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.

Positive Psychology and Second Language Acquisition – Conference in Poland

Ever since I first started working on our SLA list people have raved to me about the International Conference on Foreign and Second Language Acquisition (ICFLSLA) and recommended that I attend.  This year I finally found time in our busy conference schedule to go.  En route to the conference venue in Szczryk (the seemingly unpronounceable Polish village whose spelling I have to check every time I write it!) I wondered if the conference would live up to its reputation.

The beautiful setting for the conference
The beautiful setting for the conference

Within moments of arriving any fears I had had were allayed.  The organisers Danuta Gabryś-Barker, Adam Wojtaszek and Dagmara Gałajda were incredibly welcoming and ensured that everything related to our book exhibit went smoothly.  The conference hotel itself was nestled at the foot of some mountains which provided luscious green views, when not obscured by low cloud and heavy rainfall!  The mountain air certainly seemed to provide the delegates with plenty of breathing space and inspiration as the talks centring round this year’s theme of positive psychology were full of energy, ideas and optimism, so much so that we could easily forget the miserable weather outside!

As usual I had a table with a good array of our latest and related titles for the delegates to browse and buy.  The most popular title of the conference was Capitalizing on Language Learners’ Individuality by Tammy Gregersen and Peter D. MacIntyre which weds theoretical implications with practical application in affective teaching.  Other popular titles included Cook and Singleton’s textbook Key Topics in Second Language Acquisition and our latest collection edited by Zoltán Dörnyei, Peter D. MacIntyre and Alastair Henry, Motivational Dynamics in Language Learning.

Alison Phipps beginning her keynote
Alison Phipps beginning her keynote

Throughout the course of the conference I attended a range of sessions plus the keynotes given by Peter D. MacIntyre, Rebecca Oxford, David Singleton, Simone Pfenninger, Hanna Komorowska, Tammy Gregersen, Sarah Mercer and Alison Phipps.  The speakers all spoke passionately about their work, views and experiences and provided plenty of food for thought.  And as for real food, we delegates were truly spoilt with wonderful Polish cuisine throughout our stay.  So much so, that I felt obliged to find some time out during the conference to go for a run ahead of the Channel View team entering the Bristol 10k run this weekend.  The temptation of a stunning view from the top of the mountain lured me into trying to run up it, a very bad idea that I rapidly neglected!  If I return to another ICFSLA conference I will certainly take the chairlift up to see the full view that I missed out on seeing.

Laura