The Internet TESL Journal

Language Learning Strategies: An Overview for L2 Teachers

Michael Lessard-Clouston
z95014 [at]
Kwansei Gakuin University (Nishinomiya, Japan)

First published in Essays in Languages and Literatures, 8, at Kwansei Gakuin University, December 1997.

This article provides an overview of language learning strategies (LLS) for second and foreign language (L2/FL) teachers. To do so it outlines the background of LLS and LLS training, discusses a three step approach teachers may follow in using LLS in their classes, and summarises key reflections and questions for future research on this aspect of L2/FL education. It also lists helpful contacts and internet sites where readers may access up-to-date information on LLS teaching and research.


Within the field of education over the last few decades a gradual but significant shift has taken place, resulting in less emphasis on teachers and teaching and greater stress on learners and learning. This change has been reflected in various ways in language education and applied linguistics, ranging from the Northeast Conference (1990) entitled "Shifting the Instructional Focus to the Learner" and annual "Learners' Conferences" held in conjuction with the TESL Canada convention since 1991, to key works on "the learner-centred curriculum" (Nunan, 1988, 1995) and "learner-centredness as language education" (Tudor, 1996).

This article provides an overview of key issues concerning one consequence of the above shift: the focus on and use of language learning strategies (LLS) in second and foreign language (L2/FL) learning and teaching. In doing so, the first section outlines some background on LLS and summarises key points from the LLS literature. The second section considers some practical issues related to using LLS in the classroom, outlining a three step approach to implementing LLS training in normal L2/FL courses. The third section then briefly discusses some important issues and questions for further LLS research. In the fourth section the article ends by noting a number of contacts readers may use to locate and receive up-to-date information on LLS teaching and research in this widely developing area in L2/FL education.


Learning Strategies

In a helpful survey article, Weinstein and Mayer (1986) defined learning strategies (LS) broadly as "behaviours and thoughts that a learner engages in during learning" which are "intended to influence the learner's encoding process" (p. 315). Later Mayer (1988) more specifically defined LS as "behaviours of a learner that are intended to influence how the learner processes information" (p. 11). These early definitions from the educational literature reflect the roots of LS in cognitive science, with its essential assumptions that human beings process information and that learning involves such information processing. Clearly, LS are involved in all learning, regardless of the content and context. LS are thus used in learning and teaching math, science, history, languages and other subjects, both in classroom settings and more informal learning environments. For insight into the literature on LS outside of language education, the works of Dansereau (1985) and Weinstein, Goetz and Alexander (1988) are key, and one recent LS study of note is that of Fuchs, Fuchs, Mathes and Simmons (1997). In the rest of this paper, the focus will specifically be on language LS in L2/FL learning.

Language Learning Strategies Defined

Within L2/FL education, a number of definitions of LLS have been used by key figures in the field. Early on, Tarone (1983) defined a LS as "an attempt to develop linguistic and sociolinguistic competence in the target language -- to incoporate these into one's interlanguage competence" (p. 67). Rubin (1987) later wrote that LS "are strategies which contribute to the development of the language system which the learner constructs and affect learning directly" (p. 22). In their seminal study, O'Malley and Chamot (1990) defined LS as "the special thoughts or behaviours that individuals use to help them comprehend, learn, or retain new information" (p. 1). Finally, building on work in her book for teachers (Oxford, 1990a), Oxford (1992/1993) provides specific examples of LLS (i.e., "In learning ESL, Trang watches U.S. TV soap operas, guessing the meaning of new expressions and predicting what will come next") and this helpful definition:
...language learning strageties -- specific actions, behaviours, steps, or techniques that students (often intentionally) use to improve their progress in developing L2 skills. These strageties can facilitate the internalization, storage, retrieval, or use of the new language. Strategies are tools for the self-directed involvement necessary for developing communicative ability. (Oxford, 1992/1993, p. 18)
From these definitions, a change over time may be noted: from the early focus on the product of LSS (linguistic or sociolinguistic competence), there is now a greater emphasis on the processes and the characteristics of LLS. At the same time, we should note that LLS are distinct from learning styles, which refer more broadly to a learner's "natural, habitual, and preferred way(s) of absorbing, processing, and retaining new information and skills" (Reid, 1995, p. viii), though there appears to be an obvious relationship between one's language learning style and his or her usual or preferred language learning strategies.

What are the Characteristics of LLS?

Although the terminology is not always uniform, with some writers using the terms "learner strategies" (Wendin & Rubin, 1987), others "learning strategies" (O'Malley & Chamot, 1990; Chamot & O'Malley, 1994), and still others "language learning strategies" (Oxford, 1990a, 1996), there are a number of basic characteristics in the generally accepted view of LLS. First, LLS are learner generated; they are steps taken by language learners. Second, LLS enhance language learning and help develop language competence, as reflected in the learner's skills in listening, speaking, reading, or writing the L2 or FL. Third, LLS may be visible (behaviours, steps, techniques, etc.) or unseen (thoughts, mental processes). Fourth, LLS involve information and memory (vocabulary knowledge, grammar rules, etc.).

