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A study of Language learning strategies in an ESP context: Based on the study of politics and international relation students

A study of Language learning strategies in an ESP context: Based on the study of politics and international relation students
Ekaterine Kutalia, преподаватель, доктор, профессор

Грузинский Университет, Грузия

Участник первенства: Национальное первенство по научной аналитике - "Грузия";

This article was designed to investigatethe relationship between English proficiency and language learning strategies of politics and international relation students at University of Georgia (UG). Their learning strategies were investigated through an analysis of their responses to Rebecca Oxford’s Strategy Inventory for Language Learning  (SILL)  (Oxford,  1990),  an  instrument  that  has  been  validated  in  a  number  of  studies.  The research results revealed that (1) the more pro?cient learners used more learning strategies. (2) They used metacognitive strategies and cognitive strategies most frequently and memory strategies least frequently.  (3) The less pro?cient learners, on the other hand, preferred social and memory strategies to cognitive and metacognitive strategies.The present study observed the strategies which were used and taught to the students of politics and international relation students.
A further motivation for my PhD study was the results concerning the use language learning strategies in ESP for political sciences contexts.
Keywords: language learning strategies, English proficiency, Strategy Inventory for Language Learning (SILL),  ESP;

Указанная статья касается  взаимоотношений английского языка и стратегии обучения языка, которым пользуются студенты департамента политической науки и международных отношений Университета Грузии.  Результаты исследования показали, что (1) опытный обучающийся использует больше стратегий обучения языка. (2) Частота использования когнитной и метакогнитной стратегии более высокое, чем других  стратегий. (3) Менее опытный обучающийся преимущество придает другим яыковым стратегиям, чем когнитным или метакогнитным. Именно, результаты данного исследования, которые касаются использования стратегий обучения языка в областном английском языке, в политическо-научном контексте увеличила мотивацию в моем докторском исследовании.
Ключевые слова: стратегии обучения языка, целевой английский язык.

Introduction

Learning strategies play an important role in second/foreign language learning because they help learners develop language competence in many ways (Oxford, 1990; Rubin, 1981). In the past decade, a growing body of research has focused on language learning strategies. Language learning strategies, which are generally defined as the behaviors and thoughts that learners use to select, organize, and integrate new knowledge is an important variable that has received much attention in the field of language learning and teaching (Weinstein & Mayer, 1986; Wenden, 1987) An important feature that makes the theme of language learning strategies so popular among researchers and practitioners is the fact that strategies represent concepts and processes that can be taught and learnt (Cohen, 1998; Hsaio & Oxford, 2002; Nyikos, 1989; Wenden, 1987).     Languagelearning strategies are of interest not only for revealing the ways languagelearners apply learning strategies, but also for demonstrating howthe use of strategies is related to effective language learning.  Learning strategies are the certain type of procedures followed to improve one's ownlearning, through the storage, retention, recall, and use of new information about the targetlanguage. They are the specific thoughts and behaviors used by the students to facilitate thecompletion of language learning tasks. With the help of the strategies students can learn toplan, monitor, and evaluate their own language learning. They can also deal with difficultieswhen language learning strategies were applied systematically. In other words, learners candevelop language learning repertoires which include:

·         cognitive strategies to practice and manipulate the target language,

·         affective strategies to gauge their emotional reactions to learning and lower their anxieties,

·          compensatory strategies to overcome limitations in target language skills,

·         memory strategies to increase their ability to acquire and use the target language,

       ·     social strategies, such as cooperation with other learners, seeking opportunities to

             interact with efficient users of the language,

       · metacognitive strategies to manage and supervise the strategy use. (Weaver & Cohen,

          1994)

 Oxford (1990) believed that they can make learning easier, faster, more enjoyable, more self-directed, more effective and more transferable to new situations. Research indicated four important observations: (a) conscious use of appropriate learning strategies typifies good language learners (Vasantha, 2007); (b) skilled language learners select strategies that work well together and that are tailored to the requirements of the learning task (Richards & Renandya, 2005); (c) progress in language learning was correlated with high frequency of broad language learning strategies (e.g., Griffiths, 2003; Oxford & Burry-Stock, 1995; Park, 1997; Wharton, 2000); and (d) certain individual language learning strategies affect language proficiency (e.g., Green & Oxford, 1995; Lan & Oxford, 2003).

Overall, research has validated that there is a relationship between languagelearning strategies and language profi ciency. Furthermore, considerableempirical research has provided evidence that the use of effectivelearning strategies is related to higher levels of language profi ciency.

The consensus of the research is that although all learners, regardless of success with language learning, consciously or unconsciously employ a variety of learning strategies; successful language learners engage in more purposeful language learning and use more language-learning strategies than do less successful ones. Overall, findings indicate that both the frequency with which learners apply language learning strategies and the strategies they choose are distinguishing characteristics between more successful and less successful learners.

Methods and materials

The present study focuses on learning strategies taught by the teachers and used by the students ofpolitics and international relation. This study aimed at (a) investigating the overall language learning strategy use of English learners enrolled in an ESP course in Political Science; and (b) exploring the correlation between English proficiency and the language learning strategies used.  The participants in this study included 218 students from the University of Georgia enrolled in politics program, with a total of 11 classes. The subjects were 45% male and 55% female, and ranged in age from 18–22. The instrument used in this study was original Oxford's (1990) ESL/EFL of the SILL.  a self-report questionnaire used to assess the frequency of use of language learning strategies (Oxford, 1990). The SILL uses five Likert-type responses for each strategy item ranging from 1 to 6 .

