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English is an international language and is used globally all over the world. In Malaysia particularly, English language is considered the second most important language. The Malaysian English language syllabus states that English is taught in all primary and secondary schools in the country in keeping with its status as a second language in the country (KPM 1995).
Despite the decision to introduce Bahasa Malaysia as the main medium of instruction in Malaysian schools, the government is committed in maintaining English as a strong second language, since it is the second most important language in the country, in international relations and in the economic area (Mohd Sofi Ali 2003).
The Malaysian Ministry of Education has set English language as a compulsory subject by aimingÂ to extend learners' English language proficiency in order to meet the students' needs in everyday life, for knowledge acquisition and for the need of future workplace (KPM 2001).Â
English, particularly in primary education, aims at providing pupils with the essential English language skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing) and knowledge of grammar to enable them to communicate (orally and in writing) in and out of school for different purposes, and different situations (KPM 1995).
"English language â€¦ is being taught at all levels of primary school to equip the pupils with the fundamental (basic) language skills. (This is) to enable them to use the language to communicate in certain situations. Hence, the English language programme focuses on the skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing." (KPM 1995)
The importance of English language in Malaysia at present is inevitable. There is grave concern that the standard of English in the country should be raised to a much higher level. In this regard, studies designed to investigate language learning strategies employed by school students learning English in the Malaysian context play a significant role. The understanding of what these learners do in the language learning process and how these in turn affect language success is important in our effort to assist these learners in the present context of learning the English language (Mohamed Amin 2000).
According to O'Malley, Chamot, Stewner-Manzanares, Kupper, and Russo (1985) language learning strategies is an extremely powerful learning tool. More than a quarter century ago, researchers such as Rubin (1975) and Stern (1975) explored the possibility that success in language learning might be related to how learners approach a task. More recently, writers such as Cohen (1998) and Chamot (2001) have suggested that learners might be able to learn a language more effectively by the use of language learning strategies.
Language learning strategies terminology has remained inconsistent. Some writers use the term "learner strategies" (Wendin & Rubin 1987), others use the term "learning strategies" (O'Malley & Chamot 1990; Chamot & O'Malley 1994), while other scholars use the term "language learning strategies" (Oxford 1996).
The term language learning strategy has been commonly used by many researchers. Wenden and Rubin (1987) defined learning strategies as steps, plans, routines used by the learner to facilitate the obtaining, storage, retrieval, and use of information. Richards and Platt (1992) stated that learning strategies are intentional behavior and thoughts used by learners during learning to better help them understand, learn, or remember new information.
Lessard - Cloustan (1997) identified four characteristics of language learning strategies. First, language learning strategies are learner generated. Second, they improve language learning and help develop language competence (listening, speaking, reading, or writing). Third, language learning strategies may be visible (behaviours, steps, techniques) or unseen (thoughts, mental processes). Fourth, language learning strategies involve information and memory including vocabulary knowledge and grammar rules
In 1990, Oxford summarized her view of language learning strategies by listing twelve key features of language learning strategies. They are:
Contribute to the main goal
Allow learners to become self-directed
Expand the role of teachers
Are problem oriented
Are specific actions
Involve many aspects of the leaner
Support learning directly and indirectly
Are not all the time observable
Are often conscious
Influenced by many factors
It is generally agreed that the use of language learning strategies is positively associated with language acquisition (Politzer and Wong Fillmore 1985). According to Stern (1992), the concept of learning strategy is dependent on the assumption that learners consciously engage in activities to achieve certain goals and learning strategies can be regarded as learning techniques. Pearson (1988) and Skehan (1989) have discoursed that language learning strategies' ultimate goal is to transfer a strategy from one language or language skill to another. The ultimate purpose of studying learner strategies according to Horwitz (1987) is to determine which strategies are most effective and thus help learners adopt more productive learning procedures.
Fedderholdt (1997) posits that the language learner who uses a wide variety of language learning strategies can improve his language skills in a better way. It appears that successful learners tend to select strategies that work well together in a highly orchestrated way, tailored to the requirements of the language task. On the other hand, less successful learners might use similar strategies with similar frequency, but without the careful orchestration and without appropriate targeting of the strategies to the task (Oxford, 1993).
STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Research abroad on the topic of language learning strategies is abundant (Chamot 1989, O' Malley et. al. 1985; Oxford and Nyikos 1989), but not many studies have been carried out in Malaysia. The context of English language setting in Malaysia can be considered to be a unique one. It cannot be categorized as an ESL or EFL setting, therefore it is termed as a 'mixed' language setting (Mohamed Amin 2000).
