What Are Language Learning Styles and How Can You Make Sure Your Students Have Them?

What Are Language Learning Styles and How Can You Make Sure Your Students Have Them?

Susan Verner
by Susan Verner 7,248 views |

Sometimes English as a second language teachers can get overwhelmed by all the acronyms thrown our way: ESL, EFL, TESL, TOEFL, L2, etc.

While these may not be that tough to decipher, LLS is a less common yet still important set of letters for you to know. It stands for Language learning styles. Language learning styles are related to but not the same as learning styles, and they are essential for effective language learning.

What They Are

Many studies have been done on language learning styles. Researchers have determined that unlike learning styles, language learning styles are not ingrained in people but are generated or developed by the learners themselves. They contribute to language fluency and the ability for a person to communicate in a second language. They are behaviors, external actions anyone can observe, and they are also internal actions or thought processes.

What They Are Not

They are not communication strategies. Communication strategies are important for language learners putting their knowledge to practical use, but language learning styles are more than that. Language learning styles include everything a student does to learn a target language, and this includes communication strategies.

Language learning styles can be classified into six general groups, each important for your ESL students.

  1. 1

    Memory Strategies

    Memory strategies are perhaps the most obvious actions language learners take in class and out of class. They are the actions that help students retain information and then access it later when they are trying to communicate. They include repetition, translation, note taking, deduction, contextualization and elaboration. They are the measures a student takes to remember what he or she has learned.

  2. 2

    Cognitive Strategies

    Language learners use cognitive strategies to understand and create messages in the target language. These include identifying words that they hear as well as retrieving words from their memory when needed. These actions help speakers identify what is being said and then find the information they need to respond appropriately.

  3. 3

    Compensation Strategies

    Compensation strategies help students overcome any gaps in their language knowledge. These are the creative uses of language that help second language students communicate even though they may not be at a perfect level of fluency. They include intelligent guessing and overcoming limitations. Compensation strategies help students work with what they know and creatively use language, gestures, paraphrase. When students use compensation strategies, they keep communication flowing despite struggles with the target language.

  4. 4

    Metacognitive Strategies

    Metacognitive strategies help students take control of their own learning. These behaviors enable students to take an outside look at how they are learning and make and needed adjustments. With metacognitive strategies, students evaluate their learning and plan for further learning. Your role as a teacher is as the advisor to the student. It is the student’s job to make a commitment, set reasonable goals, select resources, monitor progress and evaluate achievements when it comes to their own language learning.

  5. 5

    Affective Strategies

    Affective strategies help students control their emotions and attitudes related to language learning. Through these behaviors, students lower anxiety and stress and encourage themselves. As a teacher, you can help your students remember that learning a language can be uncomfortable, and you can help crate positive connections with English and their language learning.

  6. 6

    Social Strategies

    Social strategies help students interact with others, often in conversational settings. Students should ask questions for clarification, comprehension and correction. They also cooperate with peers and those proficient in the language with social strategies. These behaviors also help students connect with and understand the culture connected with their language learning.

Ultimately, all of these language learning strategies are interrelated.

By teaching your students what language learning strategies are and then giving them examples they can use in the classroom and on their own, your students will become successful learners and speakers of English.

Do you teach your students about language learning strategies? How do you use them to help your students learn English?

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