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The dynamics of second language learning: a longitudinal and qualitative study of an adult's learning of Swedish
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Comparative Literature and Scandinavian Languages.
2001 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

An often discussed issue in the field of second language learning is the influence and importance of individual differences, IDs, such as motivation, personality, previous learning experiences and learning strategies. It has been claimed that IDs form a complex system in the learner, but little consensus has been reached as regards definitions of constructs or their relative importance. Taking the individual learner as a starting-point, this dissertation attempts to demonstrate the complexity of individual differences in the single learner by adopting an in-depth holistic approach. For this purpose a longitudinal case study was designed to follow the learning process of a young Greek woman's acquisition of Swedish during a ten-month intensive course in Sweden. The study is mainly based on self-report and personal diaries, which have been interpreted and analysed qualitatively.

The learning process is extensively described and changes in, for example, strategy use, life situation and learning progress are illustrated. There are indeed many complex factors which have the potential to influence learning. In this particular case, seven factors are indicated as having had a positive influence: previous language learning experiences (especially as regards learning strategies), long-term motivation, metalinguistic awareness, social contacts with L2 speakers, access to English as a mediating language, access to a strict and intensive Swedish course, and a well-needed learning break in the middle of the studies. Negative factors were largely of an emotional nature, especially a period of liminality which created feelings of not belonging, of being betwixt and between.

It is suggested that IDs form a dynamic variable system in the learner. All the IDs are present in the learner, but they seem to change both in substance over time and in importance for the learner at different times in the learning process. Furthermore, IDs appear to be interconnected in a complex and dynamic way. The results of this study strongly emphasise the importance of both an holistic and a longitudinal approach to IDs in second language learning.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet , 2001. , 288 p.
Nordsvenska / Institutionen för litteraturvetenskap och nordiska språk, ISSN 0282-7182 ; 12
Keyword [en]
second language learning, second language acquisition, individual differences, attitude, motivation, learning strategies, communication strategies, identity, liminality, case study, Grounded Theory, hermeneutic, qualitative, holistic, longitudinal, Swedish
National Category
Specific Languages
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-59857ISBN: 91-88466-42-6OAI: diva2:556952
Public defence
2001-05-18, Humanisthuset, hörsal E, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 10:15
Available from: 2012-09-26 Created: 2012-09-26 Last updated: 2013-02-25Bibliographically approved

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