There has been concern among politician, academician and parents with regards to the declining standard of English proficiency among students at all levels of education in Malaysia which includes primary, secondary and tertiary level students (Dean 1991). Therefore there is a need for research to be carried out in the language learning field as language learning strategies influence the language learning process on the whole.
Local researchers who have shown interest to do research in the language learning field include; Mohamed Amin (1996); Radha Nambiar (1996) ; Faizahani (2002) and Lau Ai Ting (2006). Mohamed Amin (1996) identified language learning strategies among secondary school students; Radha Nambiar (1996) investigated language learning strategies of six students when performing language activity among first year undergraduates; Faizahani (2002) and Lau Ai Ting (2006) both examined language learning strategies employed by successful and less successful students in secondary schools.
These studies address learning strategies among secondary and under graduate students in Malaysia. These studies have not covered the learning strategies among primary school students. Would studies on the language learning strategies among primary school students produce the same findings?
This research aims at studying the language learning strategy employed by primary school students with the hope that a clearer distinction in the usage of language learning strategies can be found. At primary school level there is no other better level to start with other than at Year 6. This is due to the fact that these language learners are more proficient in English compared to the other students in the school and thus able to comprehend the questionnaire given.
This research looks into the language learning strategies used by the English language learners in the outskirts context with the hope that it provides better insights into language learning strategies of learners and subsequently helps facilitate the teaching and learning process of the less successful language learners in future.
The research objectives of this study are as follows:
1. To identify the language learning strategies used by language learners in a primary
2. To compare the differences in the types of language learning strategies used by
primary school language learners.
3. To identify the language learning strategies used by male and female primary school
This research aims to investigate questions related to language learning strategy. In a nutshell, this study attempts to answer the research question below:
1. What are the language learning strategies used by primary school students?
2. Are there any differences in the types of language learning strategies used by primary
school students ?
3. Which strategies are used most by male students?
4. Which strategies are used most by female students?
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
This research is carried out to determine the language learning strategies used among primary school students in Port Dickson. It is important to determine the categories of language learning strategies used and its effectiveness among successful language learners in order to understand the process of learning a language. Learning strategies help develop students to participate in a more comprehensible manner inside and outside the classroom.
It is important to determine the language learning strategies used by less successful language learners to help facilitate the teaching and learning process. It is also important to carry out a study in language learning strategies due to insufficient data research conducted in primary schools. The data obtained can be used to compare with the findings from other related studies.
THE PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
English language is a strong second language in the Malaysian education system. A great emphasis has been given to the language. Furthermore, English language is important in the Malaysia's quest for economic development and international recognition (Mohd. Sofi Ali 2003).
Researchers proposed that learning strategies used by students may vary from each and every individual. Based on this claim, it is the purpose of this study to look into the types of learning strategies used by English language learners among primary school students. It is also important to make students aware of the use of strategies in order to promote successful language learning.
DEFINITION OF TERMS
Language Learning Strategies (LLS)
Learning strategies are procedures, employed by the learners, in order to make their own language learning as successful as possible. They are specific actions, behaviours, steps that language learners use to improve their progress in developing L2 skills (Oxford 1992).
Oxford (1990) classified learning strategies into six groups:
a) memory strategies (how students remember a language),
b) cognitive strategies (how students think about their learning),
c) compensation strategies (enable students to make up for limited knowledge)
d) metacognitive strategies (how students manage their own learning)
e) affective strategies (students' feelings)
f) social strategies (learning through interaction with others).
Successful Language Learners
Naiman et al. (1976) noted that good or successful language learners appeared to use a larger number and range of strategies than "poor" language learners. Naiman et al (1978) quoted in Cook (1996) found six types of strategies which were common in good or successful language learners:
Strategy 1: find a language learning style that suits you.
Strategy 2: involves yourself in the language learning process.
Strategy 3: develop an awareness of language both as system and communication.
Strategy 4: pay constant attention to expanding your language.
Strategy 5: develop the L2 as a separate system.
Strategy 6: take into account the demands that L2 learning imposes.
Successful learners in this study include learners who scored 70 percent or more in English language for English Exam at school level. These successful learners achieved Grade A and B for the mid semester one exam at school level.
Primary Six Students
Primary Six students refer to students who are between 11 and 12 years old studying in primary schools. They will be sitting for their UPSR exam in September.
1.8 CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK
In this study, the model of language acquisition suggested by Ellis (1994) is adopted as a conceptual framework for investing language learning strategies employed by primary school students in Port Dickson.
In this model, individual learner differences together with social and situational factors are shown to have an effect on the learner's choice of learning strategies. The use of different types and frequencies of strategies influences language learning success. The model also shows that success in language learning has an effect on the learner's strategy use (Mohamed Amin 2000).
