Language Learning Strategies: What Are They All About? Where Do They Take Us Next?

This month we published Situating Language Learning Strategy Use edited by Zoe Gavriilidou and Lydia Mitits. In this post the editors explain what inspired them to write the book.

Our interest in language learning strategies started almost two decades ago in Greece as an attempt to find practical solutions to practicing language teachers’ questions about how to make their learners become more efficient, more effective and more motivated when learning a second/foreign language and how to make the whole learning experience more enjoyable. While looking for answers, in an already extensive body of relevant research, we came to realize that an important goal of any education system – an autonomous, self-regulated learner – can’t be achieved without training that learner in a successful use of language learning strategies. Thus, we embarked on an exciting journey of the study of language learning strategies through a large-scale nationwide research followed by international cooperation with world leading researchers as well as new enthusiasts.

In doing so we constantly tried to answer the following questions:

  • What are the current and future trends in language learning strategy research?
  • What are the major gaps in language learning strategy research?
  • What are the theoretical tools and research methods that researchers have at their disposal in order to address language learning strategies?
  • How has research in language learning strategy use in diverse contexts promoted strategy instruction and learner autonomy?

Here we are now, gratified by the fact that the Second International Conference on Situating Strategy Use: Present Issues and Future Trends, which we hosted in Komotini, Greece, in 2017, has given birth to this collective volume in which the chapter authors contribute to answering the above questions.

We’re also very excited that research into strategies for language learning holds strong as the renewed interest in and dedication to the topic in this volume shows. The chapters in the book focus on bringing together theoretical study of language learning and language learning strategies with research on strategy instruction. We hope to show that instructional approaches should be based on sound theory and research on strategic learning. Therefore, the book includes detailed exposition and discussion of empirical findings from relevant rigorous research, instruction interventions as well as theoretical reflections in the field.

The originality of the volume is that it extends beyond most strategy research and theory, and forms a collection of versatile studies in very specific contexts that range from primary to tertiary education and include, among others, research on learning strategies for languages other than English or on their role in promoting critical thinking through video gaming.

We hope that readers of this book, undergraduates studying second/foreign language learning, graduate students involved in second language acquisition research, applied linguists, educational researchers, teachers and policymakers in general, will enjoy its broad scope and global perspective.

Zoe Gavriilidou, Democritus University of Thrace, Greece
zoegab@otenet.gr

Lydia Mitits, Democritus University of Thrace, Greece
lydiamitits@gmail.com

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Learning Strategy Instruction in the Language Classroom edited by Anna Uhl Chamot and Vee Harris.

Language Learning Strategy Instruction

This month we are publishing Learning Strategy Instruction in the Language Classroom edited by Anna Uhl Chamot and Vee Harris. In this post Vee explains the inspiration behind the book.

The inspiration for this book emerged from a chat with some colleagues at the end of a busy day. The discussion centred around research into language learner strategies: those internal tactics that people use to help them memorise vocabulary in another language or to make themselves understood, for example. Thinking perhaps there was something we both had missed, we tentatively suggested that there was a lack of research into how to actually teach these strategies. In the course of our classroom-based research, we had been struck by the way studies into Language Learning Strategy Instruction (LLSI) described in detail research methods and results but said little about the rationale underlying the teaching activities and approaches used. To our surprise, our colleagues shared our concern and we agreed that a book devoted uniquely to this area would be a valuable resource for both researchers and teachers alike. We decided to widen our enquiry to colleagues in a range of other countries and contexts, inviting them also to contribute a chapter on a topic of their choice. Committed to bridging the gap between research and practice, we stressed that their chapters could deal with the theoretical issues LLSI raised but could equally well describe concrete materials for teaching strategies to different age groups.

We were overwhelmed by the enthusiasm to participate whether from colleagues in the USA, New Zealand, Canada, or the UK. However two further areas emerged from their suggestions. The first was to have a section on those strategies that have been under-researched and therefore not frequently taught, such as strategies for learning grammar or developing Critical Cultural Awareness. The second would address the lack of guidance on integrating LLSI into pre- and in-service teacher education. Hence there are four parts to the book: parts 1 and 2 deal with issues such as the range of approaches to LLSI, and identifying and teaching the under-researched strategies. Parts 3 and 4 focus on the implementation of LLSI whether through the use of technology and the coursebook or through engaging with teachers.

Our book draws on scholars with a long-established, international reputation such as Andrew Cohen, Rebecca Oxford and Joan Rubin as well as new researchers and practising teachers. The contributors use their extensive knowledge and experience to present a ‘state of the art’ picture of Language Learning Strategy Instruction. However the book also looks to the future; so each chapter ends with key questions to be resolved within that topic area and the book concludes with a chapter that offers a map for future research directions.

The book will be an important resource for researchers both for its critical perspectives and for supporting them in designing interventions to implement LLSI. It should prove equally valuable to all informed languages teachers and students studying to become languages teachers, since it is one of a very small number of publications to include detailed teaching materials and activities. Although many of the illustrations are for ESL/EFL students, some are in French and German.

Finally it should also be relevant to all those with an interest in Second Language Acquisition since the mental and social processes of language learning, the reasons for differences in the rate and route learners take, and why some learners do so much better than others lie at the heart of our understanding of language learning strategies.

Vee Harris

This book is published in memory of Anna Uhl Chamot, who sadly passed away during the publication process.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting you might also like Language Learner Autonomy by David Little, Leni Dam and Lienhard Legenhausen.