This study investigates the beliefs about language learning held by a male Libyan learner and his strategies use. The researcher is interested in finding out the types of strategies the learner uses and also the strategies which are used the most. A main focal point also is to explore the relationship between his beliefs and his strategies use. Two instruments were used to collect the data, the Strategy Inventory for Language Learning (Oxford, 1990) and a questionnaire containing open-ended questions and some items from the Beliefs About Language Learning Inventory (Horwitz, 1987). The essay is divided into six sections. The first section reviews the relevant literature. Then a description of the instruments, procedure and the participant is given under the Instrumentation section. The third section is the results of the SILL items. The fourth section discusses the results of the learnerÂ’s self-efficacy beliefs about language learning. Thefifth section gives the results of the learnerÂ’s beliefs about the perceivedvalue and nature of learning spoken language. And finally, the concluding remarks are presented in the last section.
Background Literature Review
The last twenty years have witnessed a considerable increase in the amount of research on the role that learnersÂ’beliefs and learning strategies play in second/foreign language learning.
Learning strategies have been defined differently by different researchers. For example, Chamot and Kupper (1989:13) define learning strategies as Â“techniqueswhich students use to comprehend, store, and remember new information and skillsÂ”.Oxford et al (1989:29) regard language learning strategies as Â“actions,behaviours, steps, or techniquesÂ…usedby learners to enhance learningÂ”.Oxford (1990:8) views learning strategies as Â“specificactions taken by the learner to make learning easier, faster, more enjoyable, more self-directed, more effective, and more transferable to new situationsÂ”.Of course, other definitions have been suggested by other researchers, but in this study OxfordÂ’s(1990) definition is adopted.
It is believed that learnersÂ’knowledge about their learning affects the way and the outcome of their learning (Palmer and Goetz, 1988). LearnersÂ’awareness of learning strategies will influence their choice of strategies (Nisbet and Shucksmith, 1986).
Wenden (1986b) found that learners could discuss different aspects of their language learning. Among others, those aspects included beliefs about the best ways to learn a second language, the language itself, and the selection of strategies.
Horwitz (1987, 1988) has designed a questionnaire known as Beliefs About Language Learning Inventory (BALLI) to assess learnersÂ’beliefs about language learning. Recently Cotteral (1995) investigated how learnersÂ’beliefs about language learning are related to learner autonomy. Victori and Lockhart (1995) concentrated on the studentsÂ’beliefs about strategiesÂ’ effectiveness.
Researchers (Abraham and Van, 1987; Horwitz, 1987, 1988; Wenden, 1986a, 1987a) proposed a relationship between studentsÂ’beliefs about language learning and their strategies use. They argued that learnersÂ’beliefs about language learning provide an explanation for their choice to use certain language learning strategies. LearnersÂ’beliefs about language itself and how it is learned seem to influence their use of strategies.
In a study on the relationship between EFL learnersÂ’beliefs and learning strategies, Yang (1999: 518) found that learners who had strong self-efficacy beliefs used several types of strategies. Yang (1999:530) also found that studentsÂ’Â“beliefsabout the value and nature of spoken EnglishÂ”are significantly correlated with Â“morefrequent use of formal oral practice strategiesÂ”.
Riley (1996:155) asserts that beliefs about a language and how it is learned may shape or at least affect learnersÂ’attitudes, motivation or behaviour in the process of learning that language. McDonough (1995: 9) pointed out that our beliefs Â“formthe basis for our personal decisions as to how to proceedÂ”.Wen and Johnson (1997: 40) found that belief variables were very influential and consistent on strategies variables, which made them suggest that teachers and materials writers have to take into consideration the learnersÂ’preconceived knowledge about learning a language.
Evidence suggests that language learners have certain beliefs about how languages are learned (Wenden, 1986, 1991 and Wenden and Rubin, 1987) and that learners can have a conscious knowledge of their mental processes (OÂ’Malleyand Chamot, 1989 and Chamot and Kupper, 1989).
Researchers have differentiated between metacognitive knowledge and beliefs (Alexander and Dochy, 1995). They argue that beliefs are idiosyncratic, subjective and value related. Wenden (1998: 517) argued that there are certain properties which characterise both metacognitive knowledge and beliefs, but she agrees with Alexander and Dochy (1995) by suggesting that beliefs are distinct from metacognitive knowledge because they are value related, idiosyncratic, and they Â“tendto be held more tenaciously than knowledgeÂ”.In this study WendenÂ’s(1998) view is accepted as a definition of beliefs about language learning.
