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LANGUAGE APTITUDE AND LEARNING FOREIGN LANGUAGE

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A QUANTİTATİVE RESEARCH ON LANGUAGE APTITUDE ( INTRODUCTION AND LITERATURE REVIEW )
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  1 LANGUAGE APTITUDE AND LEARNING FOREIGN LANGUAGE 1.   INTRODUCTION Language learning aptitude is the innate and specific talent for learning foreign languages without regard to IQ, motivation and    personality factors ( Dornyei & Skehan, 2003). The notion of foreign language aptitude does not mean that some people are able to learn foreign languages while the others are not. Although all cognitively healthy people have the potential of foreign language learning, the ones with low aptitude may have difficulty in language learning and they learn a foreign language in a longer period of time. According to Carroll (1981), the learners who have language aptitude can learn foreign languages in a short time with ease. The purpose of this quantitative study is to investigate the relationship between foreign language proficiency and foreign language aptitude. Aims of the study include the role of aptitude in students’ success in learning English and what factors influence language learning aptitude. Research Questions The study tries to answer one research question as follows: 1.   How does language learning aptitude relate to students’ achievement in learning English at secondary schools in Adana region? 2. LITERATURE REVIEW Language aptitude is a prominent individual difference for foreign language learning. (Cochran, J. L., McCallum, R. S., & Bell, S. M., 2010). Investigations on language aptitude started in the 1950’s and many empirical investigations have been conducting in different  2 contexts, among various age groups up to now. These investigations aimed to validate of aptitude tests, the relationship between aptitude and L2 proficiency, and the relationship  between aptitude and age. There are two common definitions which are based on different approaches. Carrol and Sapon (2002) emphasized that language aptitude refers to cognitive abilities providing to learn a foreign language with ease. According to this definition, language aptitude is a  powerful individual difference in terms of language learning without regard to instruction type and learning environment. This view represents a product-oriented, static view of language aptitude. On the other hand, Robinson (2005) stated that language aptitude is cognitive abilities in different contexts and stages. According to this view, language aptitude is not independent of context. The view is based on process-oriented, dynamic view of language aptitude. Cronbach and Snow’s (1977) opinion supports the dynamic view of language aptitude, suggesting that aptitude depends on environmental factors and it may be triggered or restricted relying on different learning conditions. Language aptitude becomes an advantage for language learning when there is a harmony between cognitive profile and learning context, th erefore, the context needs to be adjusted according to learners’ variations in order to reveal their language learning potential. 2.1 THE MODERN LANGUAGE APTITUDE TEST The first language aptitude test was evolved by Carroll (1962). Later, he improved the test and invented the Modern Language Aptitude Test (MLAT). The MLAT includes four constituents: (a) phonetic coding ability, (b) grammatical sensitivity, (c) rote learning ability and (d) inductive learning ability ( Skehan, 2002). According to Skehan (2002), the ability of language learning leads to the achievement in foreign language learning. He stated that foreign language learning is different from L1  3 learning. It is a conscious process and relates to perception, analysis, storage and learners’ information-processing system. 2.1.1 Phonemic Coding Ability Phonemic coding ability is related to the efficient auditory progressing of input (Skehan, 1998; 2002). It is especially important at the beginning level of language learning and it considerably influences how much comprehensible input is appropriate to the learner for the next level of progressing ( Skehan, 2002). 2.1.2 Language Analytic Ability Language analytic competence is the competence of deducing rules of learning or making the linguistic generalizations. Skehan (1998) stated that this competence is essential for the information processing. According to Carroll (1962), there are two independent constituents relating to this ability: grammatical sensibility and inductive language analytic competence. Ehrman and Oxford (1995) carried out a research and they obtained the results which revealed that language analytic ability is an important indicator of achievement in foreign language learning. They also found that the most important indicator associating with proficiency is the achievement of the words in sentences subtest of the MLAT. 2.1.3 Memory Working memory is an important constituent of language aptitude. It refers to the cognitive capacity to temporarily storing and managing information (Harrington & Sawyer, 1992). It is also called short-term memory. There are three constituents to working memory: the central executive, the phonological loop, and the visual-spatial sketchpad. The capacity of the central executive is limited and it is responsible for the progressing and storage of information at the same time. Phonological loop capacity is the indicator of L1 and L2 vocabulary acquisition  4 (Gathercole & Baddeley, 1989; 1990). Phonological working memory is also associated with the grammatical ability (Ellis & Sinclair, 1996). There is also a strong relationship between working memory and L2 reading competence. Harrington and Sawyer (1992) carried out a research and they came to a conclusion that learners who have higher working memory capacity are more successful in L2 reading skill than the ones with the low capacity of working memory. References Carroll, J. (1962). The prediction of success in intensive foreign language training. In R. Glaser (Ed.), Training, research, and education (pp. 87  – 136). New York: Wiley. Carroll, J. B. (1981). Twenty-five years of research on foreign language aptitude. Individual differences and universals in language learning aptitude , 83-118. Carroll, J., & Sapon, S. (2002). Manual for the MLAT. Bethesda, MD: Second Language Testing  . Cochran, J. L., McCallum, R. S., & Bell, S. M. (2010). Three A's: How do attributions, attitudes, and aptitude contribute to foreign language learning?. Foreign Language Annals , 43 (4), 566-582. Cronbach, L. J., & Snow, R. E. (1977).  Aptitudes and instructional methods: A handbook for research on interactions . Irvington. Dörnyei, Z., & Skehan, P. (2003). Individual differences in second language learning. The handbook of second language acquisition , 589-630. Ehrman, M. E., & Oxford, R. L. (1995). Cognition plus: Correlates of language learning success. The modern language journal  , 79 (1), 67-89. Ellis, N. C. (1996). Working memory in the acquisition of vocabulary and syntax: Putting language in good order. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology: Section A , 49 (1), 234-250.  5 Gathercole, S. E., & Baddeley, A. D. (1989). Evaluation of the role of phonological STM in the development of vocabulary in children: A longitudinal study. Journal of memory and language , 28  (2), 200-213. Harrington, M., & Sawyer, M. (1992). L2 working memory capacity and L2 reading skill. Studies in second language acquisition , 14 (1), 25-38. Robinson, P. (2005). Aptitude and second language acquisition.  Annual Review of Applied Linguistics , 25  , 46-73. Skehan, P. (2002). Theorising and updating aptitude. Individual differences and instructed language learning  , 2  , 69-94.
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