M. Toyama1, T. Sugawara2

1Bunkyo University & Sophia University (JAPAN)
2Sophia University (JAPAN)
Learning strategies are the thoughts and actions that individuals use to accomplish a learning goal (Chamot, 2004). Every learner uses certain types of learning strategies to a certain level; however, there are differences in the frequency and choice of use among different learners (Chamot & Kupper, 1989). Numerous attempts have been made to identify the factors influencing the strategy use in learning a second or foreign language (L2 or FL), and it became clear that cultures, gender, and proficiency could be factors causing differences in strategy use.

What seems to be lacking, however, is research on pronunciation learning strategy. A few researchers found specific strategies for learning FL pronunciation (e.g. Petersen, 2000); however, Japanese EFL (English as a foreign language) learners' strategy use in learning pronunciation is not yet clear.

The aims of this research are:
1) to assess Japanese EFL university students' strategy use in learning pronunciation by conducting a questionnaire,
2) to analyze their strategy use statistically, and
3) to explore the possible effect of gender and proficiency on their strategy use.

The questionnaire devised in this study was partly based on Oxford’s (1990) Strategy Inventory for Language Learning and Petersen's (2000) Pronunciation Learning Strategies. It comprises 66 statements about pronunciation learning strategies.

The statistical analyses of the responses to the questionnaire (N=85) have shown the following results. First, affective and cognitive strategies were the least favorite while metacognitive and memory strategies were the most favorite among Japanese university learners. Secondly, on the question of gender effects, this study revealed that females reported to use 97 % of the strategies more frequently than males did. Moreover, significant differences by gender in the reported use of social strategies were found. This suggest that Japanese females tend to learn English pronunciation through interaction with others. Thirdly, regarding proficiency effect, advanced students reported to use all of 19 metacognitive strategies, which help learners plan, monitor, and evaluate their learning, more frequently than intermediate students did. Thus, the frequency of use of metacognitive strategies could be a major factor, if not the only one, causing a gap in EFL proficiency.

Finally, factor analyses were conducted and four factors for pronunciation learning strategies were identified:
1) Monitoring & Evaluation,
2) Reasoning & analyzing,
3) Asking for help/clarification, and
4) Interacting with English speakers.

Besides, the participants' scores of a speaking test showed a weak but positive correlation with Factor 1 and 2.

This is the first study reporting the pronunciation strategy use by Japanese EFL learners. These results support the idea that culture, gender, and proficiency may cause differences in strategy use.

[1] Chamot, A. U. (2004). Issues in language learning strategy research and teaching. Electronic Journal of Foreign Language Teaching, 1(1), 14-26.
[2] Chamot, A. U., & Kupper, L. (1989). Learning strategies in foreign language instruction. Foreign Language Annuals, 22, 13-24.
[3] Oxford, R. L. (1990). Language learning strategies: What every teacher should know. Boston, MA: Heinle & Heinle.
[4] Peterson, S. 2000. “Pronunciation learning strategies: A first look”. Unpublished research report. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service ED 450 599, FL 026 618)