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The Relationship Between Language Learning Strategy and Culture

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English, alongside with Filipino, is one of the languages of the Philippines used for communication and instruction as provided by Article 7 of the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines (Tan, 2014). It has become the second language of the Philippines and has been widely used as a medium of instruction in education. The goal of the ESL learners is to learn the language fluently to become globally competitive.

According to the Philippine National Statistics Office which conducted the 2000 Census of Population and Housing, 63.7% of the Filipinos from age 5 has the ability to communicate using English. It was also reported that English skills of Filipinos has become prevalent in the population for the last 15 years in conjunction with the general rate of literacy. The literacy in English may have been influenced by the conversion of the road signs in English, publishing of government documents only in English, and broadcasting of the various forms of media in English and Filipino (Carpenter, 2018).

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However, recent studies found out that Filipinos’ English proficiency is declining. According to Mizon (2018) a study of the European Chamber of Commerce in the year 2006 has found out that 75% of the annual 400,000 College graduates of the Philippines were reported to have “sub-standards English skills.” This decline was also manifested in the scores of learners in the National Achievement Test (NAT). The result of 2012 NAT was a drop of 14.5% in English (Sevillano, 2013). Also, Hopkins International Partners Incorporated also stated that the English language proficiency of Filipinos declined while others are on the rise. This was in contrast when the Philippines ranked fourth among the ASEAN countries. Tan (2018) stated according to the metrics the Test of English for International Communication, a Philippine college graduate English proficiency score is 631.4 in comparison to a cab driver in Dubai which is 650 (Valderama, 2018). Also, an article published by GMA reported that the level of proficiency of college graduates in the Philippines is lower than the target of high school students in Thailand (Jimenez, 2018). Similarly, a study by the Common European Framework of Reference of Language (CEFR) on Filipino graduates found that they have a grade of B1 which is even lower than that of the B2 set for high school graduates in Vietnam (Leonen, 2018).

With the Philippines as being part of one of Asia’s top English speaking countries, it has become a very important issue to be solved in the sector of education. An improvement on the teaching and learning process may help bring back the title the Philippines once had. Also, the second language acquisition process of the ESL learners must be reviewed and analyze to help them become more proficient in the English language. DepED made an effort to solve the matter. In 2013, Mother Tongue Based Multilingual Education or commonly known as MTB-MLE. This is offered to kindergarten students and the first three years of education. MTB-MLE becomes a powerful philosophy of English which makes it a practical and marketable language in a globalized world. It also serves as a reconceptualization of teacher education which addresses not only teaching methodology but also emphasizes teacher ideology to improve the actual pedagogical instruction (Tupas, 2015). Differences in learners play a significant role in the second language acquisition process (Zafar and Menakshi, 2012). As said by Chen (2014), the individual differences of learners in language learning has been overlooked as part of the teaching and learning process. Two individual differences which has been neglected overtime are age and language learning strategies. Oxford (1989) as cited in Chen (2014) found out that “language learning strategies appear to be among the most important variables influencing performance in a second language” while there were very few studies which correlates age as a factor whenever language learning strategies are used.

The awareness of the language learning strategies and age the strategies are used poses an implication to curriculum makers, teachers, and learners themselves. The language learning strategies may help ESL learners to acquire the language and to proficiently use them in communication. An awareness on the strategies appropriate to age may help teachers create learning activities or interventions fit to what is needed. Teachers may also guide students on using the strategy suited to their age and where they best learn. Lastly, the curriculum makers may design an effective curriculum suited to the needs of leaners and a curriculum fit for application of the language learning strategies ESL learners desire. The research alone is significant as it contributes to a body of knowledge. Researches done on language strategies are mostly suited to English as a Foreign Language (EFL) learners and setting. The results of the study may yield the parallel or dissimilar results to an English as a Second Language (ESL) setting. Thus, making the research a significant contribution to the field of language studies.

The present study is a replication of Age Differences in the Use of Language Learning Strategies (Chen, 2014). The study was conducted to 1023 EFL learners from different school departments – primary, junior high school, senior high school, and tertiary. It was a quantitative study that explored the different language learning strategies used by EFL learners and investigated its influence on age. The results significantly shown the relationship between some language learning strategy namely affective, metacognitive, memory, compensation, cognitive, and social. The results suggested implications to language teachers to integrate the language learning strategy into their language lessons which may help learners select and use the best strategy effective for their task.

