Language learning strategies: An holistic view

Main Article Content

Carol Griffiths
Gökhan Cansiz


The language learning strategy question has been debated on a number of levels, including definition, the strategy/success relationship and strategy coordination. In addition, awareness has been steadily growing of the importance of taking an holistic view of the strategy phenomenon and examining strategies not just in isolation but as part of an overall picture which includes learning situation, learning target and individual learner characteristics. This article will first of all review the literature and the previous research on these controversial issues, and suggest a workable definition. Then, in order to illustrate the importance of such an holistic view, the results of a small scale study which looks at the strategies used by 16 successful language learners who were all either teaching English or teaching in English at university level will be reported. The quantitative results indicated that these successful learners used many strategies, especially those that suited their goals and their situations; they also frequently used and carefully orchestrated strategy repertoires which suited their own individual needs. The responses of one highly successful respondent were also examined qualitatively. The implications of these findings and the importance of viewing learners holistically are discussed and suggestions are made for ongoing research.


Download data is not yet available.

Article Details

How to Cite
Griffiths, C., & Cansiz, G. (2015). Language learning strategies: An holistic view. Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching, 5(3), 473 - 493.
Author Biographies

Carol Griffiths, Fatih Üniversitesi, Eğitim Fakültesi, 34500 Büyükçekmece, İstanbul
Carol Griffiths, PhD, has been a teacher, manager and teacher trainer of ELT for
many years. She has taught in many places around the world, including New
Zealand, Indonesia, Japan, China, North Korea and UK. She currently works as
Associate Professor in the ELT Department at Fatih University, Istanbul, Turkey.
She has presented at numerous conferences and published widely. Learner issues,
teacher education, and using literature to teach language are her major
areas of research interest.

Gökhan Cansiz, Fatih Üniversitesi, Eğitim Fakültesi, 34500 Büyükçekmece, İstanbul
Gökhan Cansiz is a Lecturer in the ELT department at Fatih University, Istanbul,
Turkey. He has a BA in ELT and an MA in English language and literature and is
now working on a PhD in ELT. He has taught English to adult learners for 20 years.