Reading the LLS literature, it is clear that a number of further aspects of LLS are less uniformly accepted. When discussing LLS, Oxford (1990a) and others such as Wenden and Rubin (1987) note a desire for control and autonomy of learning on the part of the learner through LLS. Cohen (1990) insists that only conscious strategies are LLS, and that there must be a choice involved on the part of the learner. Transfer of a strategy from one language or language skill to another is a related goal of LLS, as Pearson (1988) and Skehan (1989) have discussed. In her teacher-oriented text, Oxford summarises her view of LLS by listing twelve key features. In addition to the characteristics noted above, she states that LLS:

(Oxford, 1990a, p. 9)
Beyond this brief outline of LLS characterisitics, a helpful review of the LLS research and some of the implications of LLS training for second language acquisition may be found in Gu (1996).

Why are LLS Important for L2/FL Learning and Teaching?

Within 'communicative' approaches to language teaching a key goal is for the learner to develop communicative competence in the target L2/FL, and LLS can help students in doing so. After Canale and Swain's (1980) influencial article recognised the importance of communication strategies as a key aspect of strategic (and thus communicative) competence, a number of works appeared about communication strategies in L2/FL teaching2. An important distinction exists, however, between communication and language learning strategies. Communication strategies are used by speakers intentionally and consciously in order to cope with difficulties in communicating in a L2/FL (Bialystok, 1990). The term LLS is used more generally for all strategies that L2/FL learners use in learning the target language, and communication strategies are therefore just one type of LLS. For all L2 teachers who aim to help develop their students' communicative competence and language learning, then, an understanding of LLS is crucial. As Oxford (1990a) puts it, LLS "...are especially important for language learning because they are tools for active, self-directed involvement, which is essential for developing communicative competence" (p. 1).

In addition to developing students' communicative competence, LLS are important because research suggests that training students to use LLS can help them become better language learners. Early research on 'good language learners' by Naiman, Frohlich, Stern, and Todesco (1978, 1996), Rubin (1975), and Stern (1975) suggested a number of positive strategies that such students employ, ranging from using an active task approach in and monitoring one's L2/FL performance to listening to the radio in the L2/FL and speaking with native speakers. A study by O'Malley and Chamot (1990) also suggests that effective L2/FL learners are aware of the LLS they use and why they use them. Graham's (1997) work in French further indicates that L2/FL teachers can help students understand good LLS and should train them to develop and use them.

A caution must also be noted though, because, as Skehan (1989) states, "there is always the possibility that the 'good' language learning strategies...are also used by bad language learners, but other reasons cause them to be unsuccessful" (p. 76). In fact Vann and Abraham (1990) found evidence that suggests that both 'good' and 'unsuccessful' language learners can be active users of similar LLS, though it is important that they also discovered that their unsuccessful learners "apparently...lacked...what are often called metacognitive strategies...which would enable them to assess the task and bring to bear the necessary strategies for its completion" (p. 192). It appears, then, that a number and range of LLS are important if L2/FL teachers are to assist students both in learning the L2/FL and in becoming good language learners.

What Kinds of LLS Are There?

There are literally hundreds of different, yet often interrelated, LLS. As Oxford has developed a fairly detailed list of LLS in her taxonomy, it is useful to summarise it briefly here. First, Oxford (1990b) distinguishes between direct LLS, "which directly involve the subject matter", i.e. the L2 or FL, and indirect LLS, which "do not directly involve the subject matter itself, but are essential to language learning nonetheless" (p. 71). Second, each of these broad kinds of LLS is further divided into LLS groups. Oxford outlines three main types of direct LLS, for example. Memory strategies "aid in entering information into long-term memory and retrieving information when needed for communication". Cognitive LLS "are used for forming and revising internal mental models and receiving and producing messages in the target language". Compensation strategies "are needed to overcome any gaps in knowledge of the language" (Oxford, 1990b, p. 71). Oxford (1990a, 1990b) also describes three types of indirect LLS. Metacognitive strageties "help learners exercise 'executive control' through planning, arranging, focusing, and evaluating their own learning". Affective LLS "enable learners to control feelings, motivations, and attitudes related to language learning". Finally, social strategies "facilitate interaction with others, often in a discourse situation" (Oxford, 1990b, p. 71).