Language Learning Strategies

Some people are more successful in acquiring a higher level of proficiency than others. Whether this be in sports, academics, music or socialization, some people just have a knack of getting ahead of their peers. People may attribute this to being in the right place at the right time though this may sound more like being lucky but in no way are we discounting the fact that being born in a developed country, to a family of successful businessmen could play a key role to one’s future success. But there is also the fact that there are those who are not as fortunate as others. Enhancing oneself may happen through learning. There are many ways to approach learning. Some learning styles are general in nature, seeing, hearing, or analyzing. These are some of the ways in which learners obtain new skills. Cornett (1983) states that styles in learning are schemes that give the overall path to behavior in learning. Dunn and Griggs, (1988) mentioned that learning styles are in nature, biological, and developmental imposed sets of features that make the same method of teaching wonderful for most and terrible for the rest.

Learning strategies may be used in the development of the learning. Language learning strategies as elaborated by Scarcella & Oxford (1992) are as “precise actions, manners, stages, or techniques –similar to looking for conversation partners, or pushing for more encouragement in overcoming challenges such as learning a language — utilized by students to improve their own learning”. In modern times, the term is broadly used as a plan consciously aimed to meet a goal. The military use of the idea has significantly removed itself away but cognizant governance, intent and direction towards a goal keeps an integral principle towards this idea. The strategies in question turn into effective tools for conscious and active learning controlled by the person himself so much so if he makes the decision to pick out the one that suits him, specifically in acquiring a second language.

Language learning strategy work in assistance to the learning of a second language by enhancing retention, storage, reception, perception, and retrieval of linguistic information. To site a few examples of second language learning strategies, they could range from posing questions, using analysis to interpret the meaning of an unfamiliar word, the evaluation of one’s learning, or just simply constructing a language task. (Cohen 1998; O’Malley and Chamot 1990; Oxford 1990). There exists more than a couple of hundred second language learning strategies. There are no good or bad categories for a learning strategy. Once the following list of conditions are present, then a learning strategy becomes very useful: (1) this strategy effectively transfers to the second language task; (2) the learners use the strategy well and relate it with pertinent strategies for executing the undertaking; and (3) the strategy harmonizes with the learner’s overall study style inclinations to a certain point. Strategies that are suited to these circumstances according to Oxford (1990, p.8) make studying as easy, fast, enjoyable, self-directed, effective, and transferable to new situations as can possible.

Language learning strategies have been suggested as actual operations, routines and lesson plans according to Rubin (1994) and Wenden (1991). Again, it is mentioned that language learning strategies are used for memorization and recall of language data to be applied in a new scenario. Language learners do this from time to time to maintain information on what they have learnt. Similarly, Richards and Platt (1992) stated that language learning strategies are intended behavior in assisting students to comprehend, acquire, and retain recently obtained data. They also mentioned several motives in the use of language learning strategies. However, both meanings differ only in the aspect of awareness. Richards and Platt stated that language learning strategies are conscious decisions that learners make based on what suits them the most. Oxford (1990) offers a similar take on what was mentioned earlier. He stated that the main objective of language learning strategies use is to make the acquiring of knowledge more effective, self-directed, faster and oftentimes applicable to many real life situations. Cohen (1998) reinforces what Richards and Platt mentioned earlier as to how language learning strategies are conscious choices that the learner makes. It can now be defined that language learning strategies act as a cognizant act, a behavior that is selected by the learner himself, and is primarily used to be successful over academic obstacles. They may be used for memorization, synthesis of information either spoken or written.

Moreover, experts agree to disagree about the exactness of the strategies involved in terms of number, definition, and classification. Developing an articulate type of taxonomy for learning strategies presents much confusion and so most of them just develop their own. Rubin’s categorization included the model she developed for learning strategies to which was done through research and ensuing analysis. A couple of main cognitive process was indentified and utilized for the target language with exact strategies that exemplify the processes” (Droździał-Szelest 1997: 36). Rubin organized the strategies in the following way (Rubin 1981: 124-126) which was believed to contribute to learning in a direct manner. These are verification– asking for examples in using words correctly, monitoring – student corrects his or other learner’s mistakes and also includes observation and analysis; memorization – is an attempt to obtain more words or other linguistic elements via association and the assistance of mechanical devices; guessing – more on the use of inductive inference in understanding the general rules of a particular language; deductive reasoning – is the use of the actual general rules of a language; and practice – the experiments that the learner participates in along with newly acquired elements of the target language. Some processes that contribute to learning indirectly include creating opportunities for practice where the learner produces conditions.