  1. Anderson, N. (2008). Metacognition and good language learners. In C. Griffiths (Ed.), Lessons from good language learners (pp. 99-109). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  2. Arnold, J. (Ed.). (1999). Affect in language learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  3. Belcher, D. (2006). English for specific purposes: Teaching to perceived needs and imagined futures in worlds of work, study, and everyday life. TESOL Quarterly, 40, 133-156. doi: 10.2307/40264514
  4. Bialystok, E. (1981). The role of conscious strategies in second language proficiency. The Modern Language Journal, 65, 24-35.
  5. Cohen, A. (2011). Strategies in learning and using a second language (2nd ed.). London: Longman.
  6. Cohen, A., & Aphek, E. (1980). Retention of second language vocabulary over time: Investigating the role of mnemonic associations. System, 8, 221-235.
  7. Cohen, A., & Macaro, E. (2007). Learner strategies.Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  8. Cotterall, S. (2008). Autonomy and good language learners. In C. Griffiths (Ed.), Lessons from good language learners (pp. 110-120). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  9. Dalton-Puffer, C., & Smit, U. (2013). Content and language integrated learning: A research agenda. Language Teaching, 46, 545-559.
  10. Dörnyei, Z., & Ryan, S. (2015). The psychology of the language learner revisited. New York: Routledge.
  11. Dörnyei, 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.
  12. Dörnyei, Z., & Ushioda, E. (2010). Teaching and researching motivation (2nd ed.). Harlow: Pearson Longman.
  13. Dörnyei, Z., MacIntyre, P., & Henry, A. (Eds.). (2015). Motivational dynamics in language learning. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
  14. Dreyer, C., & Oxford, R. (1996). Learning strategies and other predictors of ESL proficiency among Afrikaans speakers in South Africa. In R. Oxford (Ed.), Language learning strategies around the world: Cross-cultural perspectives (pp. 61-74). Second Language Teaching and Curriculum Centre: University of Hawaii at Manoa.
  15. Gao, X. (2007). Has language learning strategy research come to an end? A response to Tseng et al. Applied Linguistics, 28, 615-620.
  16. Gao, X. (2010). Strategic language learning: The roles of agency and context. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
  17. Language learning strategies: An holistic view
  18. Gao, X., & Lamb, T. (2011). Exploring links between identity, motivation and autonomy. In G. Murray, X. Gao, & T. Lamb (Eds.), Identity, motivation and autonomy in language learning (pp. 1-8). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
  19. Green, J., & Oxford, R. (1995). A closer look at learning strategies, L2 proficiency and gender. TESOL Quarterly, 29, 261-297. doi: 10.2307/3587625
  20. Griffiths, C. (2003). Patterns of language learning strategy use. System, 31, 367-383
  21. Griffiths, C. (2008). Strategies and good language learners. In C. Griffiths (Ed.), Lessons from good language learners (pp. 83-98). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  22. Griffiths, C. (2013). The strategy factor in successful language learning. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
  23. Griffiths, C., Oxford, R., Kawai, Y., Kawai, C., Park, Y., Ma, X., Meng, Y., & Yang, N.(2014). Focus on context: Narratives from East Asia. System, 43, 50-63.
  24. Gu, Y. (2012). Learning strategies: Prototypical core and dimensions of variation. Studies in Self-Access Learning Journal, 3, 330-356.
  25. Holec, H. (1981). Autonomy and foreign language learning. Oxford: Pergamon.
  26. Horwitz, E. (1987). Surveying student beliefs about language learning and teaching in the foreign language methods course. Foreign Language Annals, 18, 333-340.
  27. Hosenfeld, C. (1976). Learning about learning: Discovering our students’ strategies. Foreign Language Annals, 9, 117-129.
  28. Irie, K., & Ryan, S. (2015). Study abroad and the dynamics of change in learner L2 self-concept. In Z. Dörnyei, P. MacIntyre, & A. Henry (Eds.), Motivational dynamics in language learning (pp. 343-366). Bristol: Multilingual Matters
  29. Krashen, S. (1982). Principles and practices in second language acquisition. Oxford: Pergamon.
  30. Kyungsim, H., & Leavell, A. (2006). Language learning strategy use of ESL students in an intensive English learning context, System, 34, 399-415.
  31. Leontiev, A. (1978). Activity, consciousness and personality. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  32. Lo Bianco (2009). Introduction. In J. Lo Bianco, J. Orton, & Y. Gao. (Eds.), China and English: Globalisation and the dilemmas of identity (pp. 1-23). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
  33. Macaro, E. (2006). Strategies for language learning and for language use: Revising the theoretical framework. The Modern Language Journal, 9, 320-337.
  34. McLaughlin, B. (1990). “Conscious” versus “unconscious” learning. TESOL Quarterly, 24, 617-634.
  35. Naiman, N, Frohlich, M., Stern, H., & Todesco, A. (1978). The good language learner. Toronto: The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.
  36. Carol Griffiths, Gökhan Cansiz
  37. Norton, B. (2014). Identity and poststructuralist theory in SLA. In S. Mercer & M. Williams (Eds.), Multiple perspectives on the self in SLA (pp. 59-74). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
  38. Norton Peirce, B. (1995). Social identity, investment and language learning. TESOL Quarterly, 29, 9-31.
  39. Norton, B., & Toohey, K. (2001). Changing perspectives on good language learners. TESOL Quarterly, 35, 307-322.
  40. Nunan, D., & Choi, J. (2010). Language, culture and identity: Framing the issues. In D. Nunan & J. Choi (Eds.), Language and culture: Reflective narratives and the emergence of identity, (pp. 1-13), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  41. Nyikos, M. (2008). Gender and good language learners. In C. Griffiths (Ed.), Lessons from good language learners (pp. 73-82). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  42. 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, 21-46.
  43. Oxford, R. (Ed.). (1996). Language learning strategies around the world: Crosscultural perspectives. Second Language Teaching and Curriculum Centre: University of Hawai’i at Manoa.
  44. Oxford, R. (2011). Teaching and researching language learning strategies. Harlow: Pearson Longman.
  45. Oxford, R., & Griffiths, C. (Eds). (2014). Language learning strategy research in the twenty-first century: Insights and innovations [Special issue]. System, 43.
  46. Pavlenko, A., & Norton, B. (2007). Imagined communities, identity, and English Language Teaching. In J. Cummins & C. Davison (Eds.), International handbook of English language teaching (pp. 669-680). New York: Springer.
  47. Porte, G. (1988). Poor language learners and their strategies for dealing with new vocabulary. ELT Journal, 42(3), 167-171.
  48. Ranta, L. (2008). Aptitude and good language learners. In C. Griffiths (Ed.), Lessons from good language learners (pp. 142-154). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  49. Reid, J. (Ed.). (1995). Learning styles in the ESL/EFL classroom. Boston, MA: Heinle & Heinle.
  50. Richards, J., & Schmidt, R. (2010). Dictionary of language teaching and applied linguistics (4th ed.). Harlow: Longman.
  51. Rose, H. (2012). Reconceptualizing strategic learning in the face of self-regulation: Throwing language learning strategies out with the bathwater. Applied Linguistics, 33, 92-98.
  52. Rubin, J. (1975). What the ‘good language learner’ can teach us. TESOL Quarterly, 9, 41-51.
  53. Language learning strategies: An holistic view
  54. Ryan, S. (2006). Language learning motivation within the context of globalisation: An L2 self within an imagined global community. Critical Inquiry in Language Studies, 3, 23-45.
  55. Soruç, A., & Griffiths, C. (2015). Identity and the spoken grammar dilemma. System, 50, 32-42.
  56. Stern, H. (1975). What can we learn from the good language learner? Canadian Modern Language Review, 34, 304-318.
  57. Takeuchi, O., Griffiths, C., & Coyle, D. (2007). Applying strategies to contexts: The role of individual, situational and group differences. In A. Cohen & E. Macaro (Eds.), Language learner strategies(pp. 69-92). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  58. Tseng, W., Dörnyei, Z., & Schmitt, N. (2006). A new approach to assessing strategic learning: The case of self-regulation in vocabulary acquisition. Applied Linguistics, 27, 78-102.
  59. Vann, R., & Abraham, R. (1990). Strategies of unsuccessful language learners. TESOL Quarterly, 24, 177-198.
  60. Wenden, A. (1991). Learner strategies for learner autonomy. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  61. White, C. (2003). Language learning in distance education. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  62. White, C. (2008). Beliefs and good language learners. In C. Griffiths (Ed.), Lessons from good language learners (pp. 121-130). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  63. Winne, P. (1995). Inherent details in self-regulated learning. Educational Psychologist, 30, 173-187.