The Strategy Factor in Successful Language Learning.
By Carol Griffiths (2013). Multilingual Matters: Bristol, UK. pp. v + 220
Eirene C. Katsarou
School of Agricultural and Forestry Sciences
Democritus University of Thrace
N. Orestiada, Greece
Adhering to the cognitive perspective that lays emphasis on the learners as active participants in the learning process (Anderson, 1980), this book foregrounds the significant role of learning strategies in the process of L2 acquisition focusing on a series of fundamental issues with respect to strategy use by L2 learners in relation to individual, situational and target variables. Αs such the volume can be seen as an effort to determine the pedagogical value of language learning strategies in a variety of L2 contexts and for a wide range of L2 learning tasks. Throughout its five chapters, the book seeks to resolve some of these controversies based on empirical evidence discussing pedagogical issues related to L2 learning strategy training as well as identifying areas still requiring further research clarification.
Chapter 1 offers an extensive analysis and re-interpretation of relevant literature on L2 learning strategies aiming to dissolve terminological issues related to the definition of language learning strategy, its effectiveness and the adoption of current L2 learning strategy taxonomies. Effectiveness of strategy use is discussed in terms of the situational and individual variables that potentially affect the skillful orchestration of strategies by L2 learners to achieve the desired learning outcome. Finally, an overview of the existing L2 learning strategy classificatory systems that merit extra research effort is provided so that strategy categorization is undertaken in theoretical and statistically justifiably ways to facilitate meaningful interpretation of research data.
Chapter 2 addresses key questions concerning strategy use, its relationship with other variables and with successful language learning based on quantitative data from a survey with L2 learners in Auckland, New Zealand (Griffiths, 2003). More specifically: (i) the relationship between reported frequency of L2 learning strategy use, choice and successful language learning was statistically significant (ii) strategies related to interaction, function, vocabulary, writing, toleration of ambiguity, grammar, affect and reading were mostly related to successful language learning, (iii) motivation and nationality were found to significantly affect strategy use, (iv) learning in an ESL environment significantly influenced learners in their choice of strategies when learning L2 English favouring lexical flexibility, the ability to manage the learning process, tolerance ambiguity and development of vocabulary and reading skills.
Chapter 3 approaches the strategy issue from the individual student’s point of view based on qualitative research evidence in the form of interviews to demonstrate patterns of individual variation of language learning and strategy use. Generally, the data obtained from these interviews support the findings presented in Chapter 2 since they indicate that advanced students report highly frequent use of a large number of language learning strategies. More specifically, they exhibit high individual variation in terms of L2 strategy use and choice that lead to differing rates of progress with motivation appearing to be the strongest influential factor.
Chapter 4 focuses on pedagogical research concerning the implementation of L2 learning strategy training programs in L2 instructional contexts and draws implications for classroom practice and teacher education. Previous strategy instruction programs (e.g. CALLA, Learning how to Learn, SBI) are briefly overviewed with an emphasis on the basic pedagogical principles employed in their design. Based on empirical findings of teachers’ and students’ beliefs on the potential of L2 learning strategies instruction in L2 classrooms, a detailed proposal for a strategy instruction program is finally offered to be considered for successful integration in L2 curricula pointing thus to pedagogical area for further research related to careful organization of future strategy instruction schemes.
Chapter 5 provides an overview of the book summarizing the most significant results of the study and highlighting the necessity for further research that would provide concrete evidence to ultimately reach more conclusive answers on the theoretical, empirical and pedagogical level concerning the influential role of L2 learning strategies in successful language learning.
Overall, this volume provides an excellent account of key issues concerning language learning strategies in L2 learning based on empirical data available from recent studies in the field. Its highly informative content is supported by useful bibliographic references promoting a deeper understanding of the intricate notion of L2 learning strategy in relation to success in L2 learning in various educational contexts. Aiming at fostering the perspective of future coordinated research projects, the book includes all relevant material used in the study in appendices for use by researchers in the area. It is a valuable contribution to a rapidly expanding body of literature on the topic and will be of interest to teacher educators and practicing teachers alike for whom the pedagogical implications of the numerous findings are especially relevant.
Anderson, J. (1980). Cognitive psychology and its implications. San Francisco, CA: W.H. Freeman.
Griffiths, C. (2003) Language learning strategy use and proficiency: The relationship between patterns of reported language learning strategy (LLS) use by speakers of other languages (SOL) and proficiency with implications for the teaching/learning situation. PhD Thesis, University of Auckland.
Eirene Katsarou is a full-time EFL teacher at secondary education in Greece. BA in English Language & Literature (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece), MA in Applied Linguistics (University of York, UK), PhD in Descriptive & Applied Linguistics (University of Essex, UK). Her research interests include: L2 vocabulary acquisition and language learner strategies, individual differences research, research methods in applied linguistics.