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The questions about memory-related strategies (Part A: questions 1 – 9), where new information was committed to memory for retrieval at the later stage. Allowing this information, mainly vocabulary, to form part of the long-term memory, showed only a slight difference between male and female learners. The females answered only marginally higher than men on the use of memory-related strategies, indicating that they use it more than males.
On the questions about cognitive strategies (Part B: questions 10 – 23), which link new information to existing schemata and thus forming and revising internal models to produce messages in the target language, in this case English, the differences were negligible. This indicated that there is no significant gender difference with using cognitive strategies.
The responses to the questions about compensatory strategies (Part C: questions 24 – 29), which include guessing and using gestures to improvise for limitations on relevant knowledge about the newly acquired language, indicated that females use it more than males.
The responses to the questions on indirect strategies, the ones providing indirect support for language learning such as planning, co-operating and seeking opportunities,
were as follow:
The meta-cognitive strategies (Part D: questions 30 – 38), that allow learners to control their own understanding, by using techniques such as organising, planning and evaluating their own learning, revealed only a slight difference between female and male use of them. This indicated no significant difference in the use of these strategies by males and females.
When responding to the questions on affective strategies (Part E: questions 39 – 44), the ones which involve feelings, attitudes and motivation towards studying, males indicated that they employed them more than the females.
On social strategies (Part F: questions 45 – 50), which involve interaction with other learners by asking questions, males responded that they used them more than females.
This indicated a significant use of the social strategies employed and that they are incorporated more by males than females, into the language learning process.
22.214.171.124 Attitude Motivation Test Battery questionnaires
Eleven adapted questionnaires of Gardner’s Attitude motivation test battery (see Appendix E) were completed by five male and female adult language learners. In response to Gardner’s three components of assessing motivation, namely: the desire to learn the language, attitudes towards learning the language and motivational intensity,
participants responded as follows:
When responding to the adult language learners’ desire to acquire the language, females indicated a much stronger desire to learn to speak English than their male counterparts.
The trend very much continued with learners’ responses towards attitudes for learning, including their attitudes towards the course and their lecturer. The adult females all indicated that they favourably viewed the lecturer, as well as the course. The adult men indicated that they viewed the lecturer and course material less favourably. Overall, the responses from the participants indicated a much higher motivation by the female learners to acquire English. Although some learners indicated that they were encouraged by their parents to learn English, this fact cannot really be considered that strongly, as the participants in this case were all adult male and female language learners and therefore able to make their own individual decisions about learning.
4.4.3 Research findings related to focus group interviews The following findings were obtained from the first focus group interviews conducted
with the adult learners:
When asked how they acquire or learn English, the participants mention a number of issues. They indicated that some learning happens in the workplace, through interaction with work colleagues. Three respondents replied that, “It is part of my job to speak to others”, “My colleague speaks good English and she helps me by correcting when I use wrong words” and “Now I try to speak to my colleagues.” One respondent who also speaks Arabic and French, replied, “I always have to remember to put the adjective in front of a noun and not behind. But to learn English, I have to do it in a classroom with a good teacher”. Others also mentioned that for acquisition of English, and for the learning to be more effective, it happens in a formal classroom with a qualified teacher.
Others responded as follows: “My English is terrible, that is why I have to learn it in a formal classroom” and “But I struggle with grammar and hopefully I will learn that in the classroom”, to one saying, “That is why I’m here. To learn”. “How that (referring to the learning process) will happen, I’m not sure”.
Interpretation: The abovementioned indicated that learners were not actually too sure about their own language acquisition, but it seemed that they were of the opinion that it was more likely to happen in a classroom with a teacher; which is consistent with Krashen’s input and output theory as described in subsection 126.96.36.199.
When asked to respond as to the strategies they employ to make it easier to acquire language and remember words, the majority replied that they make use of given opportunities to speak English. They replied by saying, “I just speak whenever I have the opportunity”, “I speak English quite a lot and tell other English speaking people to help me and correct me” and “I try and speak to my teacher as often as I can, even if it is in break time.” Repetition seems to play a major role in their language acquisition as some responded, “I have to write things over and over”, “I say the words over and over” and “Repeat, repeat, and repeat”. Only one learner referred to using colour as a tool to remember, by saying, “Yes, when I study and use different colours, it helps me to remember the words”.
Interpretation: The abovementioned indicated that learners were not really aware of the strategies they employed during language acquisition and that it is not being taught by lecturers. The use of colour as a learning strategy, especially in adult learners, seems underutilized.
Participants reacted overwhelmingly positive towards their motivation for acquiring English and all but two indicated that, besides wanting to communicate more effectively, it was to get a promotion at work. Only one participant required that for future studies for a Master’s degree. This indicated that the possibility of promotion at work was a strong motivating factor to language acquisition and is consistent with instrumental motivation, as described in subsection 2.5.1.
As to the participants’ response on anxiety before writing a test or when speaking in front of others, once again the majority replied that they do experience anxiety. One participant replied, “I even start to shake” and another “Yes, because I always want to do well”. The responses varied about the specific classroom situations they thought
provoked anxiety and they were:
(FGM101) “An anxious teacher”.
