Individual Differences in Second Language Learning - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

View by Category
About This Presentation

Individual Differences in Second Language Learning


Individual Differences in Second Language Learning Intelligence Aptitude Learning styles Personality Motivation and Attitudes Identity and ethnic group affiliation – PowerPoint PPT presentation

Number of Views:1146
Avg rating:3.0/5.0
Date added: 13 May 2020
Slides: 39
Provided by: 6649826


Write a Comment
User Comments (0)
Transcript and Presenter's Notes

Title: Individual Differences in Second Language Learning

Individual Differences in Second Language Learning
  • Intelligence
  • Aptitude
  • Learning styles
  • Personality
  • Motivation and Attitudes
  • Identity and ethnic group affiliation
  • Learner beliefs
  • Age of acquisition

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. 55 and do the
  • Then share your opinion with your group
    members. Find three most important and three
    least important learner characteristics.

A good language learner
  • is a willing and accurate guesser
  • tries to get a message across even if specific
    language knowledge is lacking
  • is willing to make mistakes
  • constantly looks for patterns in the language
  • practices as often as possible
  • analyzes his or her own speech and the speech of
  • attends to whether his or her performance meets
    the standards he or she has learned
  • enjoys grammar exercises
  • begins learning in childhood
  • has an above-average IQ
  • has good academic skills
  • has a good self-image and lots of confidence

Before looking at learner characteristics
  • What problems can you see in the following
  • a) Extroverted learners learn a foreign
    language more successfully than introverted
  • b) Low motivation causes low achievement in
    English language learning.

Before looking at learner characteristics
  • Difficulties in research on learner
    characteristics and second language acquisition
  • definition and measurement of variables
  • e.g., willing to make mistakes
  • definition and measurement of language
  • literacy/academic skills vs. conversational
  • correlation vs. causal relationship
  • socio-cultural factors
  • e.g., power relationship between L1 and L2,
  • social/cultural identity

Intelligence (I)
  • 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.

Multiple Intelligences (Howard Gardner, 1993)
  • Linguistic intelligence speaking, using words,
    writing, giving presentations, solving word
  • 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
  • Interpersonal intelligence talking with other
    people, understanding them, using language to
  • Intrapersonal intelligence self-knowledge,
    self-confidence, using language to analyze

Intelligence (II)
  • 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
  • On the other hand, intelligence may play a less
    important role in language learning that focuses
    more on communication and interaction.
  • It is important to keep in mind that
    intelligence is complex and that a person has
    many kinds of abilities and strengths.

Aptitude (I)
  • Aptitude refers to the ability to learn quickly
    (Carroll, 1991) and is thought to predict success
    in learning.
  • It is hypothesized that a learner with high
    aptitude may learn with greater ease and speed.
    (But other learners may also be successful if
    they persevere).
  • Language aptitude tests usually measure the
    ability to
  • identify and memorize new sounds
  • understand the function of particular words in
  • figure out grammatical rules from language
  • memorize new words

Aptitude (II)
  • Research findings
  • Early research revealed a substantial
    relationship between performance on language
    aptitude tests and performance in foreign
    language learning that was based on grammar
    translation or audiolingual methods.
  • However, performance on language aptitude tests
    seems irrelevant to L2 learning with the adoption
    of a more communicative approach to teaching.
  • Successful language learners may not be strong in
    all of the components of aptitude. Learners
    strengths and weaknesses in the different
    components may account for their ability to
    succeed in different types of instructional

Learning Styles
  • Learning style refers to an individuals 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
  • Cognitive learning styles
  • field-independent vs. field-dependent
  • (tendency to see the trees or the forest)
  • right-brain dominance vs. left-brain dominance

Learning Styles
  • field-independent vs. field-dependent
  • Heres a puzzle for you. Look at the row of
    strange shapes below. Can you find what the
    message is?

Can you find the hidden pictures?
Learning Styles
  • field-independent see things more analytically
  • field-dependent see things more holistically
  • Research findings
  • FI is related to classroom language learning that
    involves analysis, attention to details, and
    mastering of exercise, drills, and other focused
  • FD is related to the communicative aspects of
    language learning that require social outreach,
    empathy, perception of other people, and
    communicative skills.
  • 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.

Learning Styles
  • 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.
  • Though we all tend to have one hemisphere that is
    more dominant, it is important to remember that
    the left and right hemispheres need to operate
    together as a team.

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
  • 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.

  • There are a number of personality characteristics
    that may affect L2 learning, such as
  • Extroversion vs. introversion
  • Inhibition vs. risk-taking
  • Anxiety
  • Self-esteem
  • Empathy

Extroversion vs. Introversion
  • Are you more extroverted or introverted?
  • It is often argued that an extroverted person is
    well suited to language learning. However,
    research does not always support this conclusion.
  • 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

Inhibition vs. risk-taking
  • It has been suggested that inhibition discourages
    risk-taking, which is necessary for progress in
    language learning.
  • Inhibition is often considered to be a particular
    problem for adolescents, who are more
    self-conscious than younger learners.
  • Inhibition is a negative force, at least for
    second language pronunciation performance.
  • Be aware that inhibition may have more influence
    in language performance than in language

Anxiety (I)
  • Trait Anxiety vs. State Anxiety
  • Trait anxiety a more permanent predisposition to
    be anxious
  • State anxiety a type of anxiety experienced in
    relation to some particular event or act
    temporary and context-specific
  • More recent research acknowledges that anxiety is
    more likely to be dynamic and dependent on
    particular situations and circumstances.
  • Anxiety can play an important role in L2 learning
    if it interferes with the learning process.

