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3 Factors Affecting L2 Learning

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  • 1. Factors Affecting Second Language Learning
    • Intelligence
    • Aptitude
    • Personality
    • Motivation and Attitude
    • Learner preferences
    • Learner beliefs
    • Age of acquisition
  • 2. The “Good Language Learner”
    • Are there personal characteristics that make one learner more successful than another?
    • In your experience, as an English learner, which characteristics seem to you most likely to be associated with success in L2 acquisition?
    • (Please turn to p. 50 and do the questionnaire)
    • Then share your opinion with your group members. Find three most important and three least important learner characteristics.
  • 3. Before looking at learner characteristics…
    • Difficulties in research on learner characteristics and SLA:
      • A learner’s language proficiency can be defined and measured in many ways (e.g. * CALP vs. BICS ). That is, there are many ways to define the “success” of language learning .
      • It is not possible to directly observe and measure qualities such as motivation, personality, aptitude, and intelligence. They are just labels of behaviors.
      • These psychological variables are often not independent of one another . Researchers may use the same labels to describe different sets of behavioral traits.
      • A correlation of two factors does not mean that there is a causal relationship between them. That is, the fact that two things tend to occur together does not necessarily mean that one caused the other.
      • *Note: CALP – cognitive/academic language proficiency
      • BICS – basic interpersonal communicative skills
  • 4. Intelligence
    • Intelligence has multiple types:
      • Traditionally, intelligence refers to the mental abilities that are measured by an IQ (intelligence quotient) test. It usually measures only two types of intelligence: verbal/linguistic and mathematical/logical intelligence.
      • There are other types of intelligence such as spatial intelligence, bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, musical intelligence, interpersonal intelligence, and intrapersonal intelligence . (see the handout)
  • 5. Intelligence
    • Linguistic intelligence : speaking, using words, writing, giving presentations, solving word problems.
    • Logical-mathematical intelligence : using numbers, logic, calculations; learning and understanding grammar rules.
    • Spatial intelligence : drawing, painting, using color, art, graphics, pictures, maps, and charts.
    • Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence : muscular coordination, athletic skill, body language, drama and theater.
    • Musical intelligence : using music, tones, hearing; producing the intonation and rhythm of a language.
    • Interpersonal intelligence : talking with other people, understanding them, using language to communicate.
    • Intrapersonal intelligence : self-knowledge, self-confidence, using language to analyze yourself.
  • 6. Intelligence
    • Research findings:
      • Intelligence, especially measured by verbal IQ tests, may be a strong factor when it comes to learning that involves language analysis and rule learning .
      • On the other hand, intelligence may play a less important role in language learning that focuses more on communication and interaction .
  • 7. Intelligence
    • Conclusions:
      • It is important to keep in mind that “intelligence” is complex and that a person has many kinds of abilities and strengths.
      • An individual with strong academic performance does not necessarily mean that s/he is a successful second language learner.
  • 8. Aptitude
    • Aptitude refers to potential for achievement . An aptitude test is designed to make a prediction about an individual’s future achievements.
    • Aptitude for language learning is usually composed of four different types of abilities:
      • The ability to identify and memorize new sounds
      • The ability to understand the function of particular words in sentences
      • The ability to figure out grammatical rules from language samples
      • The ability to memorize new words
  • 9. Aptitude
    • Research findings:
      • Earlier research revealed a substantial relationship between aptitude for language learning and performance in foreign language that was taught with grammar-translation or audiolingual methods .
      • However, aptitude seems irrelevant to L2 learning with the adoption of a more communicative approach to teaching (i.e., with a focus on meaning rather than on form).
  • 10. Aptitude
    • Conclusions:
      • Successful language learners are not necessarily strong in all of the components of aptitude.
      • (e.g., Some may have strong memories but only average ability to figure out grammatical rules.)
      • Teachers can select appropriate teaching approaches and activities based on learners’ aptitude profiles to accommodate their differences in aptitude.
  • 11. Personality
    • There are a number of personality characteristics that are likely to affect L2 learning, such as
      • Extroversion vs. introversion
      • Inhibition vs. risk-taking
      • Self-esteem (self-confidence)
      • Anxiety
      • Empathy
  • 12. Personality
    • Research findings:
      • Some studies have found that learners’ success in language learning is associated with extroversion such as assertiveness and adventurousness , while others have found that many successful language learners do not get high scores on measures of extroversion.
      • Inhibition is a negative force for second language pronunciation performance.
      • However, in general, the research does not show a clearly defined relationship between personality and SLA . The major difficulty is identification and measurement of personality characteristics.
      • Personality may be a major factor only in the acquisition of conversational skills (i.e., oral communicative ability), not in the acquisition of literacy skills (i.e., reading and writing skills).
