Language-learning strategies are tools to facilitate language learning that should be adapted to suit the needs of each individual.
There isn’t one single set of language-learning strategies that makes a person a perfect language learner: instead, each student learns differently. However, there are some guidelines on the strategies others have found successful that can be provided to students to help them make more effective use of their time studying. It’s important that students understand how they learn and how some strategies can be more effective than others.
Rebecca Oxford has produced a very useful book on the subject: Language Learning Strategies: What every teacher should know. In this, she outlines a huge variety of language-learning strategies, grouping them under ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’ strategies. Direct strategies are those directly involved in learning the target language – for example, memory or compensation techniques. Indirect strategies are those that relate to the process of language learning, such as metacognitive or social language-learning strategies.
It’s important to highlight each language-learning strategy you are teaching and to ask the learners to see if it works for them. Try not to get overwhelmed with the huge variety available, but instead, focus on a few specific language-learning strategies that are likely to work for the learners in question. This way of choosing between techniques is a language-learning strategy itself!
Here is a short questionnaire to support learners who are reflecting on the kinds of language-learning strategies they might use (see link).
It’s useful to deliver a lesson or series of lessons on the types of language-learning strategies available. We need to be explicit about the possible strategies available to learners and ensure that they can have a go at a new one, before committing to it.
Oxford, R (1990) Language Learning Strategies, What every teacher should know, Heinle & Heinle