This questionnaire may be used to help you identify the characteristics, strategies and techniques of a successful language learner in your class. It is best if you do it in an interview format, to enable you to add questions where appropriate, to individualise it and to gain a deeper insight. Remember, every learner is different, and what works for one student may not work for another.
The questionnaire is in three sections:
Part One: Background and previous knowledge
Part Two: Language learning strategies
Part Three: Feelings and motivation
Adapted from Naiman et al (1978), Reiss (1985) & Wingate (2000). Please see the references at the end of this paper to obtain complete versions of each of these three questionnaires.
Part I Background & Previous Knowledge
Residence in childhood:
10) Have you ever taken an IQ test? And if so, what result did you get?
Present and previous occupations:
What is your native language?
13) Which languages were spoken in your home as a child?
14) Which languages were spoken in your neighborhood when you were a child?
Which was the first foreign language you learned?
a. When did you
start and how long did you learn
and under what circumstances did you learn
c. When you learned , what did you study? Grammar? Speaking?
you remember what kind of text-books you used, if any?
e. Did the
teacher speak in the foreign language most of the time?
you have to speak a lot yourself or did you mainly read and/or translate?
g. Do you remember
what kind of homework you had to do?
h. Did you have any
contact outside the classroom/your home with speakers of that language?
you listen to the radio or watch films or TV in the foreign language?
motivated you to learn
k. After how long
do you think you were fluent (if you became fluent)?
you tell me how well you know this language now
or when you were at your best?
(Repeat for all other languages learned)
16) If you had to
describe your knowledge of
.. now, which
of these statements would be most appropriate?
17) Do you consider
yourself to be :
yourself to be :
a. a gifted
b. an above average
c. an average
d. a poor language
18) Do you have a good
19) What do you
a. a. I remember what I see. I memorize by picturing.
I have problems remembering verbal instructions.
b. I remember words or what I hear.
I memorize by repeating words in my head.
c. I remember an overall impression of what I experience.
I memorize by doing.
a. 20) Do you consider yourself to be:
a. an assertive person
b. an assertive person most of the time
c. neither assertive nor timid
d. timid most of the
21) Please think of at
least five adjectives to describe your personality.
22) Do you like to take the language apart and analyze it? Do you like to figure out the language on your own or would you rather have the teacher tell you the rules?
23) Do you think that your success at learning the foreign language so successfully is due to the teacher? Or did it have something to do with the environment? Or would you say that you developed some special study habits? Or do you have some particular personal characteristics that helped you in learning?
1) Some people say that you cannot make a conscious effort to learn a foreign language. They hate to study grammar and say you must simply allow the language to sink in gradually.
Others argue that language learning is a conscious and systematic process. It is necessary to study hard, practise, and constantly ask for explanations and rules.
Which idea do you believe in?
people think that to learn a new language you must completely forget your native language. Others say you cannot and should not. To what extent do you find that comparing your
native language with the foreign language helps you to learn a new language?
To what extent do you find translations useful?
b. Would you prefer to use a
bilingual or monolingual dictionary?
Do you feel that you can actually
learn to think in the foreign language?
If yes, how do you think you might achieve that?
How important do you think it is?
4) To what
extent did you find that your learning was influenced by your previous language learning
experience? Do you think that knowing another foreign language was an
advantage or a disadvantage when learning a new language?
Do you think that knowing another foreign language was an
advantage or a disadvantage when learning a new language?
When learning a new language, do you learn:
a. by listening,
talking to others and talking to yourself in your head.
You try things out by talking them through before doing them.
b. by seeing. You need an overall view and purpose. You are cautious until mentally clear. You like to see something first, then do it.
c. by doing, by
manipulating things. You like `hands on`
experience. You do it first, then talk about
it or see it being done.
6) Are you
good at mimicry? Can you easily copy
7) Have you
developed any language
study habits (gimmicks, tricks, ways, techniques) that you find useful in learning a new
a. in learning the sound system,
aloud to yourself (in front of the mirror), repeating words silently to yourself after the
b. in learning the grammar
memorizing rules through humorous rhymes, etc., forming hunches about regularities and
rules and then applying them etc.
c. in learning vocabulary
repetition, by finding relations between words, writing down words, memorizing by
picturing, guessing from the context, rhyming, making vocabulary lists etc.
d. in developing listening comprehension
listening to records, to the radio, by vowing to think/listen in the foreign language, by
focusing your attention on the task and clearing your mind, by assessing your previous
knowledge of the topic, by monitoring yourself (Am I getting this?), by expressing
e. in learning to talk
contact with native speakers, by insisting on constant correction, by imagining dialogues
in your mind, by talking to yourself, using
learning to read
reading magazines or books, by pointing while reading, reflecting the story with body
movements and feelings while reading, by saying words in your head, etc.
g. in learning how
to express yourself in written form
writing to a pen-pal, by writing and talking at the same time, etc.
h. in learning how
counting out letters with body movements (like moving your finger), by checking spelling
with internal feelings, by spelling words as they sound phonetically, etc.
What about when trying to remember a new aspect of grammar, like a
conjugation, or a complicated tense? How do you remember it, do you think?
