Annotated Bibliography on O’Malley and Chamot’s Learning Strategies in SLA

Annotated Bibliography on O’Malley, J. M., & Chamot, A. U. (1990). Learning strategies in second language acquisition (pp. 114-150). Cambridge University Press.
By Eva Jin
Learning strategies in second language acquisition is a book concerning the application of cognition in SLA, or to be more specifically, learning strategies in SLA.
The book presents the theoretical framework for cognitive theory in learning and SLA (chapter two and three), as well as a generalization of methods and research for learning strategies (chapter four). Chapter five and six are the most relevant parts for L2 learners and teachers: a collection of learning strategies used by second language learners is founded and carefully categorized, together with a “handbook” for how the training of learning strategies may be better carried out by teachers. Learning materials and instructional models are further discussed in chapter seven. The following discussion focuses on chapter five.
In this chapter, four studies aiming at collecting learning strategies used by second language learners are cited. Several lists of learning strategies is provided and eventually integrated without judging on values of each strategy. And the strategies are classified mainly from cognitive perspective, within which controversial issues still exist (for example, the boundary between meta-cognition and cognition is vague).
These collected learning strategies serve as powerful reference for L2 learners to choose from and try out. A student has his/her preferences and strengths, and can choose the strategies that fit him/her best from the lists. However, the strategies are not students-friendly enough: complicated and professional terms from cognition and psychology prevail. It is strongly suggested that L2 teachers may “translate” the total academic language into brief and simple explanations with illustration even demonstration, which students can easily understand. Further more, the classification of learning strategies are far from satisfactory for learning/teaching practice: it is cognitive-theory-oriented, not learning-targets-oriented. For example, when a learner wants to deal with a specific learning problem (“I just cannot remember the spelling” “I cannot concentrate for a long time while listening”), or when a teacher wants to improve a specific skill within the students, the collection of learning strategies does not help directly since what they will find is “meta-cognitive learning strategies”, “social and affective strategies”, etc. In other words, the learners/teachers will have to “customize” their learning strategies in some specific trainings.
In general, the collection of learning strategies used by L2 learners are relatively abstract and theoretical. Teachers will have to carefully “translate” it into actual use. Yet, as theoretical basis for teaching practice, this chapter firmly stands.
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