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Teaching secondary modern foreign languages
Teaching secondary modern foreign languages

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3.1 Student strategies for second language learning

The ability to engage in independent learning – where students are not dependent on didactic teaching methods – can enhance their motivation levels when learning a foreign language. However, before they are able to learn a language independently, students need to acquire certain strategies. Rebecca Oxford (1990) distinguishes six main types of learning strategies for independent language learning:

  1. Cognitive strategies that enable the learner to manipulate the material in direct ways.
  2. Metacognitive strategies are employed to manage the learning process by the learners being more aware of the language-learning process.
  3. Memory-related strategies help learners to link one item or concept in the foreign language with another, and to learn and retrieve information using different techniques.
  4. Compensatory strategies help the learner make up for missing knowledge: for example, by deducing meaning from the context in listening and reading tasks.
  5. Affective strategies have been shown to be significantly related to proficiency in second language acquisition. These include the ability to identify one’s mood and anxiety level, talk about feelings and reward oneself for good performance.
  6. Social strategies help the learner work with others and understand the target culture as well as the target language.

Reflection point

To what extent have you observed students using these strategies in your own school context?