This chapter reviews theory and research in the realm of language learning strategies and provides implications for teaching and future research. Learning strategies are ‘operations employed by the learner to aid the acquisition, storage, retrieval and use of information, specific actions taken by the learner to make learning easier, faster, more enjoyable, more self-directed, more effective and more transferable to new situations’.
This section offers a conceptual background for understanding language learning strategies, summarising common features of these strategies and then delineating six types of strategies.
COMMON FEATURES OF LANGUAGE LEARNING STRATEGIES
All language learning strategies are related to the features of control, goal-directedness, autonomy and self-efficacy.
Goals are the engine that fires language learning action and provides the direction for the action (Dörnyei and Ottó 1998, after Locke and Latham 1994); examples of goals are to use English fluently and accurately in business, to order meals, to ask directions, etc. Using learning strategies does not instantly propel language learners to attain such goals. They are usually fulfilled by aiming for smaller short-term language goals – or proximal subgoals (Dörnyei and Ottó 1998: 60) – linked to specific language tasks.
For instance, the aim of rapidly but accurately reading many English-language journal articles can be addressed by reading and understanding one such article per week until good comprehension is matched by speed. Relevant learning strategies for accomplishing this weekly task include scheduling time to read articles, skimming for main ideas, noting key vocabulary and guessing from the context, all of which might be called a strategy chain: a set of interlocking, related and mutually supportive strategies.