies used by intermediate students was 2.63, which
was 0.10 points higher than the mean of all participants. The highest score was 3.83 for the strategy
of asking for clarification (social). The lowest score was 1.53 for using check-list (affective). There
Use of Strategies by Elementary Students Figure 3
were six usually-used strategies: asking for clarification 3.83 , using circumlocution or synonym 3.79 ,
paying attention 3.62 , avoiding communication partially or totally 3.60 , using mime or gesture
3.55 and translating 3.53
Advanced class
The mean of whole language learning strategies used by advanced students was 2.76, which
was 0.14 points higher than the mean of all participants. The highest score was 3.90 for the strategy
of translating (cognitive). The lowest score was 1.63 for using check-list (affective). There were
eight usually-used strategies: translating (3.90), taking notes (3.80), asking for clarification (3.78),
using circumlocution or synonym (3.70), using mime or gesture (3.61), paying attention (3.57),
avoiding communication partially or totally (3.53) and highlighting (3.51).
The shapes of the three graphs look similar: there are three mountains in each, which means
that three classes have a similarity in their used strategies type and frequency. However, if you
look at the data closer, the bar chart height of advanced and intermediate classes is higher than
that of the elementary class. In other words, depending on proficiency, the used strategies type is
same but the frequency is different.
We would like to focus attention on the usually-used strategies whose scores are over 3.5.
There was one among elementary students, six among intermediate students and eight among
advanced students. If the class level is higher, the number of usually-used strategies increases.
The choice of language learning strategies used by the three different levels of students was the
same. This means advanced students usually use eight strategies: translating, taking notes, highlighting,
Use of Strategies by Intermediate Students Figure 4
Use of Strategies by Advanced Students Figure 5
An Experimental Study of Language Learning Strategies
using mime or gesture, avoiding communication partially or totally, using circumlocution or synonym,
paying attention and asking for clarification. Intermediate students usually use six of them and
elementary students use one of them.
To ignore the fact that, in six common, usually-used strategies for intermediate and advanced
students, the means of the intermediate class were higher than those of the advanced class for
four strategies here (See Table 1.) is to miss an important point: teachability of language learning
strategies. Against the positive correlation between frequency of strategy use and proficiency
which has been shown in this paper, why was the counterexample caused? The possible answer
could be the effect of tasks in class, which is one of a learner s external factors (See 1.2.) I found
that students in intermediate science class were doing some tasks in which strategies were used
from an interview with the teacher. The lesson contents were sight translation, retention, shadowing,
taking notes and re-creating a listened story in own words. This means that the students were
using strategies such as avoiding communication partially or totally, using circumlocution or synonym,
paying attention and asking for clarification. This shows that appropriate guidance through tasks
facilitates students to use language learning strategies.
It should be concluded, from the mean of each class, however, that advanced students use
strategies more than intermediate students in general. The mean of the advanced class for eight
strategies in Table 1 below was 3.68, which was the highest score of the three classes. The mean
of intermediate class was 3.54 and elementary class was 3.22. The frequency of language learning
strategies use goes up as proficiency levels becomes high.
Usually-used Strategies
It follows from what has been shown that Japanese university English students use the same
kinds of language learning strategies regardless of their English proficiency. However, the frequency
Table 1
* Numbers in bold print are over 3.5. * The encircled numbers are the highest mean of the strategies.
Question
No.
Strategies
Strategy group
Mean of
all
students
Mean of
elementary
class
Mean of
intermediate
class
Mean of
advanced
class
10 Translating (Cognitive) 3.66 3.52 3.53 3.90
12 Taking notes (Cognitive) 3.52 3.43 3.32 3.80
14 Highlighting (Cognitive) 3.23 3.14 3.04 3.51
28 Using mime or gesture (Compensation) 3.41 3.00 3.55 3.61
31
Avoiding communication partially or totally
(Compensation)
3.37 2.91 3.60 3.53
33
Using circumlocution or synonym
(Compensation)
3.62 3.32 3.79 3.70
36 Paying attention (Metacognitive) 3.43 3.05 3.62 3.57
55 Asking for clarification (Social) 3.68 3.05 3.83 3.78
Above nine strategies 3.49 3.22 3.54 3.68
of strategies use is related to proficiency. Advanced students used strategies more than intermediate
students. The intermediate students used strategies more than elementary students.