A more detailed overview of these six main types of LLS is found in Oxford (1990a, pp. 18-21), where they are further divided into 19 strategy groups and 62 subsets. Here, by way of example, we will briefly consider the social LLS that Oxford lists under indirect strategies. Three types of social LLS are noted in Oxford (1990a): asking questions, co-operating with others, and empathising with others (p. 21). General examples of LLS given in each of these categories are as follows:

Asking questions
  1. Asking for clarification or verification
  2. Asking for correction
Co-operating with others
  1. Co-operating with peers
  2. Co-operating with proficient users of the new language
Empathising with others
  1. Developing cultural understanding
  2. Becoming aware of others' thoughts and feelings (Oxford, 1990a, p. 21)
Although these examples are still rather vague, experienced L2/FL teachers may easily think of specific LLS for each of these categories. In asking questions, for example, students might ask something specific like "Do you mean...?" or "Did you say that...?" in order to clarify or verify what they think they have heard or understood. While at first glance this appears to be a relatively straightforward LLS, in this writer's experience it is one that many EFL students in Japan, for example, are either unaware of or somewhat hesitant to employ.

What is important to note here is the way LLS are interconnected, both direct and indirect, and the support they can provide one to the other (see Oxford, 1990a, pp. 14-16). In the above illustration of social LLS, for example, a student might ask the questions above of his or her peers, thereby 'co-operating with others', and in response to the answer he or she receives the student might develop some aspect of L2/FL cultural understanding or become more aware of the feelings or thoughts of fellow students, the teacher, or those in the L2/FL culture. What is learned from this experience might then be supported when the same student uses a direct, cognitive strategy such as 'practising' to repeat what he or she has learned or to integrate what was learned into a natural conversation with someone in the target L2/FL. In this case, the way LLS may be inter-connected becomes very clear.


With the above background on LLS and some of the related literature, this section provides an overview of how LLS and LLS training have been or may be used in the classroom, and briefly describes a three step approach to implementing LLS training in the L2/FL classroom.

Contexts and Classes for LLS Training

LLS and LLS training may be integrated into a variety of classes for L2/FL students. One type of course that appears to be becoming more popular, especially in intensive English programmes, is one focusing on the language learning process itself. In this case, texts such as Ellis and Sinclair's (1989) Learning to Learn English: A Course in Learner Training or Rubin and Thompson's (1994) How to Be a More Successful Language Learner might be used in order to help L2/FL learners understand the language learning process, the nature of language and communication, what language learning resources are available to them, and what specific LLS they might use in order to improve their own vocabulary use, grammar knowledge, and L2/FL skills in reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Perhaps more common are integrated L2/FL courses where these four skills are taught in tandem, and in these courses those books might be considered as supplementary texts to help learners focus on the LLS that can help them learn L2/FL skills and the LLS they need to acquire them. In this writer's experience, still more common is the basic L2/FL listening, speaking, reading, or writing course where LLS training can enhance and complement the L2/FL teaching and learning. Whatever type of class you may be focusing on at this point, the three step approach to implementing LLS training in the classroom outlined below should prove useful.

Step 1: Study Your Teaching Context

At first, it is crucial for teachers to study their teaching context, paying special attention to their students, their materials, and their own teaching. If you are going to train your students in using LLS, it is crucial to know something about these individuals, their interests, motivations, learning styles, etc. By observing their behaviour in class, for example, you will be able to see what LLS they already appear to be using. Do they often ask for clarification, verification, or correction, as discussed briefly above? Do they co-operate with their peers or seem to have much contact outside of class with proficient L2/FL users? Beyond observation, however, one can prepare a short questionnaire that students can fill in at the beginning of a course, describing themselves and their language learning. Sharkey (1994/1995), for instance, asks students to complete statements such as "In this class I want to/will/won't....", "My favourite/least favourite kinds of class activities are...", "I am studying English because...", etc. (Sharkey, 1994/1995, p. 19). Talking to students informally before or after class, or more formally interviewing select students about these topics can also provide a lot of information about one's students, their goals, motivations, and LLS, and their understanding of the particular course being taught.

Beyond the students, however, one's teaching materials are also important in considering LLS and LLS training. Textbooks, for example, should be analysed to see whether they already include LLS or LLS training. Scarcella and Oxford's (1992) Tapestry textbook series, for example, incorporates "learning strategy" boxes which highlight LLS and encourage students to use them in L2/FL tasks or skills. One example from a conversation text in the series states: "Managing Your Learning: Working with other language learners improves your listening and speaking skills" (Earle-Carlin & Proctor, 1996, p. 8). An EFL writing text I use has brief sections on making one's referents clear, outlining, and choosing the right vocabulary, all of which may be modelled and used in LLS training in my composition course. Audiotapes, videotapes, hand-outs, and other materials for the course at hand should also be examined for LLS or for specific ways that LLS training might be implemented in using them. Perhaps teachers will be surprised to find many LLS incorporated into their materials, with more possibilities than they had imagined. If not, they might look for new texts or other teaching materials that do provide such opportunities.