Carver’s distinction states language learning strategies in categories (Carver 1984:125-126) where three strategies were involved. First, strategies for coping with rules. The examples include generalizations which is the transfer from first language and hypercorrection. Second, strategies for receiving performance. Checking, predicting, and inferring are included in the strategies. Third, strategies for producing performance. Labeling, repeating, and monitoring reception belonged to the category. Lastly, the strategies for organizing learning winclude cognition, entire repetition or partial learning (cf. 2.1.4. for Carver’s taxonomy of language teaching methodology).

In the same way, Ellis’ categorization places strategies to three major process types – automatisation, hypothesis testing, and hypothesis formation. “Hypothesis formation involve strategies such as simplification, (overgeneralization plus transfer) and inference. This strategy make learners produce conclusions about the target language’s structure. Hypothesis testing includes interaction, multilingual, productive and receptive strategies that are mainly accountable for testing rules during actual conversation. On the other hand, automatisation involves strategies in language practice that is quite functional and formal in nature” (Droździał-Szelest 1997:37).

Age and its Influence to Language Learning Strategies

Apparently, there seem to be not enough studies done on the role of difference in age and in language learning strategies (e.g. Oxford & Nyikos, 1989; Oxford, 1990; Lee & Oxford, 2008) Oxford and Nyikos (1989) were among the first to do research on factors that affect in the selection of language learning strategies. In their study, it was revealed that language learners who have been studying for five years or more have a tendency of using more communicative techniques compared to those who have otherwise while those who have about four years of English learning experience tend to use conversational techniques. Oxford (1990) supported this data by saying that a student who tries to learn a new language uses a different strategy depending on his age. The more experienced and mature the learner is, the more strategies they use while the less experienced the learner is is, then the lesser techniques might be employed.

Equally, Devlin’s study (1996) compared the use of the mentioned strategies between mature age and younger students. As expected, students with mature ages employed more metacognitive techniques than the younger ones. Lee and Oxford (2008) discussion and seeking assistance are strategies used by younger learners while mature language students apply metacognitive strategies that include strategizing and organization of ideas.

In a similar study of Suesca and Torres (2016), age influence the language learning strategy used by different age groups. In their study, it was concluded that the language learning strategy use is closely related to their grade level as it was manifested across different task complexity as it increases every time learners mature and advance. The finding is anchored to the study of Prokops (1989) as cited in Chen (2014) that learners cope up with different methodologies and approaches used in school as they start to grow up.

Language learning strategies are defined as approaches, technique, and conscious acts language students choose to develop to enhance their capability and language proficiency. Metacognition on the other hand is the student’s cognizance of their mental processes and their capability to govern them. Generally, metacognitive strategies can be defined as a fusion of language learning strategies and metacognition itself. Oxford (1990) says that metacognitive strategies are those that go even further from cognitive acts, simply put they pave the way for students to come up with their own process of learning. These strategies permit language students to take over their cognition therefore coordinate the process of learning through the utilization of evaluating, planning, arranging and centering. Cohen (1998) states that metacognitive strategies are acts that involve assessing and planning ahead. Plans, evaluations and of course an after-evaluation of the language learning activities as well as events in the use of language were also included. As mentioned earlier, these strategies hand over the reins to the student cognitively through coordination of the planning, organization and evaluation of the process of learning. Wenden (2002) treats metacognitive strategies as overall skills that also include several aspects mentioned earlier such as evaluating, monitoring, and planning and by which the learners guide, regulate, direct, manage themselves in terms of learning a new language. In other words, metacognitive strategies in learning a new language are a combination of thoughts, approaches, skills and activities that learners utilize to manage cognition and process in acquiring new knowledge.

Design of the Study

The study will investigate the different language learning strategies and the starting age of learning the English language of the different ESL learners. The study will explore the mixed-method design – quantitative and qualitative.

