How can learners of a new language better engage in their learning in a way that allows them to understand the new information as well as use it in every day situations? There are language learning strategies in which these learners can participate. Language learning strategies help the learners to better acquire, retain, and store all of the new information from the new language they are learning. These learning strategies require the students to be self-engaged and allow them to self-direct their own learning in a way that facilitates the outcome they want to achieve. Because these types of strategies are goal-oriented, it allows the learners to attain self-efficacy, which means the students will know they can achieve a task successfully. There are six different types of learning strategies. These are cognitive, mnemonic, metacognitive, compensatory, affective, and social strategies.
The first type of language learning is called the cognitive strategy. With these types of strategies, students can strengthen their learning by creating and maintaining associations between the knowledge they already possess and the new information being presented to them for the first time. An example activity for this type of strategy would be, reading a passage and guessing what a word means from its surrounding context. This strategy allows for the learner to use what they already know to help them gain an understanding of the new language.
The next type of language learning is the mnemonic strategy. This type of strategy has been around for a long time and can be used in all aspects of learning, not just in learning a new language. Mnemonic strategies create links between new information and information already known. An example of this would be rhyming or using/ creating acronyms. This allows the students to memorize something in a specific order. Unlike cognitive strategies where a deep meaning is associated with their learning, mnemonic strategies are more for helping the students remember simplistic things like a vocabulary list.
Meta-cognitive strategies help the student to better understand themselves as learners. Within these strategies, students find out more about what types of learning methods work best for them and what types of strategies allow them to learn to their full potential. Not all students learn the same way. Students all have different ways in which they can learn the best whether it be through bodily movements, or reading texts. Within these types of meta-cognitive strategies, students gain knowledge in what works best for their education towards learning the new language.
Compensatory strategies are used for writing and for speaking. These strategies help the students to patch up any blanks within their writing or speaking. For example, if a student is writing in English and they get stuck on a particular word that they cannot recall at the time, they can use a synonym to fill in the blank. Another example would be to use hand gestures during a conversation to help them reinforce what they are trying to communicate in English. Compensatory strategies create what is called incidental learning which help the students within language learning.
The Affective strategies are important when it comes to language learning because it allows the student to understand what their feelings are. For example they can record what types of activities or tasks they perform that cause them to feel frustrated, angry, or anxiety-driven. Especially when learning a new language, communicating in English can cause high anxiety level as well as cause anger and a lack of motivation. So to eliminate that stress, students can write down how they feel and what makes them feel that way in order to avoid future discouragement towards learning the new language.
The last language learning strategy is called social strategy. This strategy has to do with the social communication aspect of learning a new language. This includes communicating with the teacher and the other students. When students ask questions or ask for help they are not only learning about the new language but they are also learning about the cultural norms that the language comes from.
There are studies that show that the more these kinds of strategies are used within the classroom, the higher the levels of learning the new language will be as well as a higher proficiency. The use of these different types of strategies will allow the learners to better understand the new language they are learning, help them to create meaning towards that language, and help them to retain the information for their life time and every day use.
TESOL Viewpoint brings alumni essays on teaching English as a second language. This viewpoint focuses on strategies to learning a second language.