This case study aimed to explore the relationship between language learning strategies and beliefs about language learning.
The specific research questions are:
- What types of language learning strategies are used by the participant?
- What is the relationship between the participantÂ’suse of language learning strategies and his beliefs about language learning?
- What is the relationship between self-efficacy and strategy use?
- What is the relationship between the perceived value and nature of learning spoken English and strategies use?
This study included only one 27 year old Libyan male informant. He attended a beginnerÂ’scourse for two months in Libya before coming to the UK. Then he completed elementary and intermediate courses in the University of Sheffield for five months and his grades were good in both courses. After that he enrolled in aseven months foundation course in the University of Central Lancashire and completed it with an average grade of 57%. Now he is an MA student in international business law at the Department of law in the University of Central Lancashire. He is also attending an in-sessional English language programme in the same university.
Although he gave me his consent to use his personal information in the study, I will refer to him as Amora instead of his real name.
Two instruments were used in the current study. One was the Â‘speakersof other languagesÂ’version of the Strategies Inventory for Language Learning (SILL) (Oxford, 1990). This inventory contains fifty items classified into six strategy groups: memory strategies, cognitive strategies, compensation strategies, metacognitive strategies, affective strategies, and social strategies. It is a self-scoring survey which contains statements to which learners respond on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (never or almost never true of me) to 5 (always or almost always true of me).
The other instrument was an author-designed questionnaire based on the Beliefs About Language Learning Inventory BALLI (Horwitz, 1987). This questionnaire contained 10 open-ended questions about beliefs about English language learning, and some additional items asking for personal information. It also included 15 items adopted from the BALLI which explore the self-efficacy beliefs of the participant and the perceived value and nature of learning spoken English. The BALLI items were chosen on the basis of YangÂ’s (1999) factor analysis in hisstudy. The BALLI items are statements to which students respond on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (strongly agree) to 5 (strongly disagree).
Both the SILL and the questionnaire were administered via email. Then, I phoned Amora and clarified the instructions of both instruments. I sent Amora the SILL first, and then I sent him the questionnaire about beliefs. After he had completed them he emailed them back to me.
Results of the SILL items
As can been seen from the data in Table 1, Amora reported using memory strategies least. The most frequently used are social strategies, followed by compensation strategies. He ranked metacognitive strategies third. Cognitive and affective strategies are within the middle-frequency range. As shown in Table 1, affective strategies are higher than memory strategies with only one rank. The overall average for AmoraÂ’suse of strategies was 3.6.
Memory strategies help learners Â“storeand retrieve new informationÂ”(Oxford, 1990: 37). They facilitate memory processing. In this study, Amora reported only remembering new English words by using them in a sentence or by making a mental picture of a situation in which the word might be used.
Table 1: Rank Ordering of Strategy Types Used
|Strategy Type||Strategy Name||Average Frequency of Use||Rank Order|
|Direct||Memory StrategiesCognitive Strategies
|Low (M=2)Medium (M=3.4)
|Indirect||Metacognitive StrategiesAffective Strategies
|High (M=4.3)Medium (M=3.2)
This type of strategies ranges Â“fromrepeating to analysing and summarisingÂ”(Oxford, 1990:43). The cognitive strategies which Amora reported using included: saying or writing new English words several times, trying to talk like native English speakers, using the English words he knows in different ways, watching TV shows and movies in English language, comparing Arabic words to new words in English, finding patterns in English, and analysing words to get their meaning.
This kind of strategies helps learners to use the new language input in comprehension or production regardless of their limited linguistic knowledge (Oxford, 1990: 47 and Yang, 1999: 527). Amora reported making guesses to comprehend the meaning of unfamiliar words, using gestures to make up for production problems, coining new words to communicate the message across, using synonymies or paraphrasing, and he also tried to guess what the other person would say next.
Metacognitive strategies help learners to Â“coordinatetheir own learning processÂ”(Oxford, 1990:135-136). They provide the learners with ways to organise and evaluate their learning.
In this study, Amora reported finding better ways to learn and use English, paying attention to English speakers, planning schedules for studying English, setting goals for improving English, and evaluating his progress. When asked about the role of mistakes in learning English, Amora believed that they are important in improving his performance. He comments:
Â“Ibelieve that, we learn from different things, for example, we learn from other people, we learn from our friends, parents, and we also learn from our mistakes, especially when we study new knowledge, like a new language, in my opinion, I always remember my wrong words when I try to say the same words, and that helps me to not say it again, on the other hand, I try to ask my close friends about my mistakes, so I think its so important for any student who need to study new language, to learn from his/her mistakesÂ”.