Last, but certainly not least, teachers need to study their own teaching methods and overall classroom style. One way to do so is to consider your lesson plans. Do they incorporate various ways that students can learn the language you are modelling, practising or presenting, in order to appeal to a variety of learning styles and strategies? Does your teaching allow learners to approach the task at hand in a variety of ways? Is your LLS training implicit, explicit, or both? By audiotaping or videotaping one's classroom teaching an instructor may objectively consider just what was actually taught and modelled, and how students responded and appeared to learn. Is your class learner-centred? Do you allow students to work on their own and learn from one another? As you circulate in class, are you encouraging questions, or posing ones relevant to the learners with whom you interact? Whether formally in action research or simply for informal reflection, teachers who study their students, their materials, and their own teaching will be better prepared to focus on LLS and LLS training within their specific teaching context.

Step 2: Focus on LLS in Your Teaching

After you have studied your teaching context, begin to focus on specific LLS in your regular teaching that are relevant to your learners, your materials, and your own teaching style. If you have found 10 different LLS for writing explicitly used in your text, for example, you could highlight these as you go through the course, giving students clear examples, modelling how such LLS may be used in learning to write or in writing, and filling in the gaps with other LLS for writing that are neglected in the text but would be especially relevant for your learners.

If you tend to be teacher-centred in your approach to teaching, you might use a specific number of tasks appropriate for your context from the collection by Gardner and Miller (1996) in order to provide students with opportunities to use and develop their LLS and to encourage more independent language learning both in class and in out-of-class activities for your course. As Graham (1997) declares, LLS training "needs to be integrated into students' regular classes if they are going to appreciate their relevance for language learning tasks; students need to constantly monitor and evaluate the strategies they develop and use; and they need to be aware of the nature, function and importance of such strategies" (p. 169). Whether it is a specific conversation, reading, writing, or other class, an organised and informed focus on LLS and LLS training will help students learn and provide more opportunities for them to take responsibility for their learning3.

Step 3: Reflect and Encourage Learner Reflection

Much of what I have suggested in this section requires teacher reflection, echoing a current trend in pedagogy and the literature in L2/FL education (see, for example, Freeman & Richards, 1996, and Richards & Lockhart, 1994). However, in implementing LLS and LLS training in the L2/FL classroom, purposeful teacher reflection and encouraging learner reflection form a necessary third step. On a basic level, it is useful for teachers to reflect on their own positive and negative experiences in L2/FL learning. As Graham suggests, "those teachers who have thought carefully about how they learned a language, about which strategies are most appropriate for which tasks, are more likely to be successful in developing 'strategic competence' in their students" (p. 170). Beyond contemplating one's own language learning, it is also crucial to reflect on one's LLS training and teaching in the classroom. After each class, for example, one might ponder the effectiveness of the lesson and the role of LLS and LLS training within it. Do students seem to have grasped the point? Did they use the LLS that was modelled in the task they were to perform? What improvements for future lessons of this type or on this topic might be gleaned from students' behaviour? An informal log of such reflections and one's personal assessment of the class, either in a notebook or on the actual lesson plans, might be used later to reflect on LLS training in the course as a whole after its completion. In my experience I have found, like Offner (1997), that rather than limiting my perspective to specific LLS such reflection helps me to see the big picture and focus on "teaching how to learn" within my L2/FL classes.

In addition to the teacher's own reflections, it is essential to encourage learner reflection, both during and after the LLS training in the class or course. In an interesting action research study involving "guided reflection" Nunan (1996) did this by asking his students to keep a journal in which they completed the following sentences: This week I studied..., I learned..., I used my English in these places..., I spoke English with these people..., I made these mistakes..., My difficulties are..., I would like to know..., I would like help with..., My learning and practising plans for the next week are... (Nunan, 1996, p. 36). Sharkey (1994/1995) asked her learners to complete simple self- evaluation forms at various points during their course. Matsumoto (1996) used student diaries, questionnaires, and interviews to carry out her research and help her students reflect on their LLS and language learning. Pickard (1996) also used questionnaires and follow-up interviews in helping students reflect on their out-of- class LLS. In a writing class, Santos (1997) has used portfolios to encourage learner reflection. These are just a few examples from the current literature of various ways to encourage learner reflection on language learning. As Graham declares, "For learners, a vital component of self-directed learning lies in the on-going evaluation of the methods they have employed on tasks and of their achievements within the...programme" (p. 170). Whatever the context or method, it is important for L2/FL learners to have the chance to reflect on their language learning and LLS use.

