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the target language coping directly with it and overgeneralizing its rules” (p. 88). Thus, as learners develop the second language into a separate reference system, they are more prone to making overgeneralization errors within the target language than to transfer errors. In order to help the student who is too broad a categorizer, Omaggio and Birckbichler (p. 339) suggest learning activities such as discrimination tasks, analogies, dehydrated sentences, error categorizing, etc. For the student who categorizes too narrowly, they suggest activities such as syntactic and semantic matching. Syntactic and semantic clue searching is recommended for all students.

The third cognitive variable found by Naiman was that of tolerance of ambiguity. According to Stern, the "student has to come to terms with the fact that many features of the target tongue appear, to begin with, as arbitrary, artificial, unnatural sometimes finicky, fussy and often plainly ridiculous."10 Omaggio and

} Birckbichler (p. 338) define the students with a low tolerance for ambiguity as those who "give up quickly when the task presents difficulty, doubt or ambiguity. They cannot hypothesize well and do not like to take risks." Some of the learning tasks suggested to help this type of student include information search, oral semantic matching, cloze adaptation, and contextual guessing.

that students have guessed correctly, rarely do they question them further as to the basis (clue) for their guess; many slow language learners are not even aware that guessing, when based upon specifics, is a good learning strategy. At times a guessed answer may be incorrect but may still be based upon specific clues, perhaps wrongly interpreted. Even here, knowing the basis for guessing can be a learning situation for all. Twaddell believes that a teacher can "guide learners into desirable habits of intelligent guessing from context, by a kind of catechism of leading questions starting from grammatical clues and proceeding to factual clues." He proposes specific tasks to develop facility in guessing, and suggests that students answer obvious questions administered prior to an oral presentation and skim reading selections without the aid of a dictionary.

2. Successful language learners have strong motivation to communicate. According to Rubin, successful language learners will do many things to communicate—including using circumlocution, paraphrasing, gestures, etc. What can the teacher do to help develop this drive to communicate? The importance of motivation in language learning is well known. One way to motivate students is to personalize instruction. Students, whether highly motivated or not, seem to enjoy talking about themselves and their own immediate experiences. No matter what textbook is used, its material can be related to the students by: (a) using the students themselves as examples to illustrate points of vocabulary and structure; (b) using various questioning techniques to elicit personalized answers; (c) letting the students create their own examples to illustrate a particular aspect of vocabulary; and (d) creating situations for spontaneous interaction. 14

3. Successful language students are often not inhibited. "(They are) willing to make mistakes in order to learn to communicate."15 Here the teacher can help inhibited students by structuring learning activities geared to the potential and interests of the students and by setting a favorable classroom climate.

4. Good language learners are prepared to attend to form. "[They are constantly looking for patterns in the language" (p. 47). Rubin also maintains that these students constantly analyze, categorize, and synthesize materials that confront them. How can foreign-language teachers help to develop the ability to perform these tasks? They can point out form whenever feasible and thus make students aware of patterns. In addition,

Language learning strategies and techniques

Besides variables of personality and cognition, we must also be aware of strategies and techniques employed by successful language learners. Rubin" has found the following seven learning strategies and techniques:

1. Good language learners are willing and accurate guessers. They use all the clues which the setting offers and are “thus able to narrow down what the meaning and intent of the communication might be” (p. 45). This strategy has been discussed by Carton who uses the term “inferencing." According to Carton, "in inferencing, attributes and contexts that are familiar are utilized in recognizing what is not familiar.”12 What can language teachers do to help students become willing and accurate guessers? First, encourage them to learn the art of guessing. The student must be conscious of the fact that guessing is not done in a vacuum, but is based upon specific information such as a clue in a grammatical structure, in a lexical item, or even in a nonverbal context. Instructors are constantly faced with guessing situations in the language class, but even if they know

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10. Stern (note 4 above), p. 307.
11. Rubin (note 2 above), pp. 41-51.

12. Aaron S. Carton, “Inferencing: A Process in Using and Learning Language," The Psychology of Second Language Learning, ed. Paul Pimsleur and Terrence Quinn (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1971), p.45.

13. Freeman Twaddell, “Vocabulary Expansion in the ESOL Classroom," TESOL Quarterly, 7, 1 (1973), p. 74.

14. Mary-Ann Reiss, “Personalizing Foreign Language Instruction," Workshop Reports, Foreign Language Methodology Conference (Indiana: Indiana Univ. of Pennsylvania, 1976-77), p. 201.

15. Rubin (note 2 above), p. 47.

students can monitor each other's speech and seek correction from each other rather than regarding that solely as a function of the teacher. Successful language students can be encouraged to explain how they have analyzed, categorized, or synthesized a particular pattern.