As for the effect of tasks on strategy use, Takeuchi (2003) said that the study of language
learning strategies in the field of foreign language education is significant only after we can teach
the common ways or actions usually selected by good learners to ordinal learners and then their
learning is facilitated. Takeuchi, 2003, p35 . This study does not discuss the teaching method,
but the teachability of language learning strategies is verified.
3.2. Six strategy groups use and class level
The mean of entire language learning strategies was 2.26. In view of proficiency, the mean of
the elementary class was 2.42, that of the intermediate class was 2.63, and that of the advanced
class was 2.76. It is clear that there is more frequent use of language learning strategies as the class
level goes up, which means that there is a certain relationship between strategy use and proficiency
(See Table 2.)
Usage order was as follows: first; cognitive strategies in all classes, second; compensation
strategies in elementary and intermediate classes and metacognitive strategies in the advanced
class, third; metacognitive strategies in elementary and intermediate classes and compensation
strategies in the advanced class, fourth; social strategies in all classes, fifth; affective strategies in
intermediate and advanced classes and memory strategies in the elementary class and finally;
memory strategies in intermediate and advanced classes and affective strategies in the elementary
class. The kind of language learning strategy group preferred was almost the same in all classes.
Usage Rank and Mean of Six Strategy Groups by Different Class Level Table 2
Rank
All students
(Mean)
Elementary
class (Mean)
Intermediate
class (Mean)
Advanced
Class (Mean)
1
Cognitive
(2.86)
Cognitive
(2.66)
Cognitive
(2.89)
Cognitive
(3.00)
2
Compensation
(2.81)
Compensation
(2.62)
Compensation
(2.89)
Metacognitive
(2.904)
3
Metacognitive
(2.74)
Metacognitive
(2.51)
Metacognitive
(2.77)
Compensation
(2.895)
4
Social
(2.61)
Social
(2.38)
Social
(2.57)
Social
(2.84)
5
Affective
(2.34)
Memory
(2.17)
Affective
(2.33)
Affective
(2.53)
6
Memory
(2.29)
Affective
(2.14)
Memory
(2.30)
Memory
(2.37)
An Experimental Study of Language Learning Strategies
The usage pattern of the six strategy groups is almost the same in the three different classes,
but when we look at each strategy group, the mean goes up in order of elementary, intermediate
and advanced class. Advanced students use language learning strategies more frequently than
elementary students do. But the kinds of strategies used by Japanese university English students
are similar in spite of their English proficiency.
3.3. Differences of strategy use between class levels
Here is a figure which shows the highest and lowest point of each question item between the
three different proficiency classes. The trends of both lines fluctuate similarly and the graph
agrees with the analysis above. Yet, what is important here is that some strategies have large
gaps between the highest score and lowest score and others do not. Thus, the type of used strategies
is almost the same, but the use frequency is different depending on class.
Figure 7 indicates the degree of difference between the highest and lowest score. While the
ranges of most strategies are around 0.2 to 0.6, item number 53, taking risks wisely is outstanding.
Also, strategies number 57, 52 and 30 scored over 0.8, which means their ranges are large. On
the other hand, the range of strategies numbered 50, 29, 24 and 20 are less than or equal to 0.10.
Based on the data in Figure 7 above, let us take a closer look at the language learning strategies
that have the largest ranges depending on class level (See Table 3.) Although several observations
in the last few sections have shown a positive relationship between the frequency in use of language
Two Extreme Values for Each Strategy Figure 6
Difference between the Two Extreme Values for Each Strategy Figure 7
learning strategies by Japanese university English students and their proficiency in English, we
could not see the relationship between the kind of strategy used and proficiency. However, now it
will be made clear which strategy relates to higher proficiency.
Among the ten highest scoring language learning strategies, the mean of the advanced class
accounted for eight of them. Among the lowest scoring ten, the mean of the elementary class
accounted for all. That is to say these strategies were used a lot by successful students but not
used by unsuccessful students. This shows not only the correlation between language learning
strategies use and proficiency but also the possibility that strategies make language learning easier
and contribute to language acquisition.