An Example of LLS Training

Let me give one example of implementing LLS training within a normal L2/FL class from my experience in teaching a TOEFL preparation course in Canada. After studying my teaching context by considering my part-time, evening college students (most of whom were working) and their LLS, the course textbook and other materials, and my own teaching, I became convinced that I should not only introduce LLS but also teach them and encourage learners to reflect on them and their own learning. To make this LLS training specific and relevant to these ESL students, I gave a mini-lecture early in the course on the importance of vocabulary for the TOEFL and learning and using English, and then focused on specific vocabulary learning strategies (VLS) by highlighting them whenever they were relevant to class activities. In practising listening for the TOEFL, for example, there were exercises on multi-definition words, and after finishing the activity I introduced ways students could expand their vocabulary knowledge by learning new meanings for multi-definition words they already know. I then talked with students about ways to record such words and their meanings on vocabulary cards or in a special notebook, in order for them to reinforce and review such words and meanings they had learned.

In order to encourage learner reflection, later in the course I used a questionnaire asking students about their vocabulary learning and VLS in and outside of class, and the following week gave them a generic but individualised vocabulary knowledge test where students provided the meaning, part of speech, and an example sentence for up to 10 words each person said he or she had 'learned'. I marked these and handed them back to students the next week, summarising the class results overall and sparking interesting class discussion. For a more detailed description of this classroom activity and a copy of the questionnaire and test, see Lessard-Clouston (1994). For more information on the research that I carried out in conjunction with this activity, please refer to Lessard-Clouston (1996). What became obvious both to me and my students in that attempt at LLS training was that vocabulary learning is a very individualised activity which requires a variety of VLS for success in understanding and using English vocabulary, whether or not one is eventually 'tested' on it. Though this is just one example of implementing LLS training in a normal L2/FL class, hopefully readers will be able to see how this general three step approach to doing so may be adapted for their own classroom teaching.


Important Reflections

In my thinking on LLS I am presently concerned about two important issues. The first, and most important, concerns the professionalism of teachers who use LLS and LLS training in their work. As Davis (1997, p. 6) has aptly noted, "our actions speak louder than words", and it is therefore important for professionals who use LLS training to also model such strategies both within their classroom teaching and, especially in EFL contexts, in their own FL learning. Furthermore, LLS obviously involve individuals' unique cognitive, social, and affective learning styles and strategies. As an educator I am interested in helping my students learn and reflect on their learning, but I also question the tone and motivation reflected in some of the LLS literature. Oxford (1990a), for example, seems to describe many of my Japanese EFL students when she writes:
...many language students (even adults) to be told what to do, and they only do what is clearly essential to get a good grade -- even if they fail to develop useful skills in the process. Attitudes and behaviours like these make learning more difficult and must be changed, or else any effort to train learners to rely more on themselves and use better strategies is bound to fail. (Oxford, 1990a, p. 10)
Motivation is a key concern both for teachers and students. Yet while teachers hope to motivate our students and enhance their learning, professionally we must be very clear not to manipulate them in the process, recognising that ultimately learning is the student's responsibility4. If our teaching is appropriate and learner-centred, we will not manipulate our students as we encourage them to develop and use their own LLS. Instead we will take learners' motivations and learning styles into account as we teach in order for them to improve their L2/FL skills and LLS.

The second reflection pertains to the integration of LLS into both language learning/teaching theory and curriculum. The focus of this article is largely practical, noting why LLS are useful and how they can or might be included in regular L2/FL classes. These things are important. However, in reflecting on these issues and attempting to implement LLS training in my classes I am reminded that much of the L2/FL work in LLS appears to lack an undergirding theory, perhaps partially because L2/FL education is a relatively young discipline and lacks a comprehensive theory of acquisition and instruction itself. As Ellis (1994) notes, much of the research on LLS "has been based on the assumption that there are 'good' learning strategies. But this is questionable" (p. 558). As my own research (Lessard-Clouston, 1996, 1998) suggests, L2/FL learning seems to be very much influenced by numerous individual factors, and to date it is difficult to account for all individual LLS, let alone relate them to all L2/FL learning/teaching theories.

The related challenge, then, is how to integrate LLS into our L2/FL curriculum, especially in places like Japan where "learner-centred" approaches or materials may not be implemented very easily. Using texts which incorporate LLS training, such as those in the Tapestry series, remains difficult in FL contexts when they are mainly oriented to L2 ones. How then may FL educators best include LLS and LLS training in the FL curriculum of their regular, everyday language (as opposed to content) classes? This final point brings us to this and other questions for future LLS research.

Questions for LLS Research

Following from these reflections, then, future L2/FL research must consider and include curriculum development and materials for LLS training which takes into account regular L2/FL classes (especially for adults) and the learning styles and motivations of the students within them. While Chamot and O'Malley (1994, 1996) and Kidd and Marquardson (1996) have developed materials for content-based school classes, it is important to consider the development and use of materials for college and university language classes, especially in FL settings. On the surface at least, it would appear that the language/content/learning strategies components of their frameworks could be easily transferred to a variety of language classroom curricula, but is this really the case? One model to consider in attempting to do so is Stern's (1992) multidimensional curriculum, which allows for the integration of LLS and LLS training into its language, culture, communicative, and general language education syllabuses.

