Volume 23, Issue 1
  • ISSN 0169-7420
  • E-ISSN: 2213-4883
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This paper deals with the procedures followed to identify the strategies in the Nijmegen project on the use of compensatory strategies by Dutch learners of English. The project aims to shed light on the relationship between foreign language proficiency level and compensatory strategy (CpS) use. For this purpose three groups of fifteen Dutch learners of English, of three different proficiency levels, were asked to carry out four tasks. Two of the tasks comprised rather formal elicitation techniques; the subjects had to describe concrete and abstract pictures. The two other tasks, a story retell task and an oral interview, were aimed at obtaining more natural language data.To identify the CpS we make use of problem indicators such as pauses, repetitions, intonation, sighs, laughs and ongoing commentary. In addition, it was decided to collect retrospective data from the subjects on the two more natural tasks, as in these tasks CpS are particularly hard to identify, due to the relative inaccessibility of the subject's intended meaning.In this paper criticism of the use of retrospective data is discussed, as well as the conditions (as specified by Ericsson & Simon, 1984) under which retrospective data can be reliably collected. A description of our procedures goes to show that, on the whole, these conditions are met in our case. The usefulness of retrospective data is then illustrated by means of a comparative study of two identification procedures, one with and one without use of retrospective data. The results indicate that the additional use of retrospective data increased the number of identifiable CpS by 33%; raised the degree of confidence which we can put in our identification in 64% of the cases; and enabled us to discover a small number of incorrectly identified CpS. It was therefore concluded that retrospective data can be considered a reliable and valuable resource in the analysis of CpS.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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