Ranking the ranges from largest to smallest put taking risks wisely (1.19) in first, making positive
statements and asking for correction (0.86) were second, selecting the topic (0.81) was forth and
Ccooperating with peers (0.72) was fifth. In fact, six of ten strategies in Table 3 were not preferred
by all proficiency level learners, only particularly advanced students were using them. In a viewpoint
of six strategy groups, there was one cognitive strategy, three compensation strategies, two affective
strategies and two social strategies, which means combined there were four direct strategies and
six indirect strategies here. From this data, we would like to lay special emphasis on the importance
of indirect strategies.
It has already been stated that the mean of the advanced class resulted in most of the highest
scores among the strategies. With exceptions, getting the idea quickly and adjusting or approximating
the message, their highest scores were from the intermediate class. The intermediate students
here used these strategies better than advanced students supposedly result in their course content
that included some tasks in which many strategies were used (See 3.1.)
An Experimental Study of Language Learning Strategies
Strategies Used Differently by Class Level
Opposed to the Table 3 above, the Table 4 shows 12 language learning strategies used similarly
in all classes. The highest means were from advanced or intermediate classes and the lowest
means were from elementary, intermediate or advanced classes. The ranges were from 0.05 to
0.18, which was small (See Table 4.) From this view point one may say that there are some strategies
which are almost unrelated to the user s target language proficiency.
Ranking the ranges from smallest to greatest gave us: using music (0.07) first, avoiding communication
partially or totally (0.08) second, semantic mapping and using physical response or sensation (0.10)
forth. Surveying the six strategy groups gave us one cognitive strategy, five memory strategies,
two compensation strategies, one metacognitive strategies and three affective strategies, which
means combined, there were eight direct strategies and four indirect strategies.
These common strategies were divided into two types: highly used strategies and sparsely used
strategies. Some strategies were used better in all classes than the overall mean, 2.62. For example,
rewarding yourself (2.84/2.66), overviewing and linking with already material (2.73/2.62) (The
number to the right is the highest value and the one to the left is the lowest value.) Regardless of
their English proficiency, Japanese university English students usually used them. Other strategies
were used less than the average number, for example, using a check-list (1.63/1.50), semantic
mapping (1.90/1.80), switching to the mother tongue (2.04/1.88), using mechanical techniques
(1.82/1.64), using physical response or sensation (2.08/1.98), avoiding communication partially or
Table 3
*QN=Question number *Differences= Differences between the two extreme values
Rank QN Strategies Strategies group Differences Highest mean (class) Lowest mean(class)
1
2
2
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
53
Taking risks wisely
Affective
1.19
3.35
(Advanced)
2.16
(Elementary)
52
Making positive statements
Affective
0.86
3.22
(Advanced)
2.36
(Elementary)
57
Asking for correction
Social
0.86
3.16
(Advanced)
2.30
(Elementary)
30
Selecting the topic
Compensation
0.81
3.08
(Advanced)
2.27
(Elementary)
60
Cooperating with peers
Social
0.72
3.06
(Advanced)
2.34
(Elementary)
6
Getting the idea quickly
Cognitive
0.70
3.40
(Intermediate)
2.70
(Elementary)
31
Adjusting or approximating the message
Compensation
0.69
3.60
(Intermediate)
2.91
(Elementary)
41
Planning, Planning for a language task
(Metacognitive)
0.67
2.76
(Advanced)
2.09
(Elementary)
43
Self- monitoring
(Metacognitive)
0.66
3.41
(Advanced)
2.75
(Elementary)
28
Using mime or gesture
(Compensation)
0.61
3.61
(Advanced)
3.00
(Elementary)
totally (2.15/2.07), placing new words into a context (2.37/2.20), and using imagery (2.45/2.27).
These were the strategies which almost no people used regardless of their proficiency.
Common Strategies in All Class Level
According to the data in this section, the type of language learning strategies can fall into one of
two categories: some strategies are used differently depending on the proficiency of the used, and
other strategies are used similarly regardless of the user s proficiency.
Some strategies shown in Table 3 fall into the former category. The gap between the frequency
of use of the advanced students and the elementary students is big. The results in 3.1. and 3.2.
seem reasonable enough to conclude that there is a relationship between the frequency of language
learning strategies and proficiency. The examples from this section make clear the relationship
between specific kinds of strategies and higher proficiency.
