Annotated Bibliography Entry for Horwitz’s Cultural and situational influences on foreign language learners’ beliefs about language learning

HORWITZ, E. K.  (1999). Cultural and situational influences on foreign language learners’ beliefs about language learning: a review of BALLI studies. System, 27(4), 557-578

Language teachers must understand learners’ beliefs about language learning in order to understand what are the strategies used by these learners and, then, design appropriate language instruction.

This paper examines similarities and differences across cultural groups – American, Korean, and Turkish heritage. The data was collected with BALLI (Beliefs About Language Learning Inventory) and published in seven different papers from the year 1988 to 1997.  The BALLI system presents some categories that are common in all studies and they are “the difficulty of language learning”, “foreign language aptitude”, “the nature of language learning”, “learning and communication strategies”, and “’motivations and expectations”. In this article, these categories were analyzed despite of learners’ innumerable differences, but took in special consideration their cultural background and their language learning context.

The conclusion is that it is premature to state that beliefs about language learning vary by cultural group, but the results suggest that differences within group – whether because of individual characteristics of differences in instructional practices – lead to as much variation as the cultural variances. Also, the BALLI is a very valuable tool to identify learner beliefs about language learning, which can be connected to other important factors such as motivation, anxiety about language learning, and learner strategies.

This article is useful for second language teachers, teachers in training and researchers who want to understand learner beliefs about language learning and learner strategies. These attitudes may vary because of learning styles, educational experiences, age, or many other influences. Understanding these variables is important to teachers because, during a course design, it allows them to anticipate difficulties, and plan appropriate language instruction.

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