Academic journal article Australian Journal of Education

Beliefs about Language Learning: Indonesian Learners' Perspectives, and Some Implications for Classroom Practices

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Education

Beliefs about Language Learning: Indonesian Learners' Perspectives, and Some Implications for Classroom Practices

Article excerpt

Language learners hold a set of beliefs concerning language learning and these beliefs may influence the ways they learn, even though the beliefs are not always explicitly stated. This paper, part of the researcher's on-going research project, investigates the beliefs held by three Indonesian learners undertaking an English course in an English language centre at an Australian university. Data were gathered through questionnaire and interview. The findings reveal that the learners indeed held preconceived ideas about how English should best be learnt. Despite some misconceptions, learners' beliefs were on the whole realistic. The paper aims to sensitise teachers in the English as a foreign language and in second language environments to the types of beliefs learners may hold, and to the possible consequences of these beliefs for second or foreign language learning and instruction.

Introduction

Success in language acquisition is influenced by many interrelated factors. Some factors are associated with the social context of the learning, cultural beliefs about language learning, the status of the target language and the process of language learning itself (Ramirez, 1995). Nunan and Lamb (1996, p. 215) point out that the learners' attitudes towards the target language, the learning situation, and the roles that they are expected to play within that learning situation exert significant influences on the language learning process. Learner characteristics such as personality traits, learning style, learning strategies and attitudes have also been identified as significant aspects which play a role in determining learning outcomes (Ramirez, 1995). The term `attitude', the central focus of this paper, refers to `a set of beliefs that a learner holds about the community and people who speak the target language, about the language, and the learning task itself (Ramirez, 1995, p. 165).

Language learners possess a set of beliefs about the nature of language learning, which Hosenfeld (cited in Ellis, 1994, p. 477) defines as `mini theories' of second language learning. This is supported by Wenden (1986) and Horwitz (1987) who argue that language learners indeed hold some beliefs about language learning, even though they may not always be explicit or consciously thought about. Here a belief is defined as a statement that is held to be true, that affects language learning practices. Learners' belief systems cover a number of aspects, including beliefs about the nature of English, the speaker of English, the four language skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing), teaching activities, language learning, appropriate classroom behaviour, their own ability and about the goals for language learning (Richards & Lockhart, 1996).

A substantial amount of research has shown the potential of understanding learners' belief systems. Knowledge of students' beliefs provides teachers with better understanding of their students' expectation of, commitment to, success in, and satisfaction with their language classes (Horwitz, 1988, p. 283). It is probable that language learners have been exposed to common and, in some cases, erroneous beliefs about language learning. It is the purpose of this paper to explore these issues.

The study reported here is part of the researcher's on-going research project. The case study research examined learners' patterns of communication strategies. These patterns were analysed in relation to learners' beliefs about language learning, their prior language learning experience and their cultural background. The extent to which their beliefs were manifested in their communication behaviour was also elaborated. This study was conducted using a number of methods: by administering a questionnaire (one part questionaire on learners' backgrounds and one part questionaire on beliefs about language learning), by conducting an interview about learners' explicit beliefs, by video-recording a dyadic conversation between learners and native speakers, and by transcribing the conversation. …

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