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Factors affecting L2 learning

A good language learner:

 is a willing and accurate guesser
 constantly looks for patterns in the language
 enjoys grammar exercises
 has an above-average IQ
 has good academic skills
 has a good self-image and lots of confidence
 analyses his/her own speech and the speech of others
 practices as often as possible
 is willing to make mistakes
Research on learner characteristics
 Motivation & L2 learning – how would you explore a
potential link between the two?
 Potential problems/research limitations?
 What is problematic about the following questionnaire
Do you willingly seek out opportunities to interact with
native speakers and if so, how often?
 Correlation between the two factors – one way?
 How is language proficiency defined and measured?
L2 Proficiency - Cummins
 Basic interpersonal communication skills (BICS) –
oral fluency, sociolinguistic appropriateness

 Cognitive/academic language proficiency (CALP)

– linguistic knowledge, literacy skills
 Related to the development of L2 reading, grammar
and vocabulary, but not to oral productive skills

 An important factor in formal L2 instruction (in L2

classrooms), not so much in informal settings (CALP
and not BICS)
Howard Gardner
 Modern Language Apptitude Test (MLAT)
 Pimsleur Language Apptitude Battery (PLAB)

1. the ability to identify and memorise new sounds

2. the ability to understand how words function
grammatically in sentences
3. the ability to figure out grammatical rules from L2
4. memory for new words
Select the letter of the word in the second sentence that
plays the same role in that sentence as the underlined
word in the key sentence.
 Sample: JOHN took a long walk in the woods.
Children in blue jeans were singing and dancing in the park.

1. John said THAT Jill liked chocolate.

In our class, that professor claimed that he knew that girl on
the television news show.
Personality factors




 GLOBAL self-esteem – the assessment of self-worth over a
period of time and across a number of situations; relatively
stable in a mature adult

 SITUATIONAL (specific) self-esteem – one’s self-appraisals

in particular life situations (at work, at home, social
interactions, etc.) or on certain traits (intelligence,
communicative ability, etc.)

 TASK self-esteem – a particular task in a specific situation

(e.g. geography, writing, a special classroom exercise)
Self-esteem (chicken or egg?)
 Does high self-esteem cause language
success, or is it the other way around?

 Should the teacher “improve” global self-

esteem or simply improve a learner’s
proficiency and let self-esteem take care of
 Inhibition serves to protect a fragile (language) ego

 Students who were given alcohol before doing a

pronunciation test in Thai did a lot better than the
control (sober) group

 People learn from their mistakes, but they are also

detrimental to people’s egos. Create learning
contexts where students will feel free to take risks.
 It is associated with feelings of uneasiness, frustration, self-
doubt, apprehension or worry
 TRAIT anxiety – a more permanent predisposition, some
people are generally anxious about a lot of things
 STATE anxiety – connected to some particular event or act
 In a language classroom we have: communication
apprehension, fear of negative social evaluation and test
 Debilitative and facilitative anxiety – harmful and
Extraversion and introversion
 Extraversion and introversion stereotypes – gregarious
people, life of the party vs. quiet and reserved people?
 Extroverts: they need to receive ego enhancement from
other ppl; not necessarily loud-mouthed and talkative
 Introverts: they derive a sense of wholeness and
fulfillment within themselves; an inner strength of
 Extroverts are not necessarily good language learners,
although extraversion may help develop the oral
communicative competence, but not listening, reading
and writing.
Defining motivation
(Principles of Language Learning and
Teaching by Brown, 2000)
Characteristics of motivated learners
(In A course in Language Teaching by Penny Ur, 1999)
 Positive task orientation – the S wants to tackle a task and has
confidence in his/her success
 Ego-involvement – it’s important for the S to succeed in his/her
learning to promote his/her (positive) self-image
 Need for achievement – the need to achieve something, to overcome
 High aspirations – the S is ambitious, wants to get good grades, goes
for demanding challenges
 Goal orientation – the S is very aware of the goals of learning and
directs his/her attention towards achieving them
 Perseverance – investing effort in learning, not being discouraged by
 Tolerance of ambiguity – the S is not frustrated by temporary lack of
understanding or confusion.
Types of motivation
 Extrinsic motivation: external incentives (Ss want to
please their parents, they want to do well in an
external exam, etc.)

 Intrinsic motivation: the urge to learn for its own

sake / self-perceived needs & goals (cognitive drive).

challenge (i+1)
Types of motivation
 Integrative: some people what to integrate into the target
language culture
 Instrumental: someone who learns a language for their
career or other personal advantages (language is “an
instrument” to them); (Gardner & Lambert, 1972)
 Global: overall orientation towards the learning of L2
 Situational: varies according to the situation in which
learning takes place (the classroom, the environment, etc.)
 Task: for performing particular learning tasks (Brown, 1987)
Increasing intrinsic motivation
in learners
Arousing learner interest in task:
 Varied topics and tasks
 Visuals
 Tension and challenge
 Entertainment
 Information gap
 Personalisation (Ur, 1991: 281)
 Building rapport with students
 Building learners’ self-confidence and autonomy
Learner attitudes towards:
 the target language
 target language speakers
 the target language culture
 the social value of learning L2
 themselves as members of their own culture
Attitudes - characteristics
 Cognitive and affective component
 Intensity
 Guide behaviour
 Learnt
 Relatively stable
Research methods
 Indirectly:
- Semantic Differential Technique

- Identity Scale (Spolsky, 1969)

 Directly:
- Questionnaires (social desirability)
Learning styles
Age of acquisition
 Critical period for L2 acquisition?

 Patkowski (1980): the spoken English of 67 highly

educated immigrants to the United States

 Johnson & Newport (1989): 46 Chinese and Korean

speakers, students and faculty at an American
Age of acquisition
 Snow & Hoefnagel-Höhle (1978): English speakers
learning Dutch as L2
• Pronunciation
• Auditory discrimination
• Morphology
• Sentence repetition task
• Sentence translation
• Sentence judgement task
• Peabody picture vocabulary test
• Story comprehension task
• Storytelling
Task Child Adolescent Adult
Pronunciation Y Y X
Auditory XY
Morphology XY
Sentence XY
Sentence XY
Sentence XY
Peabody pic voc XY
Story Y X
Storytelling Y X
Social class
 Strong correlation between socio-economic status
and achievement; differences in attitudes
(Burstall, 1975; 1979)

 Advantaged group – higher L1 (Hebrew) cognitive

academic proficiency – better English (Olshtain et
al., 1990)

 Formal language learning: middle-class children

better; Immersion: social class no effect
Ethnic identity
3 perspectives:

 Normative (cultural distance)

 Socio-psychological (attitudes)

 Socio-structural (inter-ethnic communication)

Socio-psychological: Lambert (1974)

Ethnic identity Target culture

Additive biling. + +
Subtractive b. - +
Semilingualism - -
Monolingualism + -
Socio-structural perspective
 Accommodation theory (Howard Giles)

Interethnic communication

convergence divergence
(social cohesion) (social distinctiveness)