A pressing need for further research involves developing a comprehensive theory of LLS that is also relevant to language teaching practice. Moving beyond taxonomies of LLS, various types of studies into LLS use and training must consider a wide range of questions, such as: What types of LLS appear to work best with what learners in which contexts? Does LLS or LLS training transfer easily between L2 and FL contexts? What is the role of language proficiency in LLS use and training? How long does it take to train specific learners in certain LLS? How can one best assesss and measure success in LLS use or training? Are certain LLS learnt more easily in classroom or non-classroom contexts? What LLS should be taught at different proficiency levels? Answers to these and many other questions from research in a variety of settings will aid in the theory building that appears necessary for more LLS work to be relevant to current L2/FL teaching practice.

In considering the above questions concerning LLS and LLS training, a variety of research methods should be employed. To date much of the LLS research appears to be based in North America and is largely oriented towards quantitative data and descriptions. In fact, one report on more qualitatively-oriented LLS data by LoCastro (1994) sparked an interesting response from major LLS figures Oxford and Green (1995). While calling for collaborative research in their critique, Oxford and Green's (1995) comments in many ways discourage such work, especially for those who do not work within North America or use a quantitatively oriented research approach. However, as LoCastro points out in her response,

...there are different kinds of research which produce different results which may be of interest. Research dealing with human beings is notoriously fuzzy and shows a great deal of variation. (LoCastro, 1995, p. 174).
I would concur with this observation. In listing the above questions and calling for more research on LLS, I also hope that more case studies, longitudinal studies, and learner's self-directed qualitative studies, like the one by Yu (1990), will be carried out and will receive greater attention in the literature in L2/FL education.


As readers may want to take up my challenge and address the issues and questions for research I have outlined here, in this final section I focus on where they may find additional information and resources to help them in their LLS teaching and research. In addition to checking the sources listed in the reference section at the end of this article, there are a number of contacts which readers may find useful for obtaining more information on LLS, LLS training and/or research, and in networking with others involved with or interested in LLS within various aspects of L2/FL education. Three such contacts are noted here.

Where Can I Get More Information?

1. The Japan Association for Language Teaching (JALT) Learner Development National Special Interest Group (N-SIG), formed in 1994, encourages learner development and autonomy, which involves and encompasses LLS. It publishes a quarterly, bilingual (English-Japanese) newsletter called Learning Learning and organises presentations at the annual JALT conference each autumn. For more information one can access the Learner Development N-SIG homepage or contact the co-ordinator:

Dr. Jill Robbins
Doshisha Women's College
English Department
Tanabe-co, Tsuzuki-gun
Kyoto-fu 610-03 JAPAN
2. The International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL) Learner Independence Special Interest Group (SIG) has an international network of members who are interested in learning styles and LLS, learning centres, and related topics. In addition to publishing a newsletter, Independence, it occasionally holds related events. For more information either visit the Learner Independence SIG home page or contact the co-ordinator, Jenny Timmer, through email to IATEFL at: <>.

3. The Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA) at the University of Minnesota publishes a newsletter, The NESSLA Report (the Network of Styles and Strategies in Language Acquisition) and maintains a Second Language Learning Strategies website. In order to subscribe to the newsletter, contact CARLA as follows:

Suite 111, UTEC Building
1313 5th St. S.E.,
Minneapolis, MN
5514 U.S.A.
The area of LLS is a major but quickly developing aspect of L2/FL education, and interested teachers and researchers are advised to check the internet sites listed here for the most up-to- date information on this topic. In accessing these WWW pages one will also find links to related sites and organisations5.


This paper has provided a brief overview of LLS by examining their background and summarising the relevant literature. It has also outlined some ways that LLS training has been used and offered a three step approach for teachers to consider in implementing it within their own L2/FL classes. It has also raised two important issues, posed questions for further LLS research, and noted a number of contacts that readers may use in networking on LLS in L2/FL education. In my experience, using LLS and LLS training in the L2/FL class not only encourages learners in their language learning but also helps teachers reflect on and improve their teaching. May readers also find this to be the case.


I would like to thank my students for their input on LLS and LLS training, and Birgit Harley and Wendy Lessard-Clouston for their input on the issues presented in this overview and for their helpful comments on earlier drafts.


1. The Author: Michael Lessard-Clouston is Associate Professor of English, School of Economics, Kwansei Gakuin University, 1-1-155 Uegahara, Nishinomiya, 662 Japan.

2. See, for example, the work of Bialystok (1990), Bongaerts & Poulisse (1989), Dornyei & Thurrell (1991), Kasper & Kellerman (1997), McDonough (1995), Poulisse (1989), and Willems (1987) on communication strategies.