In this study, the social factor investigated is gender, whereas the situational factor is the extent of learner's use of English in the classroom. This study will not discuss the two way relationship between language learning strategy and success in language learning. This study investigates the relationship between students' gender and their language learning strategies.
Individual learner differences
-level of achievement
Learner's choice of learning strategies
Situational and social factors
Figure 1.1 Framework for investigating Language Learning Strategies (adopted from
LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
This study is meant only for English language learners in a primary school in Port Dickson. Only 60 subjects were involved in this study. The subject comprises of 57 Malay students, 2 Indian students and 1 Chinese student. There are 38 females and 22 male students. Findings can therefore be generalized to these samples of students only.
In this study, the researcher analyzed the responses using the bilingual and adapted Language Strategy Use Inventory by Cohen, Oxford and Chi (2002). This inventory is based on four language skills namely reading comprehension, writing, listening and speaking. The outcome of the study may not be the same if other inventories were used. The outcome of the survey may not be directly relevant to students of other schools.
This chapter presents the background of the study, statement of the problem, purpose of the study, the significance of the study, definitions of terms, the conceptual framework and the limitations of the study.
Language learning strategy is considered a powerful language teaching and learning tool (Griffith 2004). In this chapter, the definitions of language learning strategies, research on language learning strategies, individual variables and language learning strategies, characteristics of successful language learners and Language Strategy Use inventory will be discussed in depths.
2.2 LANGUAGE LEARNING STRATEGIES
Some writers use terminologies such as learning behaviours (Politzer and McGroarty, 1985; Wesche 1975), tactics (Seliger 1984), techniques (Stern 1992) and strategies (Rubin 1975). These terms are used more or less synonymously with the term strategy. The word strategy comes from a Greek term "strategia" meaning the management of troops, ships or aircrafts (Oxford 1990). Strategy in language learning refers to study skills and repetition behaviours (Grenfeld and Macaro 2007).
Larsen-Freeman and Long (1991) preferred the term strategy since, Rubin (1975) used it in her earliest study in this area and it enjoys the widest currency today. For this reason, strategy is the term which will be used in this study, although it is acknowledged that it is not the only term which has been used to cover the behaviors involved.
Strategies are important for language learning because they are the tools for active, self-directed involvement, which is essential for developing communication ability (Oxford 1990). Appropriate learning strategies result in improved proficiency and greater self-confidence in many instances (Wenden and Rubin 1987; Chamot and Kupper 1989; Oxford and Crookall 1989; Cohen 1990; O'Malley and Chamot 1990).
Skehan (1989) considered language learning strategies as one of the most important factors accounting for individual differences in second language acquisition. Learning strategies are seen as particularly important in the enhancement of autonomy because the use of appropriate strategies allows learners to take more responsibility for their own learning (Dickinson 1987).
Rubin (1975) defined language learning strategies as techniques or devices that learners use to acquire second language knowledge. Wenden and Rubin (1987) postulated that language learning strategies are sets of operations, steps, plans or routines used by learners to facilitate the obtaining, retrieval and use of information.
A more comprehensive definition by Oxford (1993) described language learning strategies as specific actions, behaviours, steps, or techniques such as seeking out conversation partners, or giving oneself encouragement to tackle a difficult language task. It is used by students to enhance their own learning.
More recent scholars termed language learning strategies in a broader scope. For instance, in 1994, Brown defined language learning strategies as a process that contributes directly to learning while Nunan (1999) described language learning strategies as a mental and communicative procedure which is used to acquire and use a language. On the other hand, Mohamed Amin (1996) defined language learning strategies as actions that students take to increase their learning plan or process.
2.3 RESEARCH ON LANGUAGE LEARNING STRATEGIES
The arrival of language learning research created a fundamental shift of perspective, in thinking about the processes of language learning (Grenfeld and Macaro 2007). A description of various research studies conducted in the last 3 decades is provided below. The first sets of studies are those which have been carried out in the 1970s. The second sets of studies were carried out in the 1980s. The third set of studies has been pursued in the 1990s while the fourth sets of studies were carried out in the 2000s.
2.3.1 Research on Language Learning Strategies: 1970s
Early research into language learning strategies has been concerned with establishing what good learners' language learning strategies might be. Rubin (1975), one of the earliest researchers in this area, defined strategies as "the techniques or devices which a learner may use to acquire knowledge". Rubin later concluded that successful language learners had a strong desire to communicate, were willing to guess when unsure, were not afraid of being wrong or appearing foolish, they practice and monitor their own language and the language of those around them.
