Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Language learning in adulthood: Why some have more trouble than others
by Smith, Asha Halima, Ph.D., Stanford University, 2009, 96; 3382951
Abstract (Summary)

Bilingual adults have been shown to outperform monolingual adults in learning new languages (e.g. Cenoz & Valencia, 1994). To explore one potential contribution to this finding, three experiments examined vocabulary learning strategies in adults who differed in the age at which they had first exposure to second language learning. More specifically, the extent to which each participant made use of first language translations when learning new languages was examined. Participants were taught names for items in a new language using objects that were either easy or more difficult to learn using first language information. These experiments revealed a surprising difference in the way adults with early second language learning experience and adults with late second language learning experience make use of first language lexical information in the early stages of new language word learning. While people who had experienced second language learning later in life benefited from the availability of L1 information, people who had experienced learning to add a new language earlier in childhood performed better when this information was absent. To look more closely at the mechanisms behind these differences, an additional study explored to what extent the differences between these groups could be leveled when a new language learning task did not allow time for word learning strategy use. The results showed that early and late L2 learners performed similarly on the non-self-paced vocabulary learning tasks (both slow and fast-paced), but responded differently to the order of teaching effects and items used for teaching and testing. It was concluded that language-learning history may be tied to differences in how adults go about learning words in new languages. Just how flexible these strategy differences are and their direct implications to language learning success is an open question for future research.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Ramscar, Michael
School: Stanford University
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-B 70/10, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Bilingual education, Foreign Language, Educational psychology, Developmental psychology, Cognitive psychology
Keywords: Adult learners, Bilingualism, Language, Language learning, Language learning strategies, Multilingualism, Vocabulary learning
Publication Number: 3382951
ISBN: 9781109450378
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