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Iranian Non-English Majors' Language Learning
Preferences: The Role of Language Institutes
by Azam Noora
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Once instructors come to know such learner diversities, they can, "if necessary," take into consideration those preferences and plan and implement alternative behaviors and activities in their classes (Barkhuizen, 1998). Even if learners' desires and those of teachers' are in contrast with each other, they can shift to a negotiated syllabus procedure and come to reasonable agreements ( Jordan, 1997).

Although many teachers acknowledge the need to understand the ways in which learners differ in terms of needs and preferences, they may not consult learners in conducting language activities. The basis for such reluctance to cooperate may be that learners are not generally regarded capable of expressing what they want or need to learn and how they want to learn it (Bada & Okan, 2000). Besides, it is argued by many teachers, quite rightly, that in some societies, like Iran, with a top-down curriculum, social roles of teachers and learners are so rigidly drawn that expecting learners to participate in decision-making in the classroom may not be viewed as appropriate(Eslami R. & Valizadeh,2004). The traditional learning styles and habits of the learners may influence learners' perceived self-confidence and their knowledge base to make informed choices in relation to instructional activities. In these contexts promoting learners' participation in the educational process needs to be done with care and sensitivity.

As Cray and Currie (1996) suggest, the important point is that teachers do not have to act on behalf of their learners but with their learners. Attention needs to be given to students' ways of learning and their preferences and unless teachers are aware of those preferences they cannot consider them in their teaching activities and classroom practices.

This study was conducted in order to broaden the scope of studies done in the area of non-English majors’ preferences about English learning, and to include learners of a different profile and in a different socio-cultural context from previous studies. The context of English language teaching in Iran, with its anti-Western sentiments after the Islamic revolution, the limited amount of exposure to English language and relative lack of native English speaking tourists and visitors in the country, is different from the EFL teaching contexts reported in other studies ( e.g., Bada & Okan, 2000; Lin & Warden, 1998). Therefore, it will be insightful to see if similar findings will be reached. This study will give information regarding this particular group of learners' perspectives about English learning and their motivational orientations.

It should be noted that the terms likes or Preferences, following Spratt (1999) and Eslami R. (2004), has been used in its simplest form. Thus, when students prefer a teaching method or focusing on a language skill, it means that they either enjoy it or find it useful.

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