  • 13. Motivation & Attitude
    • Types of motivation (in terms of communicative needs):
    External power wants the learner to learn L2 for a practical purpose (e.g., a corporation asks its staff to get language training). The learner wishes to achieve practical goals using L2 (e.g., for a career). Instrumental Someone else (e.g., the learner’s parents) wishes the learner to know L2 for an integrative reason. The learner wishes to learn L2 for personal growth and cultural enrichment. Integrative Extrinsic (External) Intrinsic (Internal) Purpose Source
  • 14. Motivation & Attitude
    • Research findings:
      • Both integrative and instrumental types of motivation are related to success in L2 learning. Most L2 learning situations involve a mixture of each type of motivation.
      • Research strongly favors intrinsic motivation , especially for long-term retention. Intrinsically motivated learners are striving for excellence, autonomy, and self-actualization.
  • 15. Motivation & Attitude
    • An individual’s identity and attitudes towards the second language community:
      • Positive learning L2 is enrichment.
      • Negative learning L2 is resentment.
    • Social dynamics and power relationships between L1 and L2.
      • Minority group members learning the language of a majority groups may have different attitudes and motivation from those of majority group members learning a minority language.
      • Think of why an ESL learner’s and an EFL learner’s attitude may differ in motivation and attitude.
  • 16. Motivation & Attitude
    • Motivation in the classroom setting:
      • Motivating students in to the lesson.
      • Varying the activities, tasks, and materials to increase students’ interest levels.
      • Using cooperative rather than competitive goals to increase students’ self-confidence.
      • Creating a supportive and non-threatening learning atmosphere.
  • 17. Learner Preferences (Learning Styles)
    • Learning style :
    • An individual’s natural, habitual, and preferred way of absorbing, processing, and retaining new information and skills (Reid 1995).
    • Types of learning styles related to L2 learning:
      • Perceptual learning styles:
      • visual , aural/auditory , and haptic ( kinesthetic & tactile )
      • Cognitive learning styles:
      • 1) field-independence vs. field- dependence
      • 2) reflectivity vs. impulsivity
      • 3) right-brain dominance vs. left-brain dominance
      • 4) tolerance of ambiguity
  • 18. Learner Preferences (Learning Styles)
    • Perceptual learning styles:
      • Visual learner: learns more effectively through the eyes (seeing).
      • Auditory ( aural ) learners: learns more effectively through the ears (hearing).
      • Haptic learner: learns more effectively through touch and body movement (a combination of the kinesthetic and tactile styles).
      • Kinesthetic learner: learns more effectively through concrete body experience (body movement).
      • Tactile learner: learns more effectively through touch (hands-on).
  • 19. Learner Preferences (Learning Styles)
    • Cognitive learning styles (1):
    • field-independence vs. field-dependence
      • Field independent (FI) learners pick out hidden figures in a complicated drawing more quickly. They tend to perceive elements independently of a context or field and focus on details . They are more analytical .
      • Field dependent (FD) learners are more inclined to see the whole drawing and have difficulty separating it into parts. They tend to perceive the whole field or situation and focus on general meaning . They are more relational .
  • 20. Learner Preferences (Learning Styles)
    • Cognitive learning styles (1):
    • field-independence vs. field-dependence
    • Here’s a puzzle for you. Look at the row of strange shapes below. Can you find what the message is?
  • 21. Learner Preferences (Learning Styles)
    • Cognitive learning styles (1):
    • field-independence vs. field-dependence
    • Research findings:
      • FI is related to classroom language learning that involves analysis, attention to details, and mastering of exercise, drills, and other focused activities ( CALP ).
      • FD is related to the communicative aspects of language learning that require social outreach, empathy, perception of other people, and communicative skills ( BICS ).
      • FI/FD may also prove to be a valuable tool for differentiating child and adult language acquisition due to the fact that FI increases as a child matures to adulthood .
  • 22. Learner Preferences (Learning Styles)
    • Cognitive learning styles (2):
    • reflectivity vs. impulsivity
      • Reflective learners tend to make a slower, more calculated decision. They are usually more systematic and more cautious in learning L2.
      • Impulsive learners tend to make a quick or gambling guess at an answer to a problem. They are usually more intuitive and more willing to take risks in learning L2.
  • 23. Learner Preferences (Learning Styles)
    • Cognitive learning styles (3):
    • right-brain vs. left-brain dominance
      • The right brain perceives and remembers visual, tactile, and auditory images. It is more efficient in processing holistic , integrative , and emotional information.
      • The left brain is associated with logical , analytical thought , with mathematical and linear processing of information.
    • *Note: Though we all tend to have one hemisphere that is more dominant, it is important to remember that the left and right hemispheres operate together as a “team”. Most best solutions to problems are those in which each hemisphere has participated optimally.
  • 24. Learner Preferences (Learning Styles)
    • Cognitive learning styles (4):
    • ambiguity tolerance
      • The person who is tolerant of ambiguity is willing to accept innovative and creative possibilities and not be cognitively or affectively disturbed by ambiguity and uncertainty.
