L2 learner individual differences: An integrative and contextualist perspective

Zhengdong GAN

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

In the literature of learner characteristics in applied linguistics, learning attitudes, strategies and motivation have received most attention. These learner individual difference variables have usually been seen as background learner variables that modify and personalize the overall trajectory of the language acquisition processes (Dörnyei, 2009). Embedded within a mainly psycholinguistic perspective on L2 acquisition, previous research on these background learner variables tended to examine one variable independently of other variables, and of the learning contexts in which L2 learners are situated (Ellis, 2004). For example, early studies on good language learners focused largely on learning strategies. Consequently much less attention has been given to the interplay between various individual difference factors as well as interaction between learner individual and contextual factors. This case study set out to investigate how the contextualized learner learning attitudes, strategies, and motivation might differentiate successful and less successful ESL learners. Data were collected through interviews, diaries, and follow-up email correspondence with both successful and less successful second-year university ESL students. Analysis of the data suggests that learners’ psychological relation to the English language learning process depends in large measure upon the social, institutional, and interpersonal contexts “in which individuals find themselves, the purposes for their being there, and their personal biographies” (Duff & Uchida, 1997, p. 452). Learners’ investment in English language learning and different levels of success as ESL learners could thus be the outcome of dynamic interactions of different learner factors situated in the particular learning contexts. Implications of the results for how institutions and teachers may empower ESL students in their investment in learning the target language are discussed. Copyright © 2011 Centre for English Language and Communication.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-88
JournalReflections on English Language Teaching
Volume10
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2011

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learning
English language
psycholinguistics
interaction
language
language acquisition
learning strategy
learning process
student
linguistics
university
teacher
interview
literature

Citation

Gan, Z. (2011). L2 learner individual differences: An integrative and contextualist perspective. Reflections on English Language Teaching, 10(1), 67-88.

Keywords

  • Lear ner individual differences
  • ESL learners
  • Lea rner characteristics