He also believed in the importance of evaluating his progress by saying:
Â“Yes, itis so important to evaluate my work, because that will help me to notice my improvement in English language, in my opinion, I always, compare between my level and other students levelÂ”.Moreover he reported organising his learning by doing three things every week: doing homework and practicing, speaking to native speakers, and going out to pubs and clubs to converse with others.
This type of strategies involves the regulation of emotions, motivations and attitudes (Oxford, 1990:135). They provide the learner with ways to control these factors. Amora used only three affective strategies: relaxing, encouraging himself to speak regardless of being afraid of making mistakes, and giving himself a reward or treat when he does well in English.
Social strategies facilitate learning through interaction and learning with others (Oxford, 1990:135,145). Amora reported using all kinds of social strategies. He reported asking other people to slow down or repeat if he did not understand what they said. He asked English speakers to correct his mistakes and sought help from native speakers. He also reported practicing with other students, asking questions, and he tried to learn about the English speakersÂ’ culture.
Results of the Self-efficacy and Expectation about learning English
This study found that Amora had a strong sense of self-efficacy. As shown in Table 2, Amora believed that he would learn English very well. He described English as an easy language. This confirms HorwitzÂ’ (1988) argument that the way learners describedthe
Table 2: Results of the Self-efficacy and Expectation about learning English
||An easy language|
||Neither agree nor disagree|
difficulty of learning a language will probably influence their expectations about the learning task. Amora also enjoys practicing English with native speakers and does not feel timid when speaking English with other people, but he does not consider people from his country to be good at learning foreign languages. He considers himself a normal language learner as indicated by his answer Â“I thinkI am a normal leanerÂ”to the open-ended question: Â‘Doyou think you have a special ability for learning languages?Â’
Results of the Perceived Value and Nature of Learning Spoken English
Amora valued speaking English highly and expressed a strong interest in learning spoken English (e.g. items 1, 3. 5, 7 in Table 3). He strongly agreed that he wanted to learn to speak English. He also agreed that people in his country believe in the importance of speaking English. He expressed his desire to have English friends. He also expressed the importance of learning English in a response to one of the open-ended questions as follows:
Â“Yes Ithink English language became so important, because the majority of public places around the world use English language. In addition, there is a huge number of people who speak this language; also learning English language is a good opportunity to discover new
Table 3: Results of the Perceived Value and Nature of Learning Spoken English
||Neither agree nor disagree|
people, new culture, and new knowledgeÂ”. Amora also related learning English to betterjob opportunities. In short, he believes that learning spoken English is very important.
Regarding the nature of learning spoken English, he disagreed with the statement that everyonecan learn to speak a foreign language. He also rejected the idea of not speaking anything until one can say it correctly, but he agreed that it is important to speak English with an excellent pronunciation.
Although Amora neither agreed nor disagreed with the statement Â“it is important to repeatand practice a lotÂ”, he mentions the importance of practice in response to theopen-ended question which requires him to give an advice to a friend about learning English. He wrote: Â“first of all he/she needs to practice his/herhomework and attend lectures every day, the second thing is that he/she must do the exercises and practice with English speakers as much as he/she can. He considers the environment very important for the success of language learning and agreed that Â“it is best to learn English in an English-speaking countryÂ”.
It seems that AmoraÂ’sbeliefs about language learning are related to his strategies use. He had a strong sense of self-efficacy and reported using all types of strategies. It can also be argued that AmoraÂ’sbeliefs about the nature of language learning are related to his strategies use. For example, he reported the importance of the environment, excellent pronunciation, having English friends, and practice which were reflected in his high use of social strategies (M=4.8). The findings of this study support YangÂ’s(1999) findings about the relationship between learnersÂ’beliefs and strategies use. It also supports WendenÂ’s(1986a) study about learnersÂ’beliefs and their approach to language learning. Moreover, the study also confirms WenÂ’s and JohnsonÂ’s (1997: 39-40) finding that beliefs are directlrelated to their operationalisation in strategy use.
In conclusion, this study provided an understanding of AmoraÂ’beliefs and his use of strategies. It also has shown that there is a relationship between his beliefs and his use of strategies. Needless to point out that this is just a limited study, and more research needs to be carried out before we can be in a position to generlise its findings.