      • In second language learning a great amount of apparently contradictory or ambiguous information is encountered (e.g., words, grammatical rules, and cultural systems in the L2 differ from the L1). Successful language learning requires tolerance of such ambiguities, at least for interim periods.
      • However, too much tolerance of ambiguity can have a detrimental effect . People can become “wishy-washy” and may make many mistakes without awareness when using the second language.
  • 25. Learner Preferences (Learning Styles)
    • Research findings and implications:
      • Every person, student or teacher, has a learning style; therefore, there is no particular teaching or learning method that can suit the needs of all learners.
      • Learning styles exist on wide continuums , although they are often described as opposites.
      • Learning styles are value-neutral ; that is, no one style is better than others .
      • Very little research has examined the interaction between different learning styles and success in L2 learning; however, students should be encouraged to “stretch” their learning styles so that they will be more empowered in a variety of leaning situations.
  • 26. Learner Beliefs
    • Virtually all learners, particularly older learners , have strong beliefs about how their language instruction should be delivered.
    • Learner beliefs are usually based on previous learning experiences and the assumption that a particular type of instruction is better than others.
  • 27. Learner Beliefs
    • Research findings:
    • The available research indicates that learner beliefs can be strong mediating factors in learners’ L2 learning process.
    • e.g., L2 learners’ progress was negatively affected by an instructional approach that was not consistent with their beliefs about the best ways for them to learn.
  • 28. Learner Beliefs
    • Implications:
      • Learners’ preference for learning , whether due to their learning styles or to their beliefs about how language are learned, will influence the kinds of strategies they choose to learn new material.
      • Teachers can use this information to help learners expand their repertoire of learning strategies and thus develop greater flexibility in their second language learning.
  • 29. Age of Acquisition
    • The relationship between a learner’s age and his/her potential for success in second language learning is complicated .
    • The relationship needs to take into account
    • 1) the stage of L2 development , 2) the goals of learning L2 (i.e., In what aspects of the L2 the learner has achieved), and 3) the context in which the learner learns L2 (including language input, learning environment, and socio-cultural context).
  • 30. Age of Acquisition
    • Research findings:
      • 1) L2 development in informal language learning environments where the TL is used primarily:
      • Children can eventually speak the L2 with native-like fluency, but their parents and older learners (i.e., post-puberty learners) are hard to achieve such high levels of mastery of the spoken language , especially in pronunciation/accent .
      • Adults and adolescents can make more rapid progress toward mastery of an L2 in contexts where they can make use of the language on a daily basis in social, personal, professional, or academic interaction.
  • 31. Age of Acquisition
    • Research findings:
      • 2) L2 development in formal language learning environments (i.e., classrooms):
      • In the early stages of the L2 development, older learners (adolescents and adults) are more efficient than younger learners (children).
      • Learners who began learning an L2 at the elementary school level did not necessarily do better in the long run than those who began in early adolescent.
      • It is more difficult for post-puberty learners to attain native-like mastery of the spoken language , including pronunciation , word choice , and some grammatical features .
  • 32. Age of Acquisition
    • Conclusions (I):
      • - At what age should L2 instruction begin?
      • Those who support critical period hypothesis (CPH):
      • Younger is better (particularly in the phonological achievement)
      • Those who consider that the age factor cannot be separated from factors such as motivation , social identity , and the conditions for learning :
      • Older learners may well speak with an accent because they want to keep their L1 identity , and the language input for adults is different from that for children because they rarely get access to the same quantity and quality of language input that children receive in play setting.
  • 33. Age of Acquisition
    • Conclusions (II):
      • When the goal is basic communicative ability of the TL, rather than native-like mastery, and when children’s native language remains the primary language , it may be more efficient to begin L2 or FL learning later (e.g., in early adolescence – at age 10, 11, or 12).
      • When learners receive only a few hours of instruction per week, those who start later often catch up with those who began earlier.
      • One or two hours a week will not produce very advanced L2 speakers, no matter how young they were when they began learning.
  • 34. Summary
    • 1. Age is only one of the characteristics which affects the learner’s L2 learning. The opportunities for learning (i.e., context - both inside and outside the classroom), the motivation to learn, and individual differences in intelligence , aptitude , personality , and learning styles have also been found to be important determining factors in both rate of learning and eventual success in learning.
  • 35. Summary
    • 2. The study of individual learner variables is not easy and the results of research are not entirely satisfactory, partly because of the lack of clear definitions and methods for measuring the individual characteristics and partly because of the complex interactions of those characteristics . Thus, it remains difficult to make precise predictions about how a particular individual’s characteristics influence his/her success as a language learner.
  • 36. Summary
    • 3. Implications for second language teaching :
    • Even though the research findings are not conclusive in the relationship between personal factors and second language learning, teachers should take learners’ individual aptitudes, personalities, and learning styles into account to create a learning environment in which virtually all learners can be successful in learning a second language.
  • 37. The End
    • Now review the diagram of
    • Learner Characteristics .
    • http://www2.nkfust.edu.tw/~emchen/SLA/intro.htm