5. Good language learners practice. They seek opportunities to use the language. How can teachers help the unsuccessful language learner in this instance? In addition to establishing the kind of classroom climate in which students are eager to speak and are motivated by personalized and creative teaching, teachers can also facilitate communication between students in the classroom. The interview technique is a good way to accomplish this goal. The class begins with the joint formulation of simple questions; students interview any speaker of the target language (another teacher or a native informant). The students prepare the questions in advance and know them to be accurate. They report the answers to the class. Once the students realize that they are actually "communicating" successfully in the target tongue, they will be much more likely to try new skills with peers and to seek out native speakers in the future. Rivers suggests twelve types of activity where students try to use the target language for normal purposes of verbal interaction: establishing social relations, seeking and giving information, expressing reactions, learning to do something, hiding intentions or talking one's way out of trouble, persuading, discouraging, entertaining others, and displaying achievements.

6. Good language learners monitor their own speech and that of others. Rubin (p.47) maintains that these students are concerned that their speech is well received and meets performance standards. Part of this monitoring is a function of active participation in the learning process. The word active is the key word in this statement because successful language learners constantly process information and, thus, can learn not only from their own mistakes but also from those of others.

How can teachers help students take an active part in their language learning? One way is for the teacher to take a lesser role and to let students take a greater role in class communication. According to a study done by Nerenz concerning the length of time devoted to each language skill and the relative amounts of teacher vs. student talk in English and the target language, it was found that “teachers are responsible for about two thirds of the utterances regardless of the language (spoken)"'7 and that students are therefore given much

less time to express themselves than is warranted by their number and need. If one student is speaking and makes an error and the teacher always provides an instant correction, other students are highly unlikely to monitor the communication. At certain times the teacher can act in this lesser role by simply stating in the target language) that the preceding statement was incorrect and letting the student(s) do the correcting. At other times it may be worthwhile to let students explain the rationale for their correction. In this way students become aware of the language-learning process.

7. Good language learners attend to meaning. They know, Rubin asserts, "that in order to understand the message, it is not sufficient to pay attention to the grammar of the language” (p. 47). In a classroom, students will often answer a question correctly and yet have very little idea of the message. In a test situation we know that students can fill in blanks, demonstrating a particular structural point, with a high degree of accuracy and yet neither know nor pay attention to meaning. The successful language learner attends to the context and mood of the speech act, to the relationship of the participants, and to the rules of speaking.

What can the teacher do to make language learners attend to meaning? “The first stage in the languagelearning process is understanding. The students need to be aware of the meanings and relationships involved in the material being introduced."18 The days of drills where the student imitated like a parrot are over. Students may still drill and imitate, but they should be constantly aware of what they say.

All presentation of material can be made meaningful, not necessarily by translation, but rather by circumlocution, paraphrasing, using synonyms and antonyms, even utilizing kinesics. Students who can follow the events of the classroom are much less likely to be frustrated. If students are expected from the beginning to respond not only to structure, but to know meaning, we will have taken the first step in helping them recognize those features or clues which good language learners use to help them understand the message. Individual learning styles and techniques

In addition to variables of personality and cognition, all learners have their own individual learning style or technique. Reinert based the Edmonds Learning Style Identification Exercise (ELSIE) on the hypothesis that "each individual is 'programmed' to learn most efficiently in certain ways and less efficiently in others."19 Initially developed to enable teachers to individualize

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16. Wilga M. Rivers, Speaking in Many Tongues (Rowley, Mass.: Newbury House, 1972), p. 30.

17. Anne Nerenz, “Utilizing Class Time in Foreign Language Instruction," Teaching the Basics in the Foreign Language Classroom: Options and Strategies, ed. David P. Benseler (Skokie, M.: National Textbook Co., 1979), pp. 78-89.

18. Kenneth Chastain, Developing Second Language Skills: Theory to Practice, 2nd. ed. (Chicago: Rand McNally, 1976), p. 411.

19. Harry Reinert, “One Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words? Not Necessarily!" Modern Language Journal, 60 (1976), p. 160.

instruction effectively, ELSIE identifies four avenues for internalizing new information: (1) visualizationlearners must actually see objects and activities; (2) written wordlearners do best by seeing a written description (they may “see" the word spelled out mentally); (3) listening-learners have no mental image, only the sound; and (4) activity-learners internalize best with a physical or mental activity. This identification exercise can thus provide the profile of a particular learner which can be helpful both to the learner and the teacher.

