Learning Strategies in Foreign and Second Language Classrooms

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By using our website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our Cookie Policy. It looks like you are located in Australia or New Zealand Close. Prior to the 's, primarily college-bound students studied foreign languages in our schools in most states. Yet students with moderate to severe difficulties with English may find the completion of a foreign language requirement seemingly impossible. Often these students are classified as having dyslexia or language learning disabilities; sometimes they are not classified but nevertheless struggle considerably to meet the foreign language requirement.

Students who appear to have the most difficulty are those who have experienced moderate to severe reading and spelling difficulties in their native language in their early schooling and now are required to study another language in school. Others without histories of difficulties also may find the study of a foreign language challenging.

All of these students are likely to benefit from the adaptations described below. In this article, we address the following questions related to foreign language learning:.

Students who have moderate to severe difficulties in most or all of these language systems in the native language are likely to experience the most problems learning a foreign language, particularly in language classrooms that emphasize an oral communication approach. Language problems can range on a continuum from mild to moderate to severe. Students who have difficulties learning a foreign language are sometimes referred to as "at-risk" because of their struggles in the regular foreign language classroom.

Some of these students may have been classified by the school as having language learning disabilities or dyslexia. Research findings on students in the U. Later, as they study a foreign language, they may have difficulty learning to pronounce, read, and spell words. Students who had problems with the syntactic component of the native language may have experienced problems with subject-verb agreement and use of plurals, possessives, and parts of speech in the native language.

In their writing, they did not use complete sentences and sometimes used incorrect verb tenses. Later, in the study of a foreign language, they may struggle to conjugate verbs that is, selecting the correct ending for a verb related to the subject of the sentence. They may have difficulty matching the correct masculine or feminine pronoun with a noun or placing the adjective in the proper order in a spoken or written sentence. Students who had both weak grammar and semantics meaning skills in the native language may have had difficulty comprehending the meaning of what was said to them in the native language when listening to others speak, or problems comprehending what they read.

Later, in the study of a foreign language, they may do well in the first semester or year of foreign language learning because sentence structures are relatively simple and vocabulary concentrates on concrete, life-related topics. In advanced level courses, however, the amount and complexity of listening, speaking, reading, and writing tasks increases. Students' difficulties increase as language complexity increases. Their difficulties often become apparent in the first semester of a foreign language course.

For reviews on foreign language and at-risk students, see, e. Third, research across languages illustrates that languages differ on a number of dimensions, and the differences between one's native language and the foreign language of study can pose problems for students with language difficulties.


Learning strategies in foreign and second language classrooms

For example, one dimension on which languages differ has to do with the regularity of the language's sound-letter correspondences. This regularity can range from languages that are highly regular, where a single sound is represented by a single letter for example, Italian to languages that are highly complex, where one letter can represent several sounds and a sound can be represented by several different letters for example, English.

Another dimension on which languages differ is in their morphological complexity. Some languages allow for numerous additions of words or parts of words, and word endings change depending upon their place in the sentence. For languages with complex morphologies, for example, students may have to break down long words of many syllables into their parts to determine meaning, or they may have to add one or more "affixes" or word parts to the word to produce grammatically and semantically meaningful information.

Other dimensions on which languages differ are grammatical rules and special markings on letters. The arrangement of word order in sentences, agreement between subject and verb, and how clauses are linked are examples of grammatical rules. Some languages have a great variety of diacritical markings, which may denote a particular pronunciation, an accent, or even grammatical information necessary for obtaining meaning. In short, there is no "simple" foreign language, as all have "dimensions" that could pose difficulty for students with language processing difficulties see, Grigorenko, To date, research findings indicate that it is not clear who will and who will not be able to master the study of a foreign language in school.

Thus, it is important to look at instructional practices that can foster success in foreign language learning for at-risk foreign language learners. A multisensorystructured language MSL approachin the foreign language is similar toinstruction in English. Below are a few specific suggestionsfor foreign language teachers, basedon eight MSL principles.

Oftentimes the MSL principles are combined. The following example includes structured, sequential and metacognitive MSL principles. Students who have moderate to severe language learning difficulties may need more intensive instruction than that provided in the general foreign language classroom. This instruction might include one-to-one or small group tutoring, extra time and practice to master a language concept, a reduced course load to enable the student to focus on the foreign language, and, in some cases, instruction in special classroom settings See, e.

