Academic journal article International Journal of English Linguistics

Use of Learning Strategies by EFL Learners: A Study of How It Relates to Language Proficiency and Learner Autonomy

Academic journal article International Journal of English Linguistics

Use of Learning Strategies by EFL Learners: A Study of How It Relates to Language Proficiency and Learner Autonomy

Article excerpt

Abstract

This study aims to explore the association between the field of study, gender, language proficiency, and the use of learning strategies in an EFL educational setting. It further intends to gain more insight into the link between learner autonomy and strategy use. The sample included university freshmen who were ability-grouped into three different levels for English classes. The findings indicated that the effects of major, gender, and proficiency on overall strategy use were all significant. As strategy use had a moderate level of association with both listening and reading proficiencies, it was found to have a high level of correlation with learner autonomy. The strategies identified to have the strongest correlations with autonomy in language learning were those in the cognitive and metacognitive categories. Among the subcomponents of learner autonomy, strategy use had the highest correlation with learner degree of involvement in learning activities. Results of the study further established that EFL student use of learning strategies can serve as a good predictor of learner autonomy.

Keywords: language learning strategy, autonomy, language proficiency

1. Introduction

In Taiwan, high school students typically learn English in an examination-oriented environment, and are therefore prone to feeling stressed by the enormous amount of tests (Chung, 2002; Peng, 2011). Traditionally the language learning environment is teacher-centered, rather than learner-centered. The grammar translation method is frequently adopted by teachers, tending to lead to unbalance development of the four skills (Huang, 2014; Yuan, 2009). Students may easily grasp the meaning of a string of written words in English, but cannot easily determine the meaning of the English words when they are spoken (Lin, 2006). According to Yuan (2009), teachers expend more time and effort teaching reading and writing than they do teaching speaking and listening in the EFL classroom. Moreover, Chung (2002) indicated that although students have numerous opportunities to use learning strategies to enhance their English ability, they tend to encounter difficulties, such as unfamiliarity with the learning strategies, incorrect beliefs about the requirement of language competence, an unsupported learning environment, and heavy coursework loads from school. However, because advanced technology has enabled students to access considerable online resources and learning materials more readily, the learner's role in the language learning process is changing. In addition, more attention on enhancing student listening and communicative competence has been demanded.

In addition to the changes in the environment, because of increasing attention paid to learner characteristics, the teacher-centered model in English teaching is shifting to a learner-centered model (Chen & Jonas, 2009; Hashim & Sahil, 2010; Kamalizad & Jalilzadeh, 2011; Nyikos & Oxford, 1993). Learning a foreign language can be a complex and lifelong process. Therefore, language learners should be encouraged to actively participate in their own learning processes and utilize language learning strategies, which are "the tool and the shortcut," to become independent and successful learners (Su, 2005, p. 45). Considerable studies have focused on learning strategy use in an endeavor to identify the strategies employed by more proficient language learners so that they can be taught to less proficient learners (Chamot & El-Dinary, 1999; Cohen, 2003; Rubin, 1975, 1981). The primary goal of the present study is to enhance the understanding of the relationship between language learning strategy use, proficiency, and autonomy in the EFL classroom.

2. Review of Related Literature

2.1 Language Learning Strategies

Oxford (1990) defined learning strategies as "specific actions taken by the learner to make learning easier, faster, more enjoyable, more self-directed, more effective, and more transferrable to new situations" (p. …

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