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Feb 2019 - Year 21 - Issue 1

ISSN 1755-9715

The Strategy Factor in Successful Language Learning: The Tornado Effect (second edition)


Griffiths, C. (2018). The Strategy Factor in Successful Language Learning: The Tornado Effect (second edition). Bristol: Multilingual Matters

Adem Soruc is based at  Department of Education, Language and Educational Practices, University of Bath, BA2 7AY, United Kingdom. Email:

The second edition of the book The Strategy Factor in Successful Language Learning has been published with its updated title as well as its hypothesized model “The Tornado Effect” – a striking metaphor the author has developed to stress the spiral, non-linear, complex, adaptive, and dynamic nature of successful language learning, strategy use and development depending on the language proficiency level of the learner, strategy type used, and situational or target variables involved. The author starts the introduction section of the book with her bad school experience but impressive success as a twelve-year-old student using learning strategies and passing the exam after hard work. By doing this, she additionally gives a sagacious response to Zoltan Dörnyei’s (2005) question of whether learning strategies exist or not, not only getting support from the findings of recent quantitative studies but also vividly illustrating the natural existence of learning strategies with personal perspectives of strategy experts in the field as well as her own story of language learning strategy use and orchestration when making a request (in Turkish) for someone to take her photograph in one of her travels in Turkey.

The book aims to resolve some of the remaining controversies in the forty-year long research into language learning strategies, in the first chapter providing in-depth, evidence-based, updated, and expanded conceptual discussion of basic concepts, especially of terminology, definition, effectiveness, theoretical underpinnings, classification, and research methodology. For the sake of practising teachers, trainee teachers, teacher trainers, and researchers, the author starts chapter one aiming to resolve some ambiguous terms such as second language or L2, acquisition/learning/development, speakers of other languages, and language learning strategy issues. Distinguishing learning strategies from other types of learner strategies clearly (e.g. communication/compensation/language use strategies) and defining language learning strategies succinctly as actions chosen by learners for the purpose of learning language, the author argues that learners are not idealized theoretical clones of each other but unique individuals who interact with one another and with their environment in distinctive ways and employ combinations of strategies which are all different, but influenced by their individual situations, needs and goals. Given the fact that the learning strategy concept is criticised because of its lack of theoretical underpinning, this book with its new updated edition elucidates the theoretical basis surrounding language learning strategies well, drawing on an eclectic variety of other theories of learning, which thus makes the book important for academics as well as post graduate students in the field of language learning. In addition, in the same chapter, the author mentions difficulties with researching language learning strategies because only a few are observable; however, the book gives detailed information about numerous data collection methods to be used as well as caveats to be considered for collecting data from the “black box”. In addition, the reader can find a considerably expanded and detailed section on data analysis, which makes the book distinctive from other similar books and also essential for postgraduate students as a course book or even as a source book for research methods and data analysis.

The second chapter explains mainly whether language learning strategies are related to successful language learning, and if they are, precisely how. It gives clear answers to some thorny fundamental questions of whether the frequency and quantity of language learning strategies, and strategy types are related to successful language learning, whether learner variables (e.g. motivation, nationality, age, gender, context, goal) pertain to strategy choice, whether strategy use changes over time, and how it is related to progress. After including an extensive review, analysis and re-interpretation of the new quantitative studies (e.g. the TaLLSI study), the author proposes a hypothesized model (the Tornado Effect) of the language learning process, suggesting concisely that the relationship of strategies to effective language learning is spiral, dependent on the learner, learner variables as well as context and aim/goal. The chapter makes multiple suggestions for further research.

Chapter three approaches the strategy issue from the individual language learner’s point of view because according to Selinker (1972) “a theory of second language learning that does not provide a central place for individual differences among learners cannot be considered acceptable (p. 213, author’s italics). In the chapter, the readers are presented with a qualitative multiple case study with 10 students; in addition, we learn about how these successful language learners are sampled and selected for the interviews and how the qualitative data are analysed for detailed reporting. Students’ profiles, their characteristics, their learning difficulties and key strategies they use to deal with the challenges they encounter all give the reader important information about what the good language learner is and what s/he does in the way of learning a foreign language. It is also important to mention that the qualitative findings accord with the quantitative ones in the previous chapter. The chapter ends with qualitative areas for further research.

And finally, chapter four approaches language learning strategy issue from pedagogical perspectives; that is, it gives an updated look at the teachability of strategies, especially pointing out the spiral nature of strategy development. Recent studies about teacher perceptions and strategy instruction are reviewed, and their findings are presented in a detailed manner. In addition, care is suggested when conducting research and training teachers on language learning strategies, especially because of the dynamic nature of the learner, situational and target variables.

With all the appendices including the questionnaires mentioned in the text, the book gives an opportunity to researchers to replicate the studies reported with higher numbers of students in different contexts. And a useful and thorough glossary is included to assist with definition of the concepts covered in the book. In short, reporting concrete findings from both quantitative and qualitative studies, the present updated edition of the book contributes to our understanding of language learning, strategy use and development. In addition, it is written in a very reader-friendly style with emphasis on the human experience of language learning, such that the reader finds him/herself thinking “Aha!! yes, this is also what I have felt/experienced”.


Please check the How to Motivate Your Students course at Pilgrims website.

Please check the How to be a Teacher Trainer course at Pilgrims website.

Please check the English Course for Teachers and School Staff at Pilgrims website.

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