Also, even though the use of indirect strategies is lower in general, advanced students prefer to
use indirect strategies. Indirect strategies are important from communication theory viewpoint,
too. Communicating message depends on not only the code (linguistic system) but also the context
(including the situation) (Hashiuch 1999). Indirect strategies can allow learners to enhance the
Table 4
*QN=Question number *Differences= Differences between the two extreme values
Rank QN Strategies Strategies group Differences Highest mean (class) Lowest mean(class)
1
2
3
3
5
6
7
8
9
9
50
Using music
(Affective)
0.07
2.57
(Intermediate)
2.50
(Elementary)
29
Avoiding communication partially or
totally Compensation
0.08
2.15
(Intermediate)
2.07
(Elementary)
20
Semantic mapping
Memory
0.10
1.90
(Advanced)
1.80
(Elementary)
24
Using physical response or sensation
(Memory)
0.10
2.08
(Advanced)
1.98
(Elementary)
35
Overviewing and linking with already
material (Metacognitive)
0.11
2.73
(Advanced)
2.62
(Elementary)
46
Using a check-list
Affective
0.13
1.63
(Advanced)
1.50
(Elementary)
27
Switching to the mother tongue
Compensation
0.16
2.04
(Intermediate)
1.88
(Elementary)
17
Placing new words into a context
Memory
0.17
2.37
(Intermediate)
2.20
(Elementary)
9
Analyzing contrastively
(across languages) (Cognitive)
0.18
2.65
(Advanced)
2.47
(Elementary)
19
Using imagery
(Memory)
0.18
2.45
(Advanced)
2.27
(Elementary)
9 25
Using mechanical techniques
(Memory)
0.18
1.82
(Advanced)
1.64
(Elementary)
9 54
Rewarding yourself
(Affective)
0.18
2.84
(Advanced)
2.66
(Elementary)
An Experimental Study of Language Learning Strategies
comprehension of the context. Generally speaking, Japan is in a high-context culture. For
Japanese university English students, even the target language is English, it seems reasonable to
suppose that the use of indirect strategies helps their English learning.
Common strategies in all class levels in Table 4 contain both strategies used frequently and strategies
not used frequently. The former strategies are used by Japanese university English students at any
proficiency level. It can be said that the language learning strategies used frequently will be a
good first step for someone who starting use new strategies. At the same time, to know and
understand the strategies which are not usually used will expand the repertoire of second language
learners.
Conclusion
In this study, we have seen the patterns of language learning strategy use by Japanese university
learners of English. I hope that this paper has provided you valuable information and better understanding
of language learning strategies. I hope, in addition, that you consider the findings from this study
on language learning strategies as important implications for better second language learning.
As a beginning, this study established the theoretical aspects of strategies; the definition, features
and classification. The term language learning strategies was defined as behaviors or mental
process which learners use consciously and that affect directly or indirectly for learning
language. The definition includes some key factors to characterize strategies. In chapter 2, the
methodology of experiment was presented.
The research results and discussions were shown in chapter 3. Paying our attention to the relationship
between strategies use and proficiency from both viewpoints of strategy groups and each strategy,
the frequency of language learning strategies use went up as proficiency levels became high. If
the class level was higher, the number of usually-used strategies whose scores were over 3.5
increased, too. The used strategy type seemed same regardless of proficiency. The important point
to note here was that, as exceptions, the examples from the section 3.3. made clear the relationship
between specific kinds of strategies and higher proficiency. Advanced students preferred to use
these strategies, for example, taking risks wisely affective and making positive statements affective .
This means that the strategies have the possibility to make language learning easier and contribute
to second language acquisition. On the other hand, there were strategies used similarly regardless of
the user s proficiency, for example, avoiding communication partially or totally compensation
and using music (affective).
The topic about strategy training remained still untouched in this study. For that, strategies
used highly frequently by successful students must be effective. There is room for the further
investigation.
Ellis (1994) described as interinfluence about the relationship between learner s choice of
learning strategies -quantity and type- and learner s level of L2 proficiency. This paper will take
a similar view, but still, it would be expected that language learning strategies much more contribute to
proficiency. Although it may be difficult to generalize the analysis or suggestion since the data
have not had statistical process in this study, there is much truth of language learning use by
Japanese university English students, and furthermore, for better second language learning.
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