In 1975, Stern produced a list of ten language learning strategies. He believed that the good language learner is characterized by a positive learning strategies, an active approach to the learning task, a tolerant and outgoing approach to the target language which is empathetic with its speakers, technical know-how about how to tackle a language, strategies of experimentation and planning with the object of developing the new language into an ordered system with progressive revision, constantly searching for meaning, willingness to practice, willingness to use the language in real communication, critically sensitive self-monitoring in language use and an ability to develop the target language more and more as a separate reference system while learning to think about it.
Meanwhile, Naiman, Frohlich, Stern and Todesco (1978) discovered that good language learners are able to adapt learning styles to suit themselves, are actively involved in the language learning process, are able to develop an awareness of language both as a system of rules and as a means of communication, are constantly working at expanding their language knowledge, develop the target language as a separate system which does not always have to be related to the first language, and are realistically aware of the demands of learning a language.
2.3.2 Research on Language Learning Strategies: 1980s
Research in the 1980s was concerned with other variables that influence language learning strategies such as age, gender, motivation and strategy use. Ehrman and Oxford (1989) and Oxford and Nyikos (1989) discovered distinct gender differences in strategy use in their research.
The effects of psychological type were the focus of a study by Ehrman and Oxford (1989) when they reported on an investigation into the effects of learner variables on adult language learning strategies at the Foreign Service Institute, USA. They concluded that the relationship between language learning strategy use and personality type (as measured by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator MBTI) is far from straightforward
The effects of motivation on language learning strategy use were highlighted when Oxford and Nyikos (1989) surveyed 1,200 students studying various languages in a Midwestern American university. Oxford and Nyikos (1989) examined the kinds of language learning strategies the students reported using the most. They discovered that the degree of motivation was the most influential of the variables affecting strategy choice examined. In accordance to this study, Ehrman and Oxford (1989) noticed that career choice had a major effect on reported language learning strategy use; a finding which they suggest may be the result of underlying motivation.
2.3.3 Research on Language Learning Strategies: 1990s
Research in the 1990s focused on the classifications of language learning strategies. In 1990, Oxford provided a classification scheme for her strategies. For Oxford, strategies could be divided into two main categories. They are direct and indirect strategies. Direct strategies included memory, cognitive and compensation while indirect strategies involved metacognitive, affective and social strategies.
O'Malley and Chamot (1990) posit learning strategies into three main categories, namely, metacognitive, cognitive and social affective strategies. Metacognitive strategies are higher order executive skills that entail planning, monitoring or evaluating. Cognitive skills operate directly on incoming information and manipulating it to enhance learning. Social affective strategies involve interaction with another person and are applicable to a variety of tasks.
2.3.4 Research on Language Learning Strategies: 2000s
Research in the 2000s focuses on language learning strategies from different cultural background and different countries and how they prioritize different strategies differently. Griffiths and Parr (2000) reported that European students used language learning strategies more frequently than students of other nationalities, especially strategies relating to vocabulary, reading, interaction with others and the tolerance of ambiguity. According to them, European students were also working at a significantly higher level than students of other nationalities.
Usuki (2000) discussed the psychological barriers to the adoption of effective language learning strategies by Japanese students, who are typically regarded as passive learners. Usuki (2000) further recommended that there should be more cooperation between students and teachers in language learning.
In a study involving 348 students in a private language school in New Zealand, Griffiths (2003) found that language learning strategies were used significantly more frequently by advanced students than by elementary students. According to an examination of the patterns of language learning strategy use, higher level students reported highly frequent use of strategies relating to interaction with others, to vocabulary, to reading, to the tolerance of ambiguity, to language systems, to the management of feelings, to the management of learning and to the utilization of available resources.
2.4 LANGUAGE LEARNING STRATEGIES RESEARCH IN MALAYSIA
Language learning strategies research in Malaysia was pioneered by Mohamed Amin in 1996. His research caused a big impact and opened new dimensions in the educational based research in Malaysia. He also guided other researchers in the English, Malay and Arabic language (Yoong 2010). In his latest study in 2009, Mohamed Amin proved that gender is a significant predictor in the fields of education, psychology and linguistics research. He suggested that teachers should recognize the range of factors affecting strategy use among their students and encourages students' to participate actively in the teaching and learning process.
Another researcher, Radha Nambiar (1996) used a qualitative approach to discover the strategies used by university students. Her study investigated the differences in language learning strategies employed by six students as they engage in six classroom language activities. In her study, the students' proficiency level does not have a significant difference on the language learning strategy used. Instead it shows that there are important variations in how language learning strategy is employed.
This chapter described the research methodology used in this study. A quantitative method was used to collect data. A bilingual Language Strategy Use Questionnaire was used to assess students' language strategy use. Data was collected and analyzed descriptively using mean, standard deviation, frequency and percentage. Data was also analyzed inferentially using independent sample T-test.