Language learning aptitude

According to John B. Carroll and Stanley Sapon, the authors of the Modern Language Aptitude Test, the term language learning aptitude refers to the “prediction of how well, relative to other individuals, an individual can learn a foreign language in a given amount of time and under given conditions.” [Stansfield, Charles W. “Language Aptitude Reconsidered.” "ERIC Digest". Washington DC: ERIC Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics, 1989.]

As with many measures of aptitude, language learning aptitude is thought to be relatively stable throughout an individual’s lifetime.

Language learning disability

Some high schools, universities or other institutions will interpret low language learning aptitude as a sign of a language learning disability. A pattern of evidence from several sources can help to diagnose a foreign language learning disability. Evidence can come from scoring poorly on language learning aptitude assessments, like the Modern Language Aptitude Test, Pimsleur Language Aptitude Battery, Modern Language Aptitude Test - Elementary or Defense Language Aptitude Battery, while attaining average or above-average scores on aptitude assessments in other areas, like general intelligence. A history of scoring poorly on an array of language aptitude tests taken at the appropriate time (MLAT-E for grades 3-6, PLAB for grades 7-12, MLAT for adults) can provide even stronger evidence for a language learning disability. Evidence can also come from comparing a poor past performance in foreign language courses with average or above-average performance in other courses unrelated to language learning.

John B. Carroll

John B. Carroll, an influential psychologist in the field of educational linguistics, developed a theory about a cluster of four abilities that factored into language learning aptitude, separate from verbal intelligence and motivation. Using these four distinct abilities (phonetic coding ability, grammatical sensitivity, rote learning ability, and inductive learning ability), Carroll developed the MLAT, a language aptitude assessment for adults.

The four ability components are defined as follows:
*Phonetic coding ability – ability to perceive distinct sounds, associate a symbol with that sound and retain that association
*Grammatical sensitivity – ability to recognize the grammatical function of a lexical element (word, phrase, etc.) in a sentence without explicit training in grammar
*Rote learning ability – ability to learn associations between words in a foreign language and their meanings and retain that association
*Inductive learning ability – ability to infer or induce rules governing the structure of a language

Paul Pimsleur

Paul Pimsleur, also known for the Pimsleur language learning system, spent time researching four factors that he believed to be related to language learning aptitude. Pimsleur included grade point average as an indication of general academic achievement as well as motivation in his factors. In addition, the verbal ability factor indicated how well a student would be able to handle the mechanics of learning a foreign language and the auditory factor indicated how well a student would be able to listen to and produce phrases in a foreign language. To test these four factors, Pimsleur developed the Pimsleur Language Aptitude Battery, appropriate for students in grades 7-12.

Aptitude Measurements

*Modern Language Aptitude Test – mainly authored by John B. Carroll, appropriate for adults, mainly used by government and military institutions to select and place employees for language training
*Defense Language Aptitude Battery – developed and used by the United States Department of Defense to select candidates for jobs that will require them to attain fluency in a foreign language
*Pimsleur Language Aptitude Battery – authored by Paul Pimsleur, used to assess the language learning aptitude of students in grades 7 to 12
*Modern Language Aptitude Test – Elementary – mainly authored by John B. Carroll, appropriate for children in grades 3 to 6

Uses of aptitude measurement

Measurements of language learning aptitude are used in many different ways. The United States Department of Defense uses a measurement of language learning aptitude, the Defense Language Aptitude Battery, to help place employees in positions that require them to learn a new language.

Governmental agencies use the MLAT as a tool to select and place employees in intensive language training programs. Businesses and missionaries use the MLAT to select, place and plan for language training. Universities, colleges and high schools use the MLAT to help in the diagnosis of foreign language learning disabilities. Although each institution has its own policy, many will waive a foreign language requirement in cases of a foreign language learning disability in favor of a history or linguistic course.

Schools use the PLAB and MLAT-E to place students in suitable language courses, build a history of a foreign language learning difficulty, identify especially gifted students in respect to language learning and to match learning styles with instructional styles.

See also

* Aptitude
* hardest language

External links

* [http://www.ericdigests.org/pre-9215/language.htm Language Aptitude Reconsidered]
* [http://www.2lti.com Second Language Testing Inc.]
* [http://www.ldonline.org LDOnline]
* [http://www.swan.ac.uk/cals/calsres/events/02_contents/02_Alexiou.htm Foreign language aptitude in young learners]
* [http://www.learn-languages-news.com/Immigrants-Learning-English.php Language learning aptitude with immigrants]

References

Resources

*Carroll, John B. and Stanley Sapon. "Modern Language Aptitude Test: Manual 2002 Edition". Bethesda, MD: Second Language Testing, Inc., 2002.
*Carroll, John B. and Stanley M. Sapon. "Modern Language Aptitude Test – Elementary: Manual, 2002 Edition". Rockville, MD: Second Language Testing, Inc., 2002.
*Pimsleur, Paul, Daniel J. Reed and Charles W. Stansfield. "Pimsleur Language Aptitude Battery: Manual, 2004 Edition". Bethesda, MD: Second Language Testing, Inc., 2004.
*Stansfield, Charles W. “Language Aptitude Reconsidered.” "ERIC Digest". Washington DC: ERIC Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics, 1989.


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