DURATION OF LANGUAGE STUDY LANGUAGE-LEARNING
Duration includes both course levels and number of years of language study. Oxford (1990) stated that duration sometimes implies proficiency level, but proficiency level is not necessarily measured precisely in her studies. According to several researchers, as language students progressed to higher course level, they used somewhat different strategies. For instance, Politzer (1983) discovered that course level influenced foreign language-learning behaviors (strategies), with higher-level students using more positive strategies. McDonough and McNerney (reported by Tyacke and Mendelsohn, 1986) discovered that more advanced language learners diminished their use of less useful strategies and geared their strategy use more directly to the language-learning task at hand. In another study (Nyikos, 1 987) university students showed developmental trends in strategy use, with decreasing and increasing use of various strategies as the semesters progressed. Tyacke and Mendelsohn’s (1986) diary study showed that lower level students generally depended much more on their teacher and on the linguistic code than did higher-level students. The finding of Oxford and Nyikos (1987) supported Bialystok’s result; these researchers discovered that foreign language students who had studied the new language for a minimum of four or five years used communication-oriented strategies (i.e. functional practice strategies and conversational/input elicitation strategies) significantly more often than did less experienced students.
Advancement in course level or years of study does not necessarily mean that students use better strategies in every instance (Oxford, 1989:237). Cohen and Aphek (1981), in studying Engiish speakers who were learning Hebrew, discovered that both good and bad learning strategies appeared across course levels. Therefore, most of the research does not indeed show, in general, the more advanced the language learner, the better strategies used. At least three possible explanation exist (Oxford, 2002). First, language students might spontaneously develop new and better strategies as they become more advanced. Second, the nature of the task requirements might change (often becoming more communicative, though not necessarily!) in higher-level courses, and students might respond with strategies tailored to the task requirements. Third, students with poorer strategies might perform worse than students with better strategies and therefore drop out of language study before reaching higher level courses.