Introduction: English is the most widely used language in the world with its use affecting over one sixth of the world's population. It ranks second to Chinese as a mother tongue although 'Chinese' comprises six mutually unintelligible dialects. 60% of radio programs and 70% of world's mail are conducted in English…
(Brumfit 1978 1-2)
As the usage of English spread to different parts of the world, it inevitably led to the divergence of the language leading to variations such as American, Australian, Indian, South African & etc. These variations are influenced by local culture, custom and language and are reflected in variations in grammar, meaning, spelling, syntax and pronunciation. The core of Standard English common for all English speaking countries is the reference point for all these variations. Vocabulary of the language is expanding at a phenomenal rate and many new words coined for use in diverse fields such as arts, humanities, science and technology. (Barber 1965 227-275) Developments in information technology and the advent of the 'internet' have added a whole new dimension to the teaching and learning of English as a foreign language.
Motivational theories of learning: The motivation to learn a language is twofold: one, 'instrumental' in which case the language is learnt for operational purposes to be able to communicate with other speakers of the language and two, 'integrative', in which case the learner is trying to identify much more closely with the native speakers. The usage of English may be broadly divided into two categories: the usage of English as mother tongue (MT), its usage as second language (SL) or foreign language (FL). When English is taught or learnt as a foreign language it is mostly for operational reasons or the motivation is 'instrumental'. (Brumfit 1978 5-6)
Reviewing the work of a number of researchers Lessard-Clouston, defines the characteristics of language learning strategies: they are learner generated, enhance language learning, are visible, involve information and memory, generate a desire for control or autonomy in the learner, allow learners a choice, allow learners to become more self-directed, expand the role of language teachers, are problem oriented, involve many aspects not just the cognitive, can be taught, are flexible and are influenced by a variety of factors. Transfer of strategy of one language skill to another is a related goal. (1997)
Learning English as a second (or foreign) language depends on contextual factors (the impact of the learner's mother tongue), individual learner differences (cognitive factors like intelligence, aptitude and language strategies and affective factors like attitude, motivation and anxiety), learning opportunities and outcomes. Mitchell and coauthor base their thesis on Spolsky's "general model of second language learning." They opine that any theory that explains the dynamics of SLA should be able to state clearly and explicitly the ground it covers and claims it makes; systematize procedures for data gathering; explain L2 phenomena, the reasons for them and any mechanisms for change; engaging with other theories in the field. (Mitchell. et al. 2000 11-26).
Any approach in researching SLA has to take into consideration that language is learnt in "context". This has to take into consideration both the internal and external realities and investigate the mode by which mental processes convert reality into contexts. Research methodologies, which rely on objectivity, cannot deal with the theory of context. There is a need to reappraise qualitative research methods to test their viability in research into language learning. While ...
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