3. For more examples of specific types of LLS training, refer to the works listed in the reference section. Oxford's (1990a) book, for instance, offers chapters with practical activities related to applying direct or indirect LLS to the four language skills or general management of learning.

4. For recent discussions of this issue and others related to autonomy and independence in language learning, see Benson & Voller (1997) and the articles in Ely & Pease-Alvarez (1996).

5. The contact details provided in this section are current as of autumn 1997.


Benson, P., & Voller, P. (Eds.). (1997). Autonomy and Independence in Language Learning. London: Longman.

Bialystok, E. (1990). Communication Strategies: A Psychological Analysis of Second Language Use. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Bongaerts, T., & Poulisse, N. (1989). Communication strategies in L1 and L2: Same or different? Applied Linguistics, 10(3), 253- 268.

Canale, M., & Swain, M. (1980). Theoretical bases of communicative approaches to second language teaching and testing. Applied Linguistics, 1(1), 1-47.

Chamot, A., & O'Malley, M. (1994). The CALLA Handbook: Implementing the Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach. Reading, MA: Addison Wesley.

Chamot, A., & O'Malley, M. (1996). Implementing the cognitive academic language learning approach (CALLA). In R. Oxford (Ed.), Language Learning Strategies Around the World: Cross-cultural Perspectives (pp. 167-173). Honolulu: University of Hawai'i, Second Language Teaching and Curriculum Centre.

Cohen, A. (1990). Language Learning: Insights for Learners, Teachers, and Researchers. New York: Newbury House.

Dansereau, D. (1985). Learning strategy research. In J.W. Segal, S.F. Chipman, & R. Glaser (Eds.), Thinking and Learning Skills: Relating Learning to Basic Research (pp. 209-240). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Davis, R. (1997). Modeling the strategies we advocate. TESOL Journal, 6(4), 5-6.

Dornyei, A., & Thurrell, S. (1991). Strategic competence and how to teach it. ELT Journal, 45(1), 16-23.

Earle-Carlin, S., & Proctor, S. (1996). Word of Mouth. Boston: Heinle & Heinle.

Ellis, G., & Sinclair, B. (1989). Learning to Learn English: A Course in Learner Training. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ellis, R. (1994). The Study of Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ely, C., & Pease-Alvarez, L. (Eds.). (1996). Learning styles and strategies [Special Issue]. TESOL Journal, 6(1) [Autumn].

Freeman, D., & Richards, J. (Eds.). (1996). Teacher Learning in Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Fuchs, D., Fuchs, L., Mathes, P., & Simmons, D. (1997). Peer- assisted learning strategies: Making classrooms more responsive to diversity. American Educational Research Journal, 34(1), 174-206.

Gardner, D., & Miller, L. (Eds.). (1996). Tasks for Independent Language Learning. Alexandria, VA: TESOL.

Graham, S. (1997). Effective Language Learning. Clevedon, Avon: Multilingual Matters.

Gu, P. (1996). Robin Hood in SLA: What has the learning strategy researcher taught us? Asian Journal of English Language Teaching, 6, 1-29.

Kasper, G., & Kellerman, E. (Eds.). (in press). Communication Strategies: Psycholinguistic and Sociolinguistic Perspectives. London: Longman.

Kidd, R., & Marquardson, B. (1996). The foresee approach for ESL strategy instruction in an academic-proficiency context. In R. Oxford (Ed.), Language Learning Strategies Around the World: Cross-cultural Perspectives (pp. 189-204). Honolulu: University of Hawai'i, Second Language Teaching and Curriculum Centre.

Lessard-Clouston, M. (1994). Challenging student approaches to ESL vocabulary development. TESL Canada Journal, 12(1), 69-80.

Lessard-Clouston, M. (1996). ESL vocabulary learning in a TOEFL preparation class: A case study. Canadian Modern Language Review, 53(1), 97-119.

Lessard-Clouston, M. (1998, March). Vocabulary Learning Strategies for Specialized Vocabulary Acquisition: A Case Study. Paper to be presented at the 3rd Pacific Second Language Research Forum (PacSLRF '98) at Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo.

LoCastro, V. (1994). Learning strategies and learning environments. TESOL Quarterly, 28(2), 409-414.

LoCastro, V. (1995). The author responds... [A response to Oxford and Green (1995)]. TESOL Quarterly, 29(1), 172-174.

McDonough, S. (1995). Strategy and Skill in Learning a Foreign Language. London: Edward Arnold.

Matsumoto, K. (1996). Helping L2 learners reflect on classroom learning. ELT Journal, 50(2), 143-149.

Mayer, R. (1988). Learning strategies: An overview. In Weinstein, C., E. Goetz, & P. Alexander (Eds.), Learning and Study Strategies: Issues in Assessment, Instruction, and Evaluation (pp. 11-22). New York: Academic Press.

Naiman, N., Frohlich, M., Stern, H., & Todesco, A. (1978). The Good Language Learner. Research in Education Series 7. Toronto: OISE Press.

Naiman, N., Frohlich, M., Stern, H., & Todesco, A. (1996). The Good Language Learner. Clevedon, Avon: Multilingual Matters.

Northeast Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. (1990, April). Shifting the Instructional Focus to the Learner. New York City.

Nunan, D. (1988). The Learner-centred Curriculum. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Nunan, D. (1995). Closing the gap between learning and instruction. TESOL Quarterly, 29(1), 133-158.

Nunan, D. (1996). Learner strategy training in the classroom: An action research study. TESOL Journal, 6(1), 35-41.

Offner, M. (1997). Teaching English conversation in Japan: Teaching how to learn. The Internet TESL Journal [on-line serial], 3(3) [March 1997]. Available at:

O'Malley, J.M., & Chamot, A. (1990). Learning Strategies in Second Language Acquisition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Oxford, R. (1990a). Language Learning Strategies: What Every Teacher Should Know. New York: Newbury House.

Oxford, R. (1990b). Styles, strategies, and aptitude: Connections for language learning. In T.S. Parry & C.W. Stansfield (Eds.), Language Aptitude Reconsidered (pp. 67-125). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Oxford, R. (1992/1993). Language learning strategies in a nutshell: Update and ESL suggestions. TESOL Journal, 2(2), 18-22.

Oxford, R. (Ed.). (1996). Language Learning Strategies Around the World: Cross-cultural Perspectives. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i, Second Language Teaching and Curriculum Centre.

Oxford, R., & Green, J. (1995). Comments on Virginia LoCastro's "Learning strategies and learning environments" -- Making sense of learning strategy assessment: Toward a higher standard of research accuracy. TESOL Quarterly, 29(1), 166- 171.

Pearson, E. (1988). Learner strategies and learner interviews. ELT Journal, 42(3), 173-178.

Pickard, N. (1996). Out-of-class language learning strategies. ELT Journal, 50(2), 150-159.

Poulisse, N. (1989). The Use of Compensatory Strategies by Dutch Learners of English. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Nijmegen, the Netherlands.

Reid, J. (Ed.). (1995). Learning Styles in the ESL/EFL Classroom. Boston: Heinle & Heinle.

Richards, J., & Lockhart, C. (1994). Reflective Teaching in Second Language Classrooms. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Rubin, J. (1975). What the "good language learner" can teach us. TESOL Quarterly, 9(1), 41-51.

Rubin, J. (1987). Learner strategies: Theoretical assumptions, research history and typology. In A. Wenden & J. Rubin (Eds.), Learner Strategies and Language Learning (pp. 15-29). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Rubin, J., & Thompson, I. (1994). How to Be a More Successful Language Learner, Second Edition. Boston: Heinle & Heinle.

Santos, M. (1997). Portfolio assessment and the role of learner reflection. English Teaching Forum, 35(2), 10-14.

Scarcella, R., & Oxford, R. (1992). The Tapestry of Language Learning: The Individual in the Communicative Classroom. Boston: Heinle & Heinle.

Sharkey, J. (1994/1995). Helping students become better learners. TESOL Journal, 4(2), 18-23.

Skehan, P. (1989). Language learning strategies (Chapter 5). Individual Differences in Second-Language Learning (pp. 73- 99). London: Edward Arnold.

Stern, H.H. (1975). What can we learn from the good language learner? Canadian Modern Language Review, 31, 304-318.

Stern, H.H. (1992). Issues and Options in Language Teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Tarone, E. (1983). Some thoughts on the notion of 'communication stategy'. In C. Faerch & G. Kasper (Eds.), Strategies in Interlanguage Communication (pp. 61-74). London: Longman.

Tutor, I. (1996). Learner-centredness as Language Education. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Vann, R., & Abraham, R. (1990). Strategies of unsuccessful language learners. TESOL Quarterly, 24(2), 177-198.

Weinstein, C., & Mayer, R. (1986). The teaching of learning strategies. In M.C. Wittrock (Ed.), Handbook of Research on Teaching, 3rd Edition (pp. 315-327). New York: Macmillan.

Weinstein, C., Goetz, E., & Alexander, P. (Eds.). (1988). Learning and Study Strategies: Issues in Assessment, Instruction, and Evaluation. New York: Academic Press.

Wenden, A., & Rubin, J. (Eds.). (1987). Learner Strategies in Language Learning. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Willems, G. (1987). Communication strategies and their significance in foreign language teaching. System, 15(3), 351-364.

Yu, L. (1990). The comprehensible output hypothesis and self- directed learning: A learner's perspective. TESL Canada Journal, 8(1), 9-26.

The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. III, No. 12, December 1997