[On,Individual,Differences,in,SecondLanguage,Acquisition]origin

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  【摘要】There are many individual differences which affect the learning of foreign languages, such as cognitive style, intelligence, aptitude, motivation, personality, attitude, sex, and age. Individual differences are very important factors that may greatly affect the process and final result of second language acquisition. The study of this topic is of instructive value for the teacher’s teaching activity and will also promote the individual learning practice.
  【關鍵詞】Second language acquisition; Individual differences; First language; Motivation
  1 Introduction
  Learner’s individual differences (cognitive style, motivation, personality and affect factors etc) affect second language acquisition (SLA) directly. Good cognitive style, high motivation and enthusiasm benefits second language acquisition to be more efficiently. This study hopes to examine the individual differences among different types of students and the effect of these differences on their achievements. It is also hoped that the study would result in assisting teachers in adopting a more sensitive approach to the organization of learning opportunities in their classes.
  2 Individual differences
  Individual differences may cover a wide range of research areas relating to learning aptitude ,learning style , learning strategies , gender ,culture , age , and other demographic and affective factors , which include motivation , learner needs ,self-efficiency , self-esteem , inhibition , empathy ,anxiety , and tolerance of ambiguity , among others Herman , Leaver , Oxford also point out the connections between three pairs of concepts : styles, strategy, effective learners vs. less able/ successful learners, and motivation vs. strategies in order to define strategy. They mention that a given learning strategy cannot be considered good or bad; it is essentially neutral until it is examined in context.
  2.1 Differences in cognitive style
  Though Messick has identified nine types of cognitive styles, the only style measure to show a definite association with language learning is the dimension known as field independence vs. field dependence. A field independent person usually takes an analytical vies of the environment whereas a field-dependent person perceives more globally and has difficulty in separating himself from his surroundings. In language learning, field-independent learners usually do better than field-dependent learners. Field-independent learners would not confine themselves to just what is required of them by the course, but follows what is on the timetable and usually like to do more than that. They would do something which they find interesting and useful, and sometimes even go far ahead of the schedule. Whereas field-dependent learners tend to be bound by what they are supposed to learn from the course. Of course, both field-independent and field-dependent learners are able to do well in their learning of a foreign language if they can find a suitable environment for their preferred style of working. But as field-independent learners take the initiative in their learning, they usually learn more efficiently and gain more knowledge of the language.   2.2 Differences in motivation
  In all researches so far carried out, motivation is considered to be one of the important factors which correlate closely with the success or failure in language learning. It is also one of the reasons why individual language learners differ a great deal. Gardner(1985) points out that it is not sufficient to simply consider one aspect of motivation, and that the totality of motivation and its relation to other characteristics of the individual must be understood. He also claims that motivation involves four aspects. Namely a goal, effortful behavior, a desire to attain the goal, and favorable attitudes toward the activity in question.
  Different individuals study foreign languages for different purposes, their goals being not identical. Some study foreign languages in order to get a better job, some to attain a higher educational level, and others to satisfy a language requirement. As a result, they act differently to achieve their goals.
  2.2.1 Instrumental motivation
  Learners may make efforts to learn an L2 for some functional reason—to pass an examination, to get a better job, or to get a place at university. In some learning contexts, an instrumental motivation seems to be the major force determining success in L2 learning. For example, in settings where learners are motivated to learn an L2 because it opens up educational and economic opportunities for them.
  2.2.2 Integrative motivation
  Some learners may choose to learn a particular L2 because they are interested in the people and culture represented by the target-language group. For example, it is this integrative orientation that underlies the motivation that many English speaking Canadians have for learning French. However, in other learning contexts, an integrative motivation does not seem to be so important.
  2.2.3 Resultative motivation
  An assumption of the research referred to above is that motivation is the cause of L2 achievement. However, it is also possible that motivation is the result of learning. That is, learners who experience success in learning may become more, or in some contexts, less motivated to learn. This helps to explain the conflicting research results. In a context like Canada, success in learning French may intensify English-speaking learners’ liking for French culture.
  2.2.4 Intrinsic motivation
  In some learning situations, it may not be learners’ general reasons for learning L2 that are crucial in determining their motivation. Indeed, it is possible that many learners do not hold distinct attitudes, positive or negative, towards the target-language group. Such is probably the case with many foreign language learners. It does not follow, however, that such learners are unmotivated. They may find the kinds of learning tasks they are asked to do intrinsically motivating. According to this view, motivation involves the arousal and maintenance of curiosity and can ebb and flow as a result of such factors as learners’ particular interests and the extent to which they feel personally involved in learning activities.   Motivation is clearly a highly complex phenomenon. These four types of motivation should be seen as complementary rather than as distinct and oppositional. Learners can be both integrative and instru-
  mentally motivated at one and the same time. Motivation can resultf-
  rom learning as well as cause it. Furthermore, motivation is dynamic in nature; it is not something that a learner has or does not have but rather something that varies from one moment to the next depending on the learning context or task.
  3 Differences in aptitude
  Aptitude is specific to tasks, and depends on possession of cert-
  ain characteristics by the learner, which may be either genetic (innat-
  e), or dependent upon prior learning or exposure to certain situation, different individuals can not have the same characteristics. Because people are born with different abilities, it must be admitted that some components of language learning and a learner who has a higher apt-
  itude for them might pursue the learning task more successfully. However, there is one task which aptitude test can well fulfill. It can be used to grade the students according to their ability in formal lan-
  guage learning situation, i.e., the classroom learning, which can ben-
  efit both learning and teaching.
  4 Differences in personality
  Though so far there has not been a definite conclusion concern-
  ing the role of personality attributes in the foreign language acquis-
  tion. Studies have also shown that there are many factors which can-
  influence one’s acquisition of a foreign language. Since it is impos-
  sible to discuss all of them in this paper, I will just concentrate on extroversion vs. introversion, one of the most influential personality traits.
  Generally speaking, extroversion is a desirable factor in laguag-
  e learning, but it also has its weak points. It is probably true that ext-
  roverts, being not afraid of making mistakes or even appearing fooli-
  sh before others, seem to make rapid progress in speaking because they are willing to talk, though they might not be so good at other language skills. Since extroverts are more mistaking, impulsive, they tend to make mistakes more frequently. In verbal communication, it is not a serious problem for one to make mistakes so long as the gist of a message can be passed over; however, it matters in written work. Grammatical correctness, logic, accuracy of choice of words, good organization, etc. are all the necessary and important elements of a piece of good writing. In this respect, introverts usually do better because they would normally think carefully before they pin their pen on the paper. Therefore, the common assumption that outgoing, other-directed talkative personalities are more successful at language learning than their introversive and socially ill-at-ease counterparts can only be regarded as partially true. Extroverts are very talkative, outgoing and always active in conversation; however, they should not be encouraged to talk the way they usually do in classroom learning. If they do so, they would in a way deprive the introversive learners of their opportunities of speaking the language, ,making them feel unheeded or even disheartened.   5 The significance of this topic
  Through the study on individual differences in second language acquisition, not only caused us to know and further understand the rule of second language acquisition, but also it’s helpful for teache-
  rs’ teaching methods in classroom. In the teaching process, how to use learners’ individual difