Through the Lens of Good Language Learners: What Are Their Strategies?

Nurhuda Mohamad Nazri, Melor Md Yunus, Nur Dalila Mohamad Nazri


Often times, many English as Second Language (ESL) facilitators speculate why some learners learn faster than other learners. Provided the students were exposed with the same amount of years in the formal education system in Malaysia, the language instructors curious about the variety of performance in the English language among the learners. This study revealed the language learning strategies used by ten successful ESL learners of a private university in Kajang, Selangor, using Oxford’s (1990) Strategy Inventory for Language Learning (SILL). The findings indicated that successful language learners are high frequency users of language learning strategies. The total mean of each category showed that metacognitive strategies (Mean=3.964) are among the most frequently used strategies, followed respectively by compensatory (Mean=3.814), cognitive (Mean=3.812), social (Mean=3.700), memory (Mean=3.100) and affective strategies (Mean=2.890) found as the least used strategies among successful language learners. Interestingly, the study also identified that successful language learners used more direct strategies compared to indirect strategies. The findings have significant implications for research on language learning strategies for successful language learners and teacher planning in order to promote and boost the use of strategies among the poor language learners.

Keywords: language learning strategies, successful learners, English as a Second Language

Full Text:



Adel, A. R. (2011). Effects of L2 proficiency and gender on choice of language learning strategies by university students majoring in English. Asian EFL Journal, 13(1), 115-151.

Bacon, S. M, and M. D. Finnemann (1990). A study of the attitudes, motives, and strategies of university foreign language students and their disposition to authentic oral and written input. Modern Language Journal, 74(4), 459–470.

Baleghizadeh, S., & Ashoori, A. (2011). The Impact of Two Instructional Techniques on EFL Learners’ Vocabulary Knowledge: Flash Cards versus Word Lists. MEXTESOL Journal, 35(2).

Chang, S. (1990). A study of the language learning behavior of Chinese students at the University of Georgia and the relation of those behaviors to oral proficiency and other factors. (Doctoral dissertation). University of Georgia.

Chamot, A. U., & O’Malley, J. M. (1996). Implementing the cognitive academic language learning approach (CALLA). In R. L. Oxford (Ed.), Language learning strategies around the world: Cross-cultural perspectives (pp. 167–173). Honolulu: University of Hawaii, Manoa.

Chamot, A. U., Barnhardt, S., El-Dinary, P. B., & Robbins, J. (1999). The learning strategies handbook. White Plains, NY: Addison Wesley Longman.

Cohen, A. D. (1996). Verbal reports as a source of insights into second language learner strategies. Applied Language Learning, 7(1–2), 5–24.

Cohen, A. D., Weaver, S. J., & Li, T-Y. (1995). The impact of strategies-based instruction on speaking a foreign language. Research Report. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA).

Cook, V. (1991). Second Language Learning and Language Teaching. London: Edward Arnold.

Dornyei, Z. (1990). Conceptualizing motivation in foreign language learning. Language Learning, 40, 45–79.

Dornyei, Z. & Skehan, P. (2003). Individual differences in second language learning. In C. Doughty & M. Long (Eds), Handbook of Second Language Acquisition (pp. 589¬–630). Oxford: Blackwell.

Dreyer, C., & Oxford, R. L. (1996). Learner variables related to ESL proficiency among African speakers in South Africa. In: R. L. Oxford (Ed.), Language learning strategies around the world: Cross-cultural perspectives (pp. 61–74). Honolulu: University of Hawaii, Manoa.

Ehrman, M. E., & Oxford, R. L. (1989). Effects of sex differences, career choice, and psychological type on adult language learning strategies. The Modern Language Journal, 73, 1–12.

Ehrman, M. E., & Oxford, R. L. (1990). Adult learning styles and strategies in an intensive training setting. The Modern Language Journal, 74, 311–26.

Ellis, R. (1994). The Study of Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ellis, H. D., & Sinclair, B. (1989). Learning to learn English: A course in learner training. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Embi, M. A. (2000). Language Learning Strategies: A Malaysian Context. Bangi: Percetakan Warni.

Embi, M. A., Long, J. & Hamzah, M. I. (2001). Language Learning Strategies Employed by Secondary School Students in Malaysia. Jurnal Pendidikan, 26, 2–3.

Gardner, R. and MacIntyre, P. (1992). An Instrumental Motivation in Language Study: Who says it isn’t effective? Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 13, 57–72.

Green, J. (1991). Language learning strategies of Puerto Rican university students. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Puerto Rican Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, San Juan, PR.

Griffiths, C. (2003). Patterns of language learning strategy use. System, 31, 367–383.

Haifa, A. B. (2010). Language Learning Strategies Employed by English Majors at Qatar University: Questions and Queries. ASIATIC, 4(2).

Harris, V. (2000). Learning to learn: Strategy instruction in the modern language classroom. In A. Schwarbick (Ed.), Aspects of teaching second modern foreign languages: Perspectives on practice (pp. 3–22). London/New York: Routledge/Falmer.

Harris, V. (2001). Helping learners learn: Exploring strategy instruction in language classrooms across Europe. Strasbourg, France: Council of Europe Publishing.

Hedge, T. (2000). Teaching and Learning in the Language Classroom. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Holden, B. (2002). Listen and Learn. English Teaching Professional, 23, 18–20.

Jalal, K., & Karev, J. (2011). The strategy use frequency of unsuccessful Malaysian language learners and the effect of gender on it. European Journal of Scientific Research, 57(2), 198–205.