In another study, thirty-two Spanish teachers who participated in a seminar on the teaching of foreign languages at the University of Buffalo, New York, formu. lated a Learning Modalities Inventory to “measure the frequency of the behavior of students and to identify students' learning profiles as they related to cognitive styles, sensory modes, interactive modes, work habits, personal characteristics, intellectual dependency and independency."20 Such profiles could certainly help teachers know their students, hence to modify their teaching style to fit pupils' learning styles.

In addition to identifying students' learning styles, teachers should find answers to the following questions: What specific study skills does the successful language learner use? What differences can be found in the study techniques of successful vs. unsuccessful language learners? How does each student view a particular task?

a In order to find a preliminary answer to these questions the writer decided to poll a number of students. Without any prior discussion regarding learning styles and techniques, eighty-four foreign-language students (Spanish and German) were given questionnaires in which they were presented with three hypothetical learning situations. The students were divided as follows: thirty freshmen, twenty-seven sophomores, twenty-five juniors, and two seniors. They were attending beginning (second-semester) and intermediate (thirdand fourth-semester) language classes on the college level. The students were asked not to identify themselves, but they did have to indicate whether they had received an A, B, C, D, or F in foreign-language classes in the previous semester. It may be argued that the "A" students are naturally more gifted and articulate and are, therefore, better learners in all subjects than students who receive lesser grades. Unfortunately the writor did not get the students' cumulative average. However, at least half of the "C/D" students had difficulty in foreign languages but little or no trouble with other subjects. The answers of eighteen “A” students were compared with the answers of eighteen "C/D" students, with the results shown in Table 1.

When looking at the answers provided by the students, one is immediately struck by the specificity of the “A” responses vs. the generality of the “C/D" responses. The "A" students, when faced with the task of learning a list of vocabulary items, employed a wide variety of techniques and were specific in any prescription. The “C/D” students tended to overuse imprecise terms like “study” or “memorize." When the students were asked how they would go about answering questions following a reading selection, the "C/D" students here use the term “translate" with great frequency. Finally, when the students were asked what strategies and techniques had helped them most and were particularly germane to studying a foreign language, the "A" students' answers in some cases reinforced the seven strategies discussed by Rubin. In order to show a degree of contrast, “B” students' answers were not taken into consideration, but it should be stated that a few "B" students mentioned specific strategies and techniques, closely approximating those of the "A" students. In general, “B” student answers fell somewhere in between the two extremes.

Clearly, successful language students: (1) are specific in their learning task; (2) constantly look for meaning whether making up their own examples or relating new information to that learned earlier; (3) seem to know themselves and know instinctively, or unconsciously, how to internalize information. Less successful language students, on the other hand, do not seem to be aware of, or have not yet found, a particular learning style; they use "vague" terms when describing the task at hand, which, in turn, may well produce "vague" learning

These data are in direct conflict with those reported by Cohen and Aphek.21 In that study the authors questioned students regarding acquisition of new secondlanguage vocabulary, organization of a notebook, and studying for a quiz or test. They found that the poor learner does not necessarily lack organizational strategies. “Quite the contrary, one or two of these students reported some of the most imaginative strategies, such as composing, taking, and then scoring one's own test" (p. 27). This study was conducted with nineteen nativeEnglish-speaking students on a Junior-year-abroad program from the United States to Israel. Most of the students had been exposed to two or more languages aside from English. The grades that they had received in the United States in Hebrew were high, most reporting A's. Obviously, we are dealing here with a highly motivated student with a much broader linguistic background than the students questioned by the writer. This factor may well account for the discrepancy.

a

20. Anthony Papalia, “Assessing Students' Learning Styles and Teaching for Individual Differences," Hispania, 61 (1978), p. 318.

21. Andrew D. Cohen and Edna Aphek, “Easifying Second Language Learning," Jacob Hiatt Institute, Jerusalem, Israel (1978).

TABLE I

Answers of “A” Students

Answers of C/D" Students

1. Your assignment is to learn a list of thirty vocabulary items taken from a reading selection which you have recently completed.
• Make up a sentence with each word

• Memorize
• Put cue next to each word on list

• Write out and memorize • Say words out loud while memorizing

• Put on index cards • Tape words and listen to cassette

Study until learned • Sing words out loud

• Write out and study • Write word on one side of paper, definition or synonym on other

• Repeat many times mentally
• Use new words as much as possible

• Write and memorize
• List according to parts of speech

O

2. Your assignment is to learn a new tense. The tense has been explained in class. You are given a list of regular verbs.
• Look over reading and try to find examples of new tense

• Study until understood
• Try to practice new tense while speaking

• Go over rules and memorize • Write, say, and use it in examples

• Repeat and write out • Look for similar endings already known

• Keep going over it • Make up own exercise to practice new tense

• Repeat many times
• Learn and make up examples (sentences)

