Can a Teaching Method Guarantee Success in L2 Learning?: Study of the Factors That Intervene in the Process

Can a Teaching Method Guarantee Success in L2 Learning?: Study of the Factors That Intervene in the Process

Macarena Muradás-Sanromán (Universidade de Vigo, Spain)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2588-3.ch001
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In a rapidly globalizing world, the need to learn languages is more than evident. Professional growth, intercultural communication, and personal enrichment are among the great benefits they offer. Therefore, the important efforts throughout history to find a perfect method which guarantees success in language learning should come as no surprise. Nevertheless, none of the proposals has achieved desired results. Consequently, it is necessary to reflect on the following question: can a teaching method really guarantee success in L2 learning? This chapter analyzes in depth the wide range of factors which influence the learning process, in order to understand better who learns, how, and why. This new approach promotes an individualized and autonomous learning process, and the quest for a unique, infallible teaching method becomes senseless.
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As it will be shown below, the agents that influence the process of learning second languages are very varied, hence they have been studied in the framework of all kinds of disciplines such as linguistics, psychology or pedagogy. This multidisciplinary nature of the factors that intervene in the learning process explains the difficulties faced by the researchers who study this issue, which often proves to be more complex than initially expected.

In fact, the proposals that have been presented to date in order to classify the different factors which affect the language learning process are extremely diverse. Thus, it is worth mentioning, as an example of this variety, the models suggested by Solsona (2008), Romero (2011) or Rubio and Martínez (2012), which explore the different elements that, in the opinion of the aforementioned researchers, influence the learning process of L2.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Autonomous Learning: Individualized learning where learners themselves assume the responsibility for their own learning process, becoming the most important element of such process. Therefore, they are supposed to take the initiative in learning, making their own decisions with the aim of achieving their personal goals, while teachers are relegated to the background and are expected to facilitate the process by giving advice and helping pupils when necessary.

Learning Styles: The different ways of facing the learning process, depending on the students’ own characteristics and preferences. For instance, some people find it easier to learn with the aid of audiovisual materials, other students prefer to write everything down and others tend to use mnemonic techniques to help them remember new vocabulary, expressions and structures in the L2 they are learning. It is important to be aware of the learning styles which best suit each particular student so that they can make the most of their learning process and obtain satisfactory results.

Second Language / L2: A language, normally foreign, which is not the learner’s mother or native tongue and, therefore, is learnt after it, usually (although not necessarily) through instruction. Due to the fact that this language is acquired after the mother tongue and not in a natural, spontaneous way, speakers are not as fluent in this language as they are when using their L1.

Learn to Learn: The series of actions which are taken by students in order to become more effective and successful learners. This includes learning how to organise one’s own learning, becoming aware of one’s own learning process and needs, facing all types of obstacles, asking for help and assimilating new knowledge, among others.

Mother Tongue / Native Language / L1: These terms are indistinctly used to refer to the first language that a person learns since birth, rather than a language that is learnt through instruction at school or in adult life. In most of the cases, this is the language that speakers know best, so they feel more confident when using this language, rather than any others.

Second Language Learning / Second Language Acquisition: The fact of obtaining linguistic knowledge in order to be able to use a language which is not one’s mother tongue. This knowledge includes vocabulary, grammar rules, writing skills, pronunciation and syntax, among others. It should be noted that some researchers use both terms indistinctly, while others differentiate between learning and acquisition depending on how the second language is learnt/acquired (natural/non-natural learning environment).

Foreign Language: A language that is not one’s mother tongue. It should be noted that, even though there are many authors who establish a distinction between foreign language and second language , it is also very common to use them as interchangeable terms. Those who do make the difference consider that a second language is learnt in a context where that particular language is normally used (a natural learning environment), while a foreign language is always learnt in a context where the members of the community do not normally speak it. For instance, if an Australian whose mother tongue is English moves to Spain, this person will learn Spanish as a second language. On the contrary, if the same person, instead of moving to Spain, decides to learn Spanish at a language school in Australia, this will be a foreign language learning context.

Learning Strategies: Specific techniques which are usually employed by learners in order to make learning easier, faster and more effective. These techniques are of the most varied nature (cognitive, compensatory, social, affective, metacognitive, mnemonic) and can be very useful for language students. For instance, making use of relaxing music in order to calm down before speaking in the L2, using synonyms when learners do not remember a specific word in the L2 or thinking of relationships between what they already know and the new things they are learning in the L2 are examples of some of the learning strategies which are at their disposal.

Language Learning Process: A series of actions taken by a person who is interested in acquiring/learning a new language. This process is influenced by all kinds of different factors (economic, linguistic, historical…), with a special mention to individual factors (age, gender, personality, motivation, memory, self-esteem…). The study of the language learning process is the key to successful language learning.

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