Kaylani, C. (1996). The influence of gender and motivation on EFL learning strategy use in Jordan. In R. L. Oxford (Ed.), Language learning strategies around the world: Cross-cultural perspectives (pp. 75–88). Honolulu: University of Hawaii, Manoa.

Khodareza & Komachali, E. (2012). The Effect of Using Vocabulary Flashcard on Iranian on Iranian Pre-University Students’ Vocabulary Knowledge. Canadian Center of Science and Education Journal, 5(3), 134-147.

Krashen, S. (1981). Second language acquisition and second language learning. Oxford: Pergamon Press.

Kusumarasdyati (2004). Listening, Viewing and Imagination: Films in EFL Classes. 2nd International Conference on Imagination and Education, Vancouver, Canada.

Lee, K. (2003). The relationship of school year, sex and proficiency on the use of learning strategies in learning English. Asian EFL Journal, 5(4), 1–36.

Mah, S. F. (1999). The language learning strategies of Malaysian undergraduates from national primary schools and national type (Chinese) primary schools for completing selected ESL classroom activities. (Unpublished master’s thesis). Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Bangi, Malaysia.

Mayes, E. (2003). When ESL is not enough. In Identification, Assessment and Programming for ESL Learners with Special/Additional Needs: Five Case Studies. BCTF Research, 141–161.

Mendelsohn, D. (1994). Learning to listen: A strategy-based approach for the second-language learner. San Diego, CA: Dominie Press.

Mojarradi, S. (2014). The effect of using flashcards on ESL (English as a Second Language) students’ ability to learn vocabulary. International Journal of Scientific World, 2(2), 56-61.

Naiman, N., Frohlich, M., Stern, H. H., & Todesco, A. (1978). The good language learner. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

Nambiar, R. (1996). Language learning strategies of six Malaysian ESL learners when performing selected language activities. (Unpublished master’s thesis). Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Bangi, Malaysia.

O’Malley, J. M., & Chamot, A. U. (1990). Learning strategies in second language acquisition. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

O'Malley, J. M., Chamot, A., Stewner-Manzanares, G., Kupper, L. & Russo, R. (1985). Learning strategies used by beginning and intermediate ESL students. Language Learning, 35(1), 21–46.

Oxford, R. L. (1990). Language learning strategies: What every teacher should know. New York: Newbury House HarperCollins.

Oxford, R. L. (1992). The story of the SILL: Evaluation, use, reliability, and validity of the Strategy Inventory for Language Learning around the world. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama.

Oxford, R. L. (1993). Instructional implications of gender differences in second/foreign language (L2) learning styles and strategies. Applied Language Learning, 4, 65–94.

Oxford, R. L. (Ed.) (1996). Language learning strategies around the world: Cross-cultural perspectives. Honolulu: University of Hawaii, Manoa.

Oxford, R. L., & Cohen, A. D. (1992). Language learning strategies: Crucial issues of concepts and classification. Applied Language Learning, 3(1–2), 1–35.

Oxford, R. L., & Ehrman, M. E. (1995). Adults’ language learning strategies in an intensive foreign language program in the United States. System, 23(3), 359–356.

Oxford, R. L., & Nyikos, M. (1989). Variables affecting choice of language learning strategies: A synthesis of studies with implications for strategy training. System, 17, 235–247.

Oxford, R. L., Nyikos, M., & Ehrman, M. (1988). Vive la difference? Reflections on sex differences in use of language learning strategies. Foreign Language Annals, 21(4), 321–329.

Rahimi, M., Riazi, A., & Saif S. (2008). An investigation into the factors affecting the use of language learning strategies by Persian EFL learners. CJAL, 11(2): 31-60.

Rubin, J. (1975). What the ‘good language learner’ can teach us. TESOL Quarterly, 9(1), 41–51.

Rubin, J., & Thompson, I. (1994). How to be a more successful learner (2nd ed.). Boston: Heinle & Heinle.

Rubin, J. (1981). Study of cognitive processes in second language learning. Applied Linguistics, 2(2), 117–131.

Skehan, P. (2001). Comprehension and production strategies in language learning. London, Routledge.

Stern, H. H. (1975). What can we learn from the good language learner? Canadian Modern Language Review, 31(3), 304–317.

Touba, N. (1992). Language learning strategies of Egyptian student teachers of English. Paper presented at the 12th National Symposium on English Teaching in Egypt, Nasr City, Cairo, Egypt.

Watanabe, Y. (1990). External variables affecting language learning strategies of Japanese EFL learners: Effects of entrance examination, years spent at college/university and staying overseas. (Unpublished master’s thesis). Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK.

Wenden, A. and Rubin, J. (Eds) (1987). Learner Strategies in Language Learning. Englewood Cliffs, N.J., Prentice Hall.

Weinstein, C. E., & Rogers, B. T. (1984). Comprehension monitoring: The neglected learning strategy. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA.

Xhemaili, Mirvan (2013). The advantages of using films to enhance student’s reading skills in the EFL classroom. Journal of Education and Practice, 4(13).

Yunus, M. M., Sulaiman, N. A., Embi, M. A. (2013). Malaysian gifted students’ use of English language learning strategies. English Language Teaching, 6(4).


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

2010-2019 (CC-BY) Australian International Academic Centre PTY.LTD.

Advances in Language and Literary Studies

You may require to add the '' domain to your e-mail 'safe list’ If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox'. Otherwise, you may check your 'Spam mail' or 'junk mail' folders.