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Horwitz, E. K. (1987). Surveying student beliefs about language learning. In Wenden, A. L., Rubin, J. (Eds.), Learner /strategies in Language Learning. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, pp. 119-129.
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Responses to the Strategy Inventory for Language Learning (SILL) (Oxford, 1990)
This form of the Strategy Inventory for Language Learning (SILL) is for students of English as a second or foreign language. You will find statements about learning English. Please read each one and write the response (1, 2, 3, 4 or 5) that tells HOW TRUE OF YOU THE STATEMENT IS in the space next to the statement.
- Never or almost never true of me.
- Usually not true of me.
- Somewhat true of me.
- Usually true of me.
- Always or almost always true of me.
NEVER OR ALMOST NEVER TRUE OF ME means that the statement is very rarely true of you.
USUALLY NOT TRUE OF ME means that the statement is true less than half the time.
SOMEWHAT TRUE OF ME means that the statement is true of you about half the time.
USUALLY TRUE OF ME means that the statement is true more than half the time.
ALWAYS OR ALMOST ALWAYS TRUE OF ME means that the statement is true of you almost always.
Answer in terms of how well the statement describes you. Do not answer how you think you should be, or what other people do. There are no right or wrong answers to these statements. Work as quickly as you can without being careless. This usually takes about 20-30 minutes to complete. If you have any questions, let the teacher know immediately.
- I think of relationships between what I already know and new things I learn in English. Â….22. I use new English words in a sentence so I can remember them. Â…..53. I connect the sound of a new English word and an image or picture of the word to help me remember the word. Â…..14. I remember a new English word by making a mental picture of a situation in which the word might be used. Â…..45. I use rhymes to remember new English words. Â…..16. I use flashcards to remember new English words. Â…Â…17. I physically act out new English wordsÂ…Â…..18. I review English lessons often. Â….29. I remember new English words or phrases by remembering their location on the page, on the board, or on a street sign. Â…Â…..1
- I say or write new English words several times. Â…Â….511. I try to talk like native English speakersÂ…Â…5 12. I practise the sounds of English. Â….313. I use the English words I know in different ways. Â…..514. I start conversations in English. Â…Â….315. I watch English language TV shows spoken in English or go to movies spoken in English. Â…Â….516. I read for pleasure in English. Â…Â….117. I write notes, messages, letters or reports in English. Â…Â…118. I first skim an English passage (read over the passage quickly) then go back and read carefully. Â…..319. I look for words in my own language that are similar to new words in English. Â…Â…520. I try to find patterns in English. Â…Â…521. I find the meaning of an English word by dividing it into parts that I understand. Â…Â…522. I try not to translate word-for-word. Â…Â….123. I make summaries of information that I hear or read in English. Â…Â….1
- To understand unfamiliar English words, I make guesses. Â…Â…525. When I can’t think of a word during a conversation in English, I use gestures. Â…Â…526. I make up new words if I do not know the right ones in English. Â…Â…Â….5<
- I read English without looking up every new word. Â…..328. I try to guess what the other person will say next in EnglishÂ…Â….5 29. If I can’t think of an English word, I use a word or phrase that means the same thing. Â…Â….5
- I try to find as many ways as I can to use my English. Â…Â…531. I notice my English mistakes and use that information to help me do betterÂ…Â…3 32. I pay attention when someone is speaking English. Â…..533. I try to find out how to be a better learner of English. Â…Â…534. I plan my schedule so I will have enough time to study EnglishÂ…Â….4 35. I look for people I can talk to in EnglishÂ…Â….5 36. I look for opportunities to read as much as possible in English. Â…..237. I have clear goals for improving my English skillsÂ…Â….5. 38. I think about my progress in learning English. Â…Â…5
- I try to relax whenever I feel afraid of using English. Â…Â…540. I encourage myself to speak English even when I am afraid of making a mistakeÂ…Â….5
- I give myself a reward or treat when I do well in English. Â…Â…442. I notice if I am tense or nervous when I am studying or using English. Â…Â…143. I write down my feelings in a language learning diary. Â…Â….144. I talk to someone else about how I feel when I am learning English. Â…Â….3
- If I do not understand something in English, I ask the other person to slow down or say it againÂ…Â….5 46. I ask English speakers to correct me when I talk. Â…Â…447. I practise English with other studentsÂ…Â…5 48. I ask for help from English speakers. Â…Â…549. I ask questions in English. Â…Â….550. I try to learn about the culture of English speakers. Â…..5
Responses to the Beliefs About Language Learning Questionnaire
Write two or three sentences as an answer to each of the following questions.