(FGM102) “Not knowing my fellow students and feeling shy in front of them.” (FGF107) “I am shy and it makes me nervous”.
(FGF108) “Exams and not having enough time to study”.
(FGM109) “I am very shy and do not like to speak a lot”.
(FGF110) “A little, I feel nervous because my English is not good”.
Interpretation: The respondents also indicated varying reasons they thought were responsible for anxieties in the classroom. Some replied, “Sometimes the teacher, sometimes others when they laugh at me and my accent, because I am from Egypt” and “Being scared of a teacher, or just being unsure what to say” and yet another replied, “In the beginning I’m scared of the teacher, then I relax”. Others responded, “Exams. I like to do well”, Results. I want to do well, so I get stressed out completely” and “Thinking that I am not going to do well in a test or speak well in front of others”.
As to how they coped with anxiety, participants replied:
(FGM101) “I try to stay calm”.
(FGM102) “Try to listen carefully and correct my mistakes”.
(FGF104) “I wait until the teacher walks past me and then I ask her to check my work and correct it, so I don’t feel too embarrassed.
(FGF105) “Oh, when I feel very nervous, I move around on my chair, but it is getting better”.
(FGF108) “I study hard and come prepared for a test. It works for me”.
(FGM109) “It is getting better all the time. Especially if I get to know the teacher and other students better”.
Interpretation: This indicated that external factors such as unfamiliarity with a lecturer, or internal factors like personality, or fear for an approaching test or examination, contribute to learners’ anxieties within the language learning classroom, and is consistent with learners’ anxieties as described in subsection 2.7.2.
When asked to respond to the question if they felt that lecturers were doing enough to accommodate the learning process and how it was being done, a few responded that they needed more practice in speaking English and improving writing skills. Only one responded with, “I would like to see more IT skills introduced. It might help all of us a lot”.
When asked how they felt about lecturers’ handling of males and females in one classroom, the majority accepted the situation. The participants responded with, “It is good for us to be in a class with men and women. Now we can all talk and I am beginning to feel more comfortable” and “It was not easy for me in the beginning. But now I am fine and talk to the ladies next to me”. Most of the ladies, however replied that they are comfortable with the present situation of being in a class with men as well.
Interpretation: This could be because some ladies were more mature and some were already married and did not feel intimidated by male presence.
When asked how they would like to be taught English and what would make the situation more acceptable for them as learners, the responses varied. The majority would like to get more practice in speaking and writing, and replied with, “More practise with speaking and writing” and “A lot more of everything for me.” One in particular wanted “Grammar exercises. I don’t want to do spelling. The computer has a spell checker and a lot more writing is done on it” and another replied, “Like I said before, perhaps if we can don on-line exercises, it will help”.
Interpretation: This indicated that some learners needed a lot more practice to improve their communicative and writing skills, and some learners have become more aware of the advances and benefits of technology to aid language learning.
The following findings were obtained from the second focus group interviews with the
same group of adult male and female learners:
When asked how they feel they now learn English, participants responded with, “I now have many skills to improve my English”, “I am not shy to speak anymore and I now have a better structure to write letters” and “I feel a lot more relaxed and I think, because I am more relaxed, I actually learned more”.
When asked the second time around about the strategies they employed during
language learning, the responses varied:
(FGM201) “I still use my previous knowledge to help me.” (FGM202) “I find that I still use my knowledge of Arabic and French to help me, but then I have to remember to change the word order and not use direct translations.” (FGF203) “I just have to study and understand the work.” (FGF207) “I do memorise certain things, but I have to study them to remember.” (FGF208) “If I understand something, it is a lot easier to remember.” This indicated that adult language learning occurs when learners use existing knowledge as a foundation for future learning, as discussed in subsection 2 4.1 2.
When these focus group participants were tested on the use of phonologically familiar words and phonologically unfamiliar words, (as referred to in subsection 2.2.2), the three males performed slightly better than the females. This indicated that for this study, the theory that women outperformed men on learning both phonologically familiar and phonologically unfamiliar words could not be accepted.
4.4.4 Research findings related to individual interviews with three lecturers Teaching English as a second or foreign language to adult male and female learners from different nationalities requires experienced English language lecturers. As the main objective of this study was to explore the gender differences in language acquisition of adult learners, the responses of these three lecturers were particularly useful. It was of interest to this study to get these lecturers’ individual perspectives on learners’ differences in cognitive learning styles, motivation towards studying English, the strategies learners employ during language acquisition and anxieties learners experience during English language acquisition. These lecturers were all qualified TEFL lecturers, and each with more than six years experience in English language teaching.
The participants answered as follows to the question, “How, in your opinion, do you think learners acquire English?” (ILF01) “Well, I can only speak about the situation of teaching English in Qatar, ok, but I found that here, a lot of repetition and drilling and trying word association and practise.” (ILF02) “I think a lot of learners think they can acquire English simply by being present.