Ernesto Macaro

One challenge for students might be finding the appropriate learning environment for their particular needs. Sometimes students need extra time to learn a foreign language concept, a slower pace of instruction, and special attention to specific aspects of the foreign language, such as the sounds and special symbols of the language and grammatical rules.

Sometimes students need extra tutoring in the language. They may need a distraction- free learning environment and explicit guidance about language concepts. These accommodations may not be available.

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Another challenge might be the need for students to recognize and acknowledge their own unique learning difficulties. This may necessitate putting in considerable extra effort to complete the foreign language requirement successfully, asking for support from various resources teachers, tutors, peers , and frequently requesting the additional explanations they may need to understand a concept.

Traditionally, foreign language teacher education has prepared teachers for the ideal learner who can thrive in whole-language instructional settings without explicit attention to the underlying linguistic patterns of the foreign language. By and large, students are expected to become proficient in reading, writing, speaking, listening, and pronunciation through exposure and practice.

Teachers, therefore, may need training in methods of addressing the special needs of some students in their classrooms.


They may require additional time and resources to establish a classroom appropriate for students with diverse needs and abilities. They may need to work together with a student with learning difficulties to determine what accommodations might be most beneficial for that student.

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  • By definition, this includes individuals classified as having specific learning disabilities, such as dyslexia. In some cases, despite considerable time and effort, a student may not experience success in a foreign language classroom. Some high schools and colleges and universities provide an option for students to petition to take course substitutions for the foreign language requirement. To qualify for course substitutions, generally, students must provide documentation of testing and a diagnosis of a learning disability.

    Sometimes students must demonstrate a history of failure to learn the language despite special assistance. Schools that offer course waivers or substitutions sometimes include a statement in the school's governance document, and the student is required to meet with the school's learning assistance specialist to determine eligibility. To date, there is evidence that students with language learning difficulties can succeed in their study of a foreign language, especially if they have appropriate instructional modifications.

    A small body of research evidence suggests, for example, that at-risk students can experience success in classrooms that provide direct, explicit instruction on language structure and extra time to master the subject matter see, e. Some experts therefore encourage students to expose themselves to the study of a language of their choice early in their schooling, talk to their instructor about their language needs, and seek additional help as soon as it is needed. They recommend that students recognize that the study of a foreign language may take extra effort on their part, but that it will provide them with an experience in linguistic and cultural diversity that is desirable today in our global society.

    Sometimes struggling students may need to take fewer courses or focus specifically on foreign language study. It is helpful in this situation to provide letters of support from foreign language instructors as well as documentation of effort. Under the right circumstances, then, the study of a foreign language can be a positive and culturally broadening experience.

    Leonore Ganschow , Ed. Her research interests are in the areas of language disabilities native, foreign, oral and written. She has published over 60 book chapters and articles and serves as editorial consultant for several journals in her field. Currently she has developed an ad hoc literacy task force to set up MSL training for volunteers in her community.

    Elke Schneider received her Ph. Over the past 15 years, she has published, presented, and taught on these topics as an instructor of special education and literacy education courses. She also provides teacher training on multisensory structured language instruction to native, foreign and second language learners in public and private schools, both nationally and internationally.

    She has over ten years of experience integrating multisensory structured language instruction into undergraduate and graduate teacher education programs, and is currently Assistant Professor at Winthrop University, Rock Hill, South Carolina, where she teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in Special Ed.

    Riley College of Education. Hastings-on-Hudson, NY. Birsch, J. Multisensory teaching of basic language skills 2nd ed. Baltimore, MD: Brookes Publishing.

    Learning Strategies in Foreign and Second Language Classrooms Learning Strategies in Foreign and Second Language Classrooms
    Learning Strategies in Foreign and Second Language Classrooms Learning Strategies in Foreign and Second Language Classrooms
    Learning Strategies in Foreign and Second Language Classrooms Learning Strategies in Foreign and Second Language Classrooms
    Learning Strategies in Foreign and Second Language Classrooms Learning Strategies in Foreign and Second Language Classrooms
    Learning Strategies in Foreign and Second Language Classrooms Learning Strategies in Foreign and Second Language Classrooms
    Learning Strategies in Foreign and Second Language Classrooms Learning Strategies in Foreign and Second Language Classrooms
    Learning Strategies in Foreign and Second Language Classrooms Learning Strategies in Foreign and Second Language Classrooms
    Learning Strategies in Foreign and Second Language Classrooms Learning Strategies in Foreign and Second Language Classrooms
    Learning Strategies in Foreign and Second Language Classrooms Learning Strategies in Foreign and Second Language Classrooms

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