Individual Differences in SLA
How do individuals differ in learning languages?
I.e., what are some ways in which people differ that
might have an effect on SLA?
Four categories of differences:
• Cognitive
• Affective
• Physiological
• Social
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Individual Differences in SLA: Cognitive
Intelligence – IQ tests. What do these tests
measure, and what don’t they measure? How many
kinds of intelligence are there?
Aptitude, the ability to learn quickly. Scholars
suggest that language aptitude consists of:
• phonetic coding ability
• grammatical sensitivity
• rote learning ability for foreign language materials
• inductive language learning ability.
DeKeyser, R. (2000). The robustness of critical
period effects in second language acquisition.
SSLA, 22, 499–533.
2
Individual Differences in SLA: Cognitive
Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency -- The
language ability required for academic achievement;
requires longer to develop than Basic Interpersonal
Communication Skills (BICS).
Cummins, J. (1979) Cognitive/academic language
proficiency, linguistic interdependence, the
optimum age question and some other matters.
Working Papers on Bilingualism, No. 19, 121-129.
3
Individual Differences in SLA: Cognitive
Learning styles – our preferred (natural, habitual,
“without thinking”) way of learning.
• field in / dependence (seeing details as separate
v. seeing holistically)
• reflectivity / impulsivity
• category width (tendency to categorize items
broadly or narrowly)
• analytical / gestalt
• aural / visual
4
Individual Differences in SLA: Cognitive
Learning strategies – the conscious decisions we
make about the learning task.
• metacognitive strategies – advance organizers,
self evaluation, etc.
• cognitive strategies – elaboration, inferencing, and
so on.
• social strategies – scaffolding, cooperation
Carson, J., & Longhini, A. (2002). Focusing on
learning styles and strategies: A diary study in an
immersion setting. Language Learning, 52(2),
401–438.
5
Individual Differences in SLA: Affective
“Personality” in HLAL = Affective differences, which
mean differences related to our feelings or emotions
• Extroversion / introversion – learners’
assertiveness /adventurousness, or lack of same
• Inhibition – note Guiora (1972). What is the
“instrument” used to measure inhibition?
• Tolerance for ambiguity
• Competitiveness
• Self-esteem
• Risk taking
• Sensitivity to rejection
• Empathy
6
Individual Differences in SLA: Affective
“Personality” in HLAL = Affective differences, which
mean differences related to our feelings or emotions
• Anxiety
Elkhafaifi, H. (2005). Listening comprehension
and anxiety in the Arabic language classroom.
Modern Language Journal, 89(2), 206–220.
• Motivation
Wright, M., & McGrory, O. (2005). Motivation and
the adult Irish language learner. Educational
Research, 47(2), 191–204.
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Individual Differences in SLA: Physiological
Age – the critical period hypothesis
DeKeyser, R. (2000). The robustness of critical
period effects in second language acquisition.
Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 22,
499–533.
Hakuta, K., Bialystok, E., & Wiley, E. (2003).
Critical evidence: A test of the critical-period
hypothesis for second-language acquisition.
Psychological Science, 14(1), 31–38.
8
Individual Differences in SLA: Physiological
Gender
Brantmeier, C. (2003). Does gender make a
difference? Passage content and comprehension
in second language reading. Reading in a
Foreign Language, 15(1), 1–27.
9
Individual Differences in SLA: Social
“Identity and ethnic group affiliation” – “social
dynamic or power relationship between languages
[and the people associated with them]” (HLAL, p.
65).
To this, add “socialization”: adjustments required of
learners as they acquire languages situated
differently relative to those social and power
relationships.
Lam, W.S.E. (2004). Second language
socialization in a bilingual chat room: Global and
local considerations. Language Learning and
Technology, 8(3), 44–65.
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Individual Differences in SLA:
Group Presentations
Five or six people per group on:
1. Age – Hakuta, K., Bialystok, E., & Wiley, E.
(2003).
2. Gender – Brantmeier, C. (2003).
3. Anxiety – Elkhafaifi, H. (2005).
4. Motivation – Wright, M., & McGrory, O. (2005).
5. Styles and Strategies – Carson, J., & Longhini,
A. (2002).
6. Socialization – Lam, W.S.E. (2004).
What is the research paradigm and method in the
study?
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Individual Differences - University of Kentucky