There are no right or wrong answers. We are simply interested in your opinions.
- Describe how do think English language learning is.
I think English language learning is independent knowledge, however, its not easy to say that we can teach any one who donÂ’t speak English before, I mean we need goodstuff, good materials, and even good student, if we look to foreign student we can see that there is a lot of them can not study this language even they are clever student, this, means it is not enough to say we have clever student. In conclusion, English language learning, means to me individual knowledge, need good stuff good student good environment, good or enough time.
- Describe yourself with regard to language learning?
I can say that I have very good skills to study new things, like new language, but I am not satisfied about my self yet, because I did not my best to learn this language, so in briefly, I am not hard work student.
- How do you organise your learning?
I am doing three things every week to organise my study, from Monday to Friday I do my homework and practice myself in my home, for instance I listen to the Radio or watch TV. The second thing ,from Friday to Monday I try to make conversation with English people as much as I can, I go to clubs and pubs to meet a lot of people there, and also sometimes I spend some time when I do shopping, because its good chance to practice my English language.
- Do you think you have a special ability for learning languages?
I think I am a normal leaner.
- Is learning English important? Why?
Yes I think English language became so important, because the majority of public places around the world use English language. In addition, there are a huge number of people who speak this language; also learning English language is a good opportunity to discover new people, new culture, and new knowledge.
- What makes a successful language learner?
The secret to makes successful language learner that, enough time to study, good teachers and schools, suitable environment around the learner, the learner should has clear and strong aim for his/her study.
- What is your opinion about evaluating your progress? Is it helpful?
Yes, it is so important to evaluate my work, because that will help me to notice my improvement in English language, in my opinion, I always, compare between my level and other students level.
- What is the role of mistakes in your English learning?
I believe that, we learn from different things, for example, we learn from other people, we learn from our friends, parents, and we also learn from our mistakes, especially when we study new knowledge, like a new language, in my opinion, I always remember my wrong words when I try to say the same words, and that help me to not say it again, on the other hand, I try to ask my close friends about my mistakes, so I think its so important for any student who need to study new language, to learn from his/her mistakes.
- Do you think that English should be learnt in an Â“all EnglishÂ” environment?Yes of course we have to learn all English environment, that will help us to understand all the meaning so deeply, on the other hand, there is no way to study new language without its environment.
- Write an advice for a friend who has just started learning English telling him\her about the best way to learn English?
I believe that any one need to learn any foreign language not just English language he/she must do these things, first of all he/she needs to practice his/her homework and attend lectures every day, the second thing is that he/she must do the exercises and practice with English speakers as much as he/she can, the third thing that he/she must use the new words, in his/her speaking with other people, also he/she needs to listen to English programmes, films, news etc. Finally, the important thing that to learn new language he/she doesnÂ’t have to feel afraid orto worry about it, I mean he/she needs to like his/her study or course.
Read each statement and then decide if you:
- strongly agree
- neither agree nor disagree
- strongly disagree
There are no right or wrong answers. We are simply interested in your opinions. Question 1 is slightly different and you should mark it as indicated.
Self-efficacy and Expectation about Learning English
- English is:
- a very difficult language
- a difficult language
- a language of medium difficulty
- an easy language
- a very easy language
- I believe that I will learn to speak English very well. Â…Â…Â…Â…2
- I have a special ability for learning foreign languagesÂ…Â…Â…..3 <
- I feel timid (nervous or shy) speaking English with other people. Â…Â…..45. I enjoy practising English with the native speakers I meet. Â…Â…Â…1<
- People from my country are good at learning foreign languages. Â…Â…Â…..4<
Perceived Value and Nature of Learning Spoken English
- I want to learn to speak English wellÂ…Â…..1 2. It is important to repeat and practice a lot. Â…Â…..33. People in my country feel that it is important to speak English. Â…Â….24. It is best to learn English in an English-speaking country. Â…Â….15. I would like to have English friends. Â…Â…..26. Everyone can learn to speak a foreign languageÂ…Â…Â…4 <
- If I learn English very well, I will have better opportunities for a good job. Â…Â….28. You shouldn’t speak anything in English until you can say it correctly. Â…Â…..59. It is important to speak English with an excellent pronunciation. Â…Â…..1