In literature, language loss and language attrition have been used interchangeably, but it seems that language attrition is preferable to language loss because language loss implies that linguistic information becomes inaccessible to the individual.
Weltens and Gurel (2004) are of the opinion that attrition is preferable to loss since many psychologists purport that something which is committed to long term memory cannot ever be really removed from it. So, many researchers consider “loss” as a misnomer since it suggests disappearance of information from memory.
De Bot, Gommans and Rossing (2000, as cited in Murtagh, 2003, p.24) state that “time alone cannot explain decline in skills; rather it is the combination of the lack of language contact and use during that time which brings about the change”.
Van Els (1986, as cited in Kopke and Schimd, 2004) has classified attrition studies into the following categories:
L1 loss in L1 environment: Dialect loss
L1 loss in L2 environment: Immigrant
L2 loss in L1 environment: Foreign language attrition
L2 loss in L2 environment: Language reversion in elderly people
Language attrition has been studied for two reasons. First, researchers have taken interest in knowing attrition processes and second, it has got considerable pedagogical implications (Hansen, 2001a). This variability in attrition studies can be attributed to duration of the period of disuse, original proficiency level, attitude, motivation and some other variables; researchers have also been concerned with the effect of individual, social and affective factors on the rate and amount of attrition because the study of attrition cannot be separated from the social environment in which the individual’s language in undergoing change.
In this research, the researcher used the quantitative method. The objective of quantitative research is to develop and employ mathematical models, theories and hypotheses pertaining to natural phenomena. Measuring is key in quantitative research because it shows the relationship between data and observation (Cohen, Lawrence, Manion, Morrison, 2004).
As there is no treatment in this study and the researcher determines the relationships between the variables. This research compares two groups on the same variables measure. So, the design of this study is quantitative research (ex-post facto).
Ex-post facto method is also called “causal comparative” because its purpose is to investigate cause-and-effect relationships between independent and dependent variables when the researcher cannot randomly assign subjects to different conditions or directly manipulate the independent variable.
The independent variables in this study include both between groups and within-group variables. The between group variables include status with two levels: continuing vs. non-continuing students and level of proficiency with three levels: elementary, intermediate and advanced. The within-group variable include: stages with two levels: stage 1 and stage 2 (the comparison of which shows whether attrition has taken place or not); mode with five levels: lexical density, using grammatical, syntactic complexity, mechanism and organization; nouns with two levels: high and low frequency.
And, the dependent variables include student’s scores in the composition test across modalities and contexts.
L1 Attrition vs. L2 Attrition Variables Independent Variables Dependent Variables Between Group Within Group Stage Aspects of Writing Status Proficiency Level Student’s score in lexical density Student’s score in grammatical morphemes Student’s score in syntactic complexity Student’s score in noun frequency Student’s score in mechanics Student’s score in organization
A number of field procedures have been used for collecting information for language learning research, such as questionnaires, interviews, tests, observations, think-aloud, and dairy use.
A test is a procedure used to collect data on subject's ability or knowledge of certain disciplines. In second/foreign language acquisition research, tests are generally used to collect data about the subject's ability and knowledge of second/foreign language in different areas. Composition test will be employed in the present study for data elicitation in two stages between two groups (continuing & non-continuing students) across different proficiency level.
Data of this study was collected in two stages with an interval period of six months. In stage one, all participants will take the composition test. The after period of six months, in stage two, the continuing group (those who attended the classes in the next term) will take the same tests in class and after making sure that the non-continuing students (those who for a variety of reason could not come to classes in the next semester) had no contact with English language during the interval. They will ask to read the instructions very carefully and take the test within the time allowed. Furthermore, they will ask not to look up the meaning of any word in dictionary and consider it as a real test. Finally, to find out the amount of attrition on writing ability, the performance of participants in stage two will be compared with their performance in stage one.
The data collected were coded and entered into Statistical Package for the Social Science [SPSS version 16 for Windows Vista] as a means of analyzing.
Data analysis procedures for this phase of the study include calculating descriptive statistics such as means, standard deviations, frequency distribution and measure of central tendency for whole sample and for subgroups related to variables were utilized to describe the profile of the respondents and for comparison use the t-test and repeated measure ANOVA .