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Our ways of learning language

Biki Lepota
Albert Weideman


For the last decade or longer, applied linguists have paid increasing attention to learners' strategies and styles of learning (Wenden & Rubin 1987; Oxford 1990, Chamot & O'Malley 1990; Cohen 1998). There is an historical reason for this interest, which is discussed in the final part of this paper. The concern that teachers have with learners' beliefs may, however, also be based on at least four immediate, practical reasons. The various configurations of learners' beliefs and teachers' beliefs yield at least three conditions or states that intimately concern language teachers. This paper presents a pilot study of how an adaptation of an instrument designed earlier to identify learners' beliefs about language learning was applied in the context of our own institution. Its results are discussed within the contours of five categories: learners' motivations for learning language; their ideas about language learning aptitude; their opinions of the difficulty of learning English; their second language learning and communication strategies; and, finally, their views on the nature of language learning. The results not only show a remarkable congruence with those of the earlier study, but also that learners' preconceived ideas about language learning may in fact impede their development. How these sometimes erroneous beliefs can best be challenged and changed is finally considered.

(Journal for Language Teaching: 2002 36(3-4): 206-219)