VietTESOL International Convention, VietTESOL International Convention 2018

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Developing Autonomy in Vietnamese EFL/ESL Students – Building a Sense of Language Learner Ownership
Bill McDonald

Last modified: 2018-10-08


Language acquisition is difficult; it is especially difficult when acquiring a second language that is drastically different from one’s L1, and even more so when the L2 is not a majority language where learning is taking place.  Research suggests that it takes 10,000 hours of learning, study and practice to become an expert at anything. For the sake of this discussion we equate “being an expert” with “being fluent”; fluency has many definitions.  In this context “fluent” is defined as the ability of a communicator’s speaking and writing to be understood at least 80% of the time and being able to understand at least 80% of what she hears and reads.  A university student majoring in English who enrolls in 12 hours of language classes weekly for 12 weeks each semester, and completes two semesters per academic year, completes 288 hours a year.  Over a four-year period 1152 hours of language learning is accumulated; significantly less than the 10,000 hours suggested by many linguists.  The pressure on lecturers to teach in order to produce fluent students, and on students to acquire acceptable fluency is tremendous.  The enormity of the task and the low probability of success encourages cutting corners, lowering learning goals and cheating.  Except for a few so-called “high-level learners”, students have little likelihood of success. This paper will discuss how in an increasingly “teacher-learner centered pedagogical environment”, developing each student’s autonomy in learning English is crucial for moving the likelihood of acquiring fluency from possible to probable.


autonomy, motivation