Anxiety (II)
  • Debilitative (harmful) Anxiety vs. Facilitative
    (helpful) Anxiety Not all anxiety is bad and a
    certain amount of tension can have a positive
    effect and facilitate learning.
  • A learners willingness to communicate has also
    been related to anxiety. It is often affected by
    the number of people present, the topic of
    conversation, and the formality of the
  • Willingness to communicate or state anxiety can
    also be affected by learners prior language
    learning use experience, self-confidence, and
    communicative competence.

Conclusions for Personality
  • In general, the research does not show a single
    clearly-defined relationship between personality
    traits and SLA.
  • The major difficulty is that of identification
    and measurement of personality characteristics.
  • Personality variables may be a major factor only
    in the acquisition of conversational skills, not
    in the acquisition of literacy or academic
  • Most research on personality traits has been
    carried out within a quantitative research
    paradigm (i.e., an approach that relies on
    measuring learners scores on personality surveys
    and relating these to language test performance).
    More qualitative research is needed to adequately
    capture the depth and complexity of the

Motivation Attitudes
  • Questions
  • Do positive attitudes and motivation produce
    successful learning or does successful learning
    engender positive attitudes and motivation?
  • Are there other factors that affect both
    attitudes/ motivation and the success of learning?

Motivation Attitudes
  • Types of motivation (in terms of communicative

Purpose Source Intrinsic (Internal) Extrinsic (External)
Integrative The learner wishes to learn L2 for personal growth and cultural enrichment. Someone else (e.g., the learners parents) wishes the learner to know L2 for an integrative reason.
Instrumental The learner wishes to achieve more immediate or practical goals using L2 (e.g., for a career). External power wants the learner to learn L2 for a practical purpose (e.g., a corporation asks its staff to get language training).
Motivation Attitudes
  • 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.

Motivation Attitudes
  • Dörnyei (2001) a process-oriented model of
    motivation that consists of 3 phases
  • choice motivation getting started and setting
  • executive motivation carrying out the necessary
    tasks to maintain motivation
  • motivation retrospection appraisal of and
    reaction to learners performance

Motivation in the Classroom
  • Motivating students into the lesson. The content
    needs to be relevant to their age and level of
    ability, and the learning goals need to be
    challenging yet manageable and clear.
  • Varying the activities, tasks, and materials to
    increase students interest levels.
  • Using cooperative rather than competitive goals
    to increase students self-confidence.
  • Cultural and age differences will determine the
    most appropriate way for teachers to motivate

Identity Ethnic Affiliation
  • The social dynamic or power relationship 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 learners and an EFL
    learners attitude may differ in motivation and

Identity Ethnic Affiliation
  • An imbalanced power relationship between L1 and
    L2 may limit the opportunities learners have to
    practice and to continue to develop the L2.
  • Identities are not static and can change over
    time. Learners identities will impact on what
    they can do and how they can participate in
    classrooms, which affects how much they can
  • The relationship between feelings of ethnic
    affiliation and L2 learners mastery of
    pronunciation can be complex. Learners may want
    to speak with a strong foreign accent to
    maintain their L1 identity.

Learner Beliefs
  • What is your learner belief? How should language
    be learned?
  • 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
  • Learner beliefs can be strong mediating factors
    in learners experience in the classroom.

Learner Beliefs
  • Conclusions
  • 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
  • Teachers can use this information to help
    learners expand their repertoire of learning
    strategies and thus develop greater flexibility
    in their second language learning.

Age of Acquisition
  • The relationship between a learners age and
    his/her potential for success in second language
    learning is complex or controversial.
  • The relationship needs to take into account
  • 1) the learners cognitive development
  • 2) the learners motivation
  • 3) the learners goal for learning L2 (i.e., in
    what aspects of the L2 the learner has achieved)
  • 4) the contexts in which the learner learns L2
    (including quantity quality of language input,
    learning environment, learning time, and
    socio-cultural contexts)

Age of Acquisition
  • Research findings
  • 1) L2 development in informal language learning
    environments where the L2 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/accen
  • 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.

Age of Acquisition
  • Research findings
  • 2) L2 development in formal language learning
    conditions (i.e., classrooms) where the L1 is
    used primarily
  • 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.

Age of Acquisition
  • Conclusions (I)
  • - At what age should L2 instruction begin?
  • Those who support critical period hypothesis
  • 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.

Age of Acquisition
  • Conclusions (II)
  • When the goal is basic communicative ability of
    the TL, rather than native-like mastery, and when
    childrens 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. Older learners may
    be able to make better use of the limited leaning

Age of Acquisition
  • Conclusions (III)
  • Age is only one of the characteristics which
    affects L2 learning.
  • The opportunities for learning (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 that affect both rate of learning and
    eventual success in learning the L2.

  • The research on individual differences is complex
    and the results of the research are not easy to
  • This is because of
  • the lack of clear definitions and methods for
    measuring individual characteristics
  • The fact that the characteristics are not
    independent of one another learner variables
    interact in complex ways.
  • It remains difficult to predict how a particular
    individuals characteristics will influence his
    or her success as a language learner.
  • Teachers should take learners individual
    differences into account and to create a learning
    environment in which more learners can be
    successful in learning an L2.