8) How is your spelling
? Do you ever spell phonetically? Or did you when you were
9) If you are reading
a sentence in the foreign language with several words unfamiliar to you, do you:
a. first try to
guess the word from the context
b. first look up
some words and try to guess the others
c. look up all the words you do not know
10) When you hear
the foreign language and you do not understand several words, do you:
a. make do with what you understand and guess
b. occasionally guess a missing word from the
c. concentrate on those words you already
When you hear two people speaking in a foreign language, do you:
a. pay attention
first to the meaning, using clues such as gestures, relationship of speakers, tone of
b. feel satisfied
if you understand an occasional word or phrase
c. hear the
12) When you hear or read
something in the foreign language and you only understand part of it and have to guess the
rest, are you:
a. fairly correct in your
b. occasionally correct in
c. rarely correct in your
13) When someone (like a
teacher) speaks in the foreign language, and you do not understand a good part of the
message, do you:
a. make do
with what you have and consider it a challenge to guess the rest
uncomfortable, but try to figure it out
frustrated and give up
14) When you are trying
to say something in
.. and you suddenly lack the necessary vocabulary, do you:
a. use circumlocution, i.e. say where you
buy things if you dont know the word for shop
b. skip the word(s) or change the message
c. stop speaking
When you have learned some new expressions in a foreign language, do you:
a. try to use them in "real life"
b. practice them
while mentally speaking to yourself
c. practice them
only when preparing for a test or an interview
16) When you need to
learn some new items in a foreign language, do you remember them by:
a. associating with
another word or expression in your own language
b. forming an aural (sound) image
c. writing them down and memorizing them
17) If you are saying
something in a foreign language and you cannot think of the proper tense, e.g.. you are
talking about the past but only remember the present tense of the verb, do you:
a. try to make yourself understood by using a
word such as yesterday and using the present tense of the verb
b. use the infinitive or present verb hoping
the listener will understand
c. use your native language for the missing
18) If you have an
opportunity to practice the foreign language you are studying with a native speaker, do
a. plunge right in, even
though you may appear foolish
b. only speak the foreign language
with the person after you have known him/her for some time
c. speak only your native language
19) While listening to
another learner of the foreign language, do you:
a. correct any mistakes
b. mentally correct the mistakes, but let
the teacher or someone else actually do it
c. listen passively
20) Do you often correct
native speakers of your own language, either to their face or in your head?
21) When you come across
a structure in the foreign language that you have not yet covered and the teacher says
will be explained later on, do you:
a. accept this as part of the
language learning process
b. accept it, but feel
uncomfortable about it
c. get frustrated because you
want everything explained
When you try to memorize part of a dialogue, do you:
a. use rhyming or acronyms
b. practice by writing the vocabulary and
c. repeat and memorize the vocabulary
When you meet someone who speaks the foreign language, do you:
a. start a conversation in the foreign language
b. use the foreign language only if the other person
starts the conversation
c. keep your knowledge of the foreign language to yourself, and answer in your native tongue
24) If you see someone struggling to speak in your own language and you recognize by his/her accent that he/she is a native speaker of English, do you:
a. come to his/her aid immediately by
addressing him/her in English
b. wait and see if the person can manage,
because you generally dont address strangers
c. feel shy and walk away from the
When you are speaking in English, do you:
a. try to get the meaning across first without worrying about being correct, and by using gestures, synonyms etc
b. worry about being correct rather than the
c. say as little as possible
26) Which of these
activities are you most likely to do when studying a foreign language?
material; i.e. vocabulary, grammar, etc., and writing it on index cards.
yourself and listening to
closely in class and mentally answering questions whether you are called on or not.
4. Guessing, when
listening or reading the foreign language using contextual and structural clues.
5. Writing the
material many times.
6. Applying new
material mentally (silently speaking to yourself).
7. Singing the new
8. Practicing what
you have learned with a friend or native speaker.
9. Having a friend
test you on the material.
10. Looking for opportunities to use the
11. Remembering by making mental
associations in English.
12. Remembering by making up rhymes.
13. Remembering by using acronyms.
14. Listening to other learners of the
language and mentally correcting their errors.
15. Making up your own examples and testing
16. Summarizing each chapter in the
17. Translating everything into English.
18. Reading over notes taken in class after
19. Other (please explain).
PART III - Feelings and Motivation
The following questions concern your feelings about your language learning experience.
Many language learners feel very negative about their learning experiences. They say they feel discouraged, frustrated,
impatient, or confused by the difficulties of learning a language.
ever experienced any of these feelings? Can
Others say they feel shy or
embarrassed expressing themselves in the foreign language.
ever felt this way? Can you explain?
Can you explain?
4) If you have experienced some of these feelings, what did you do to overcome them?
When you are learning a language, are you usually:
motivated, and do everything possible to learn the language.
b. quite motivated,
and try to do what you can to learn the language, but it is not your priority.
c. not very
motivated, because you are too busy or tired to concentrate on it. You are learning out of necessity.
d. not very
motivated, because you find learning languages boring.
Do you give yourself encouragement, by saying things to yourself like:
Im doing okay or Im right, I know it.
Do you have any other comments about your language learning experiences that you would like to tell me?
Naiman, N., M. Frohlich, A. Todesco (1978) The Good Language Learner. Toronto: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.
Reiss, M. (1985), The Good Language Learner: Another Look. The Canadian Modern Language Review 41/3, pp512-523.
Wingate, J. (2000), Learning Preferences. English Teaching Professional , 17, pp31-32
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