Differences in strategy use among learners of Italian with various amounts of previous language experience
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The purpose of this study is to observe the differences in types of language learning strategies used by students of Italian with varying levels and types of previous language experience. Previous research shows that students of a third language seem to have some sort of an advantage over second language learners. Part of this advantage may be due to a greater use of language learning strategies and therefore this study seeks to identify the types of strategies used by more experienced language learners, and then looks for a relationship between those strategies and amount of previous language experience. The ultimate goal of this research is to provide beginning language learners with a greater variety of strategies in order to facilitate their overall language learning. Learning strategies are specific steps taken by the learner to enhance their learning experience. Foreign language students may not be explicitly aware of their particular strategy use, however, all of them - regardless of their level of success in language learning - employ at least some of these learning strategies. In order to determine the strategy use among 68 students of beginning Italian at the University of Texas at Austin, Oxford’s (1990) Strategy Inventory for Language Learning was administered in March of 2002. Participants also filled out background questionnaires to determine the amount and type of their previous language experience. Additional participants completed the same measures but were also interviewed to follow up on their self-reported strategy use. It was expected that language learners with more experience - whether explicit classroom instruction, or exposure at home – would exhibit a higher level of strategy use than would the less experienced learners. The results indicated that students with more than four or five years years of language study reported using considerably more strategies than the less experienced learners did. Furthermore, those students exposed to another language at home also reported using significantly more strategies than those students who were not exposed to another language at home. Thus, it would appear that previous language experience is related to increased strategy use. Further research in the area is therefore suggested.