Metacognitive Skills Used in Learning a Second Language

Instructor: Lisa Roundy

Lisa has taught at all levels from kindergarten to college and has a master's degree in human relations.

Metacognitive skills are essential to the acquisition of a second language. In this lesson, we will explain how metacognition is used to enhance learning in the classroom.


You walk into a room. The writing is foreign to you and you don't understand most of what is being said. Your heart starts to beat faster. Luckily, just before panic sets in and you bolt from the room, metacognition comes to the rescue!

Metacognition is a type of reasoning. It helps us evaluate our thinking and use of strategies when we need help understanding. These skills are useful when confronted with a foreign language. The phrase 'It's all Greek to me' came about for a reason - foreign languages can be hard to learn! That is why the development of metacognitive skills is important for students of a second language.

Students need to focus their attention on learning a new language and recognize what thought processes they experience while learning. What do they need to do when they don't understand? How do they choose what strategies to use? What works and what does not work? Metacognitive skills allow learners to plan, control, and evaluate the process.


A plan tells you what you need to accomplish to make a complicated situation more manageable. Planning for the learning process is an important metacognitive skill. When a student understands why they are learning certain information, they are more engaged. This makes the learning process easier because students are thinking about what they are trying to accomplish. Knowing what needs to be accomplished can also help students determine how they will achieve their goals.

A teacher can help students plan for success by stating clear learning objectives. In other words, they should inform the students what they should learn from a lesson before it is taught. The goal should be specific and easy to understand. Goals make it easier for students to gauge how well they are accomplishing a task.

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