Setting, Sampling, and Population

The respondents of the study will be the ESL learners of San Beda College Alabang. The sample population of the learners will be taken from different departments of the school which are from primary to senior high school. This will be done to have a proper selection from the different age groups which will be compared and contrasted. The respondents and their age groups are as follows primary (10-12), junior high school (13-15), senior high school (16-18), and tertiary (19-23). San Beda College Alabang has a total of 4500 learners excluding the primary school who is aged 4-9. With the confidence level of 95% and a margin of error of 5%, the sample size for the study is 355.

Instruments

The instruments that will be used in the study are survey questionnaire, semi-structured interview, and observation.

The survey questionnaire will be used in the study was adapted from the Rebecca Oxford. The 1989 Strategy Inventory for Language Learning (SILL), version 7.0 has 50 statements which belong to six subcategories memory, cognitive, compensation, metacognitive, affective, and social strategies. SILL used a five-point Likert Scale from never true of me (1), to usually not true of me (2), somewhat true of me (3), usually true of me (4), and always true of me (5).

SILL will be used in the study for it is statistically proven to be a reliable tool for L2 acquisition. It has been used worldwide in investigating the language learning strategy use of L2 learners. Also, it is considered as a popular questionnaire used to understand the domain of the L2 acquisition and L2 teaching. The instrument has been examined to test its validity and reliability. With its Cronbach’s alpha of .60 or .70 which is above an acceptable level, the items in the instrument is said to be internally reliable and consistent. SILL was also translated in different languages like Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Arabic, and English, and their Cronbach’s alpha ranged from .67-.93 which is also above acceptable scores. These results prove how statistically significant the instrument is in determining the learners’ language learning strategies (Park, 2011).

Semi-structured Interview is a combination of closed and open ended questions; follow-up questions like why and how also surfaced in this kind of interview (Adams, 2015). Semi-structured will be used to gather detailed answers from the participants towards their attitude on learning English as their second language. This will also be done to ensure that concerns from the participants from the process or any parts of the questionnaire were clarified.

Observation is a systematic method of collecting data on people, process, or even culture (Kawulich, 2012). This instrument will be used to observe the language learning strategy manifested by the different groups of learners. The observation will be videotaped for an easier access of the data and for reviewing purposes. Aside from the observation being recorder, a checklist will be used in the observation to make the data gathering easier by familiarization of the instances to be observed and noted. The observation checklist is self-made but the content came from the different literature reviewed.

Procedures

San Beda College Alabang is the chosen locale for the study. With this, a formal letter of request will be sent to Dr. Abraham De Castro, the school principal. With his consent, an arrangement for the pilot testing and data gathering procedures will be discussed. The pilot testing of the questionnaires will be conducted to a set of learners to check any confusion from its content or process. Through the assistance of the English teachers, the selected respondents will undergo ethical procedures. The parents of the primary, junior high school, and some of the senior high school learners will be given an informed consent forms for they are still minors while some of the senior high school and tertiary students will be asked to submit their waiver of consent to be part of the study. The research will begin when the forms are retrieved.

The data gathering procedure will be conducted for three days. The first day will be for the distribution of the questionnaire. SILL questionnaire will be administered to the different groups of ESL learners which they will be complete for about 30-50 minutes. The second day data gathering will be the class observation. Only selected classes will be observed to validate the language learning strategy they answered in the questionnaire answered. The third day will be allocated for the semi-structured interview. Unlike the questionnaire, only a selected number of participants will be selected for this part. The procedure will be range from 5-10 minutes.

Data Analysis

The quantitative part of the data will be analyzed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS). There will be two treatments for the study – frequency count and one-way ANOVA. The frequency count will be used to determine the language learning strategies used by the four groups of ESL learners– primary, junior high school, senior high school, and tertiary. The mean scores for the different language learning strategies will also be determined. The mean scores of the different groups will be compared to all the language learning strategy groups – memory, cognitive, compensation, metacognitive, affective, and social. Also, frequency count will be used to determine the most and less used language learning strategies across groups. Moreover, ANOVA will be used to determine if there will be any differences between the language learning strategies used by different groups of ESL learners.

On the other hand, the learners’ attitude towards learning English as their second language will be through qualitative analysis. The data gathered from the observation checklist and the video-recorded observation will be coded for data analysis and data interpretation. The analysis may range from its bigger to its smaller components looking for similarities or differences of data. Statements or quotations from the observation will also be lifted to support the generalization and to make connections from the data obtained from the questionnaire.

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