Language Awareness can be developed among language learners on a range of different levels. For example, it may focus on awareness of the language learning process itself i.e. how learners learn? Or it may be developed as awareness and understanding of language, the connections between languages and how a language system works; Language awareness may also extend to awareness of language in cultural contexts.
Awareness of the language learning process:
On a cognitive level, this may be awareness of how an individual learner approaches the language learning task, for example, does the learner learn more through listening tasks, reading, writing or speaking tasks? Adopting a proactive approach to language learning requires reflecting on how learners actually learn and which cognitive strategies they use to help the language learning process and make language learning more effective. For example, when trying to learn vocabulary a learner might try note-taking, brainstorming, spidergrams, association charts and become aware of which approach works best for them as an individual learner.
Awareness and understanding of how a language system works:
By developing awareness of the language system and how it operates, the learner can be assisted towards increased independence in problem solving. Learners are assisted to gradually develop the confidence to rely on themselves to approach and solve language problems, by maximising on the language knowledge and skills at their disposal in order to move towards a solution. On a metacognitive level, the development of language awareness in the learning process can help the learner to plan their learning, to monitor progress and to evaluate their language learning. For example, metacognitive strategies can help the learner to monitor and analyse their written language by spotting mistakes in their written work and eventually having the knowledge to correct these mistakes themselves by becoming more aware of how the language system works. This requires an ability to engage in some ‘detective work’ to understand the ‘mechanics’ of the language, to ‘crack the code’ of the language system, in order to ‘decode’ and solve the problem. An example of this is the learner simply asking some key questions such as: is the word masculine or feminine? Is this singular or plural? Is the text written in the present or the future?
Awareness of language in cultural contexts:
Language awareness also extends to the learner’s awareness of language in cultural contexts. Cultural awareness helps the learner user to interpret and attempt to understand how language is used in different ways in the target language culture and in real life scenarios beyond the language classroom. This awareness operates beyond simply understanding the words and sentences presented or the accents encountered – it is an awareness which enables deeper insight and understanding of the culture so that we can gain deeper access on a social and integrative level. Ideally, both language awareness and cultural awareness develop.