The overall ESP proficiency of the participants was measured using a cloze test, which dealt with Racial Tensions in S. Africa.Every seventh word was deleted from the passage of an approximate length of 200-250 words. The deleted words connoted commonly used words in political discourses. The first and the last sentences were left intact in order to provide the context of the statements for the students.

The original SILL consists of 50 strategy statements which are subdivided into six strategy categories. These six categories are (Oxford, 1989bThe  language  learning  strategies  have 

been  classified  into metacognitive,  cognitive  and  socioaffective  strategies. Oxford (1990a) refers to language learning strategies as the steps taken by the learners in order to improve language  training  and  develop  language  competence,  dividing  the  strategies  into  direct  and  indirect  involving information, memory behaviors  vocabulary knowledge and  grammar rules.

                                 Oxford’s (1990) Strategy Classi?cation System

              Direct strategies                                                                  indirect strategies

1. Memory Strategies

Help learners store and retrieve new information (e.g., applying images and sounds, creating mental linkages)

1. Metacognitive Strategies

Allow learners to control their own Cognition(e.g. coordinating the planning, organizing, and evaluation of the learning  process)

 


2. Cognitive Strategies

Applied by learners to better understand and produce the target language e.g., summarizing, analyzing, reasoning)

2. Affective Strategies

Refer to the methods that help learners to regulate emotions, motivation, and attitudes (e.g., taking emotional temperature, elf-encouragement)

 


3. Compensatory Strategies

Used for overcoming de?ciencies in knowledge of the target language (e.g., guessing meanings from context using synonyms to convey meaning)

 

3. Social Strategies

Include interaction with others through the target language (e.g., asking questions, cooperating with native speakers, becoming culturally aware)

 

 

Result and discussion

Statistical results reveal the frequency of English language learning strategies used by students attending an ESP course in political sciences.

Strategy category Rank

Metacognitive                                                     4.9                               0.58                              1

Social                                                                  3.91                             0.46                             2

Compensation                                                     3.87                             0.49                             3

Cognitive                                                            3.65                             0.52                             4

Memory                                                              3.56                              0.37                             5

Affective                                                             2.87                             0.37                              6\

These learning strategies are Metacognitive, Social, Compensation, Cognitive, Memory and Affective. First, Affective learning strategy is the lowest (3.15), whereas Metacognitive learning strategy is the highest (4.9) it can safely be assumed that the participants were mentally conscious of the need to manage their language learning process with respect to planning, organizing, focusing, and evaluating their own learning. Metacognitive strategy is related to higher language pro?ciency. Second, one can easily observe that Social, Compensation, and Metacognitive, obtained higher mean which commensurate with matching frequencies. These  learning  strategies  are  subscribed  by many students,  thus carrying more meaningful means compared  to Affective and cognitive,  for  instance, with only five and seven responses, respectively. Third, the order of frequency of strategies used show that the participants do not follow a particular linear pattern of strategies preferred in language learning processes. Thus, social strategies, although they come after the metacognitive strategies, were more frequently used than cognitive and compensation strategies. Two points are of importance here. First, cognitive strategies have been observed to be the fourth in terms of frequency of use. Second, social strategies have been observed to be the second in frequency of use, albeit the fact that its correlation with English language proficiency has been medium.

Conclusion 

Based on the findings of this study, some pedagogical and significant implications are suggested.One of the pedagogical implications that can be drawn from the findings of this study is that (1). instructors have a role in exposing students to a variety of strategies thereby giving students the opportunities to choose strategies that best suits their learning objectives and learning styles.

(2). Due to the beneficiary aspects of strategy usage the universities and they colleges has to

implement  the  strategy  training  programs  for  both  teachers  and  students.  It provides a variety of options for teaching large number of students efficiently, as well as to the needs of the individual institution or language program.

The findings reported in the current study have three significant implications.

(1). The high frequency use of social strategies, however, might be attributed to two possible explanations: (a) participants were able to manage interacting with others to facilitate their learning.(b) teaching objectives emphasized the communicative aspects of English language skills. It is not surprising to observe that the correlation between English language proficiency and memory strategies is low because language learning, as a cognitive process, is not restricted to a set of fixed formulae.  (c) it would be inappropriate to speculate that memory strategies are of no use; memory could be prove to be a powerful tool to learn language.

References:

1.  Hong-Nam, K. & Leavell, A. (2006). Language Learning Strategy use of ESL students in an intensive English Learning context. System, 34, 399–415.

2. Martinez, I. (1996). The importance of language learning strategies in foreign language teaching. Cuademos de Filologia Inglesa, 5, 103-120

3. Oxford, R. L., & Burry-Stock, J. A. (1995). Assessing the use of Language Learning Strategies worldwide with the ESL/EFL Version of the Strategy Inventory for

4. Richards, J & Renandya, W. (2005). Methodology in Language Teaching: An Anthology of Current Practice. Cambridge University Press.

5. Rubin, J. (1981). Study of cognitive Processes in Second Language Learning. Applied Linguistics, 2, 117-31.

6. Weinstein, C. E., & Mayer, R. E. (1986). The Teaching of Learning strategies. In M. C.Wittrock (Ed.), Handbook of Research on Teaching (pp. 315-327). New York: Macmillan Publishing Company.

7. Wenden, A. (1987). Conceptual Background and Utility. In Wenden, A. & rubin, J. (eds.), Learner strategies in language strategies (pp. 3-13). Hertforshire, UK:

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