The development of language learning aptitude and metalinguistic awareness in primary-school children: A classroom study

Citation:

Tellier, A., & Roehr-Brackin, K. (2013). The development of language learning aptitude and metalinguistic awareness in primary-school children: A classroom study. Essex Research Reports in Linguistics, 62.

Abstract:

In the typical foreign language classroom, many learners all over the world find themselves in a minimal-input environment. Existing research suggests that in such a setting, adolescents typically outperform younger children. The greater cognitive maturity of older learners manifests itself in greater language learning aptitude, greater metalinguistic awareness, and enhanced capacity for explicit learning. We examined whether the teaching and learning of either Esperanto or French would facilitate the development of language learning aptitude and metalinguistic awareness in 8-9-year-old children (N=28), thus setting the scene for enhanced explicit learning even at a young age. Following instruction in either Esperanto or French over a school year, children made significant gains on measures of aptitude, metalinguistic awareness, and L2 proficiency. Effect sizes in the Esperanto group were larger throughout, however, with greater homogeneity of performance in evidence and a closer association between aptitude, metalinguistic awareness, and L2 proficiency at the end of the treatment. Moreover, Esperanto proved significantly easier to learn than French, with larger gains in L2 proficiency achieved by the Esperanto group compared with the French group. Finally, we found that language-analytic ability emerged as a significant predictor of L2 achievement in the sample as a whole.

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