• Try to understand the English counterpart
• Go over rules and class notes

3. Your assignment is to answer a series of questions after a reading selection. This selection has not been read in class.
First answer casy questions, then re-read and answer the rest

• Read questions, use dictionary to look up words
• Skim the rcading and look up answers

• Translate selection, translate questions Look for "key" word in questions and find them in answers

• Translate questions and flip back to reading • Look for words in questions which give clues to answers

• Use dictionary and grammar book • Answer each question mcntally, then write out

• Keep going back to selection for answers • Answer as much as possible, then re-read sclection for remaining

• Look up all unfamiliar words, then answer questions questions

4. What strategies or techniques have helped you most when studying a foreign language? What strategy, if any, do you use when studying a

foreign language which you might not use when studying another subject? • I speak to myself while walking or jogging

• I study with someone • I give myself little tests

• I'jot down information on index cards • I write down key points of each chapter

• I write new information over and over • I speak to my friends or natives when I get the chance

• I translate everything into English • I use association (mental pictures)

• I remember by association and repetition • I make lists and study sheets and try to remember by rhyming and

• I use the Appendix in book association

• I look over my notes regularly • I try to answer all questions mentally in class

• I make up lists and read them out loud • I use mnemonic devices to remember

aloud while performing assigned tasks. "As they think aloud, classmates can observe and record their strategies. "22 Later, students are encouraged to try strategies which they consider more efficient than their own.

a

CONCLUSION

How, then, can teachers help poor learners adapt some of the successful methods used by their peers? First, successful language learners can serve as informants and guides and share their learning styles. I do not speak here of slavish imitation, but rather of a way of letting slow language learners discover various means of approaching a task and having them find out, through trial and error, methods best suited to their own personality. Granted, this procedure may take precious class time; but, if done judiciously, it will easily pay long-range dividends.

Another way of helping the less successful learner is the "think-aloud technique,” so called by Hosenfeld, who suggests that several student volunteers think

Teachers of foreign languages must take student personality and cognition variables into account; above all, they should sensitize themselves to a wide variety of

continued on page 24

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22.Carol Hosenfeld, “A Learning-Teaching View of Second Language Instruction," Foreign Language Annals, 12 (1979), pp. 51-54.

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A New Look at the Passive

This two-part presentation by Virginia French Allen consists of two separate articles which Dr. Allen wrote recently for different purposes. Because of the articles' complementary nature, they are offered here together. -ED.

VIRGINIA FRENCH ALLEN Emeritus, Temple University

The Purpose of the Passive “In general, we can say that a person uses the passive when he does not consider the agent especially important and does not wish to call attention to the agent." (Using English: Your Second Language, p. 58) Published in 1973, the above remark represents what has long been said about the use of the passive. The point was made more recently in James E. Redden's 1979 article, “On Analyzing and Teaching the English Passive" (SPEAQ Journal, 3: 3–4:102): "In other words, when the logical object of a verb and what happens to it are the center or focus of attention, a passive will be used to describe the logical object and what hap

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pens to it.”

VIRGINIA FRENCH ALLEN has been a frequent contributor to TESOL publications for thirty years. Since retiring from Temple University, she has worked with teachers in Mexico, Switzerland, China, and India. She and her husband now live in Colorado, where they serve as consultants to the Spring Institute for International Studies.

Whatever else may have changed in the teaching of grammar, students are still being given much the same impression of the purpose of the passive. They are told that it highlights an action and the receiver of the action, diverting attention from the action's agent.

How accurate is that impression? Consider the following passive sentences from a newspaper, the Boulder Daily Camera of December 12, 1980: 1. The U.S. Board on Geographic Names Thursday

postponed a decision until its June meeting on
whether to rename the peak in Alaska “Denali,"
the name it was given long ago by native Indians,
because ...
(Query: Is the giving of the name really consid-
ered more important here than the identity of the

givers?) 2. The mayor called the remark "an insensitive collo

quialism—the kind of remark that might have
been used 20 years ago by some racists, and some
who might not be.”
(Query: Was the passive used here because the
speaker did not wish to call attention to those us-

ing the “insensitive colloquialism”?) 3. After Mrs. Faus died, the property was owned by

the Blackmarr family, which also owned a furni-
ture store for many years.
(Query: Was the passive used because the report-

er did not consider the owner's name important?) 4. It was purchased by the First Methodist Church in

1959.

This article originally appeared in the summer 1981 issue of the TESL Reporter. Copyright © 1981 by Brigham Young University—Hawaii Campus. Reprinted with permission.

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