Applied Linguistics

Language learning strategies/Classification/O’Malley

Language learning strategies

Language learning strategies is a term that refers to the processes and actions that language learners consciously take to help them learn or use a language more effectively. They have also been defined as “thoughts and actions deliberately chosen and implemented by language learners to help them complete a variety of tasks from the very beginning of learning to the most advanced levels of target language proficiency.” The term language learning strategy, which includes the strategy used for language learning and language use, is sometimes used, although the line between the two is poorly defined as moments of second language use can also provide learning opportunities.


Language learning strategies were first introduced in the second language literature in 1975, when a study was conducted of who is good at learning a language . At the time, it was believed that a better understanding of the strategies employed by successful learners could help inform teachers and learners about how to teach and learn languages ​​more effectively. Initial research focused on documenting the strategies of good language learners. In the 1980s, the emphasis shifted to classifying language learning strategies. Strategies were first classified according to whether they were direct or indirect, and later they were divided into cognitive, metacognitive, or affective / social categories. In 1990, Rebecca Oxford published her landmark book, Strategies for Language Learning: What Every Teacher Should Know, which included a Strategy Inventory for Language Learning, or SILL, a questionnaire that was used in a large number of studies in the 1990s and early 2000s. -x. However, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, controversy over basic issues such as definition intensified when some researchers abandoned attempts to define the concept in favor of listing the main characteristics. Others have abandoned the term strategy in favor of ” self-regulation .

Classification of language learning strategies

O’Malley and Chamo classification

In 1990, O’Malley and Chamo developed a classification of three types of language learning strategies

  • Metacognitive strategies, which include thinking about (or knowing) the learning process, planning a learning, monitoring learning during its execution, or self-evaluating learning after an assignment has been completed.
  • Cognitive strategies that involve mental manipulation or transformation of materials or tasks designed to improve understanding, assimilation, or retention.
  • Social / affective strategies, which consisted of using social interactions to help understand, learn, or retain information. And also mental control over personal affects that interfere with learning.

This model was based on highly praised cognitive theory , but has also been criticized for the special nature of its third category.

Oxford taxonomy

Also in 1990, Rebecca Oxford developed a taxonomy to classify strategies into six headings:


creating associations between new and already known information;


creating associations between new and already known information using formulas, phrases, poems, etc.


control of one’s own knowledge through the coordination of planning, organization and evaluation of the learning process;


the use of context to fill in missing information when reading and writing; Affective – regulation of emotions, motivation and attitude to learning;


interacting with other students to improve language learning and cultural understanding.

In subsequent years, this classification system has been criticized for problems with separating mnemonic strategies from cognitive ones, when one of them is a subcategory of another, and the inclusion of compensatory strategies that relate to how the student uses the language, rather than learns it.

Recent research

More recent studies have examined language learning strategies in more context-sensitive situations rather than general categories. That is, for example, when students study academic writing, they are likely to use a different set of strategies than they would if they were studying everyday conversation. The terms cognitive and metacognitive strategies remain common in strategy research, but others related to managing students’ own emotional state or social environment have been studied under the general term self-regulation.


First, although it was initially promoted as a means of helping learners succeed in language learning, a synthesis of historical research on language learning strategies has produced conflicting results on the relationship between strategies and language learning success. In fact, much of the research that emerged in the 1990s involved numerous conflicting studies using SILL as a research tool, of which very few met rigorous research criteria.

The second problem associated with the study of language learning strategies is the ambiguity of the definitions of the basic concepts in this area. Researchers in the field, such as Ernesto Macaro, argue that there is no consensus on

  • Whether the strategies are implemented inside or outside the brain
  • Whether the learner’s strategies consist of knowledge, intention, action, or just three;
  • Whether strategies should be classified into frames, hierarchies [or clusters];
  • Do the strategies survive in all learning situations, tasks and contexts;
  • Whether they are integral part of language processing or optional.

Because of the vague definitions of language learning strategies, critics argued that this entire area should be replaced by a psychological concept of self-regulation . However, language learning strategy researchers argued that replacing the field would amount to “throwing the baby and water into the bathtub,” ie, throwing away 30 years of research due to definitional problems. It has also been argued that self-regulation and language learning strategies measure different parts of the learning process and thus can be used in tandem to observe a more accurate picture of how learners learn a second language.

Nonetheless, interest in the potential of learning promotion strategies remains high, as evidenced by recent books on the topic and a number of special editions of academic journals on the topic. A particularly important question for educators is whether learners can benefit from learning strategies, both in terms of improved language outcomes and increased learning self-efficacy. For example, in a study conducted in the context of England, Graham and Macaro (2008) found improved listening skills and increased self-efficacy in listening among French language learners who were trained in listening strategies. Another important issue is also the extent to which teachers have the knowledge and understanding of how to incorporate language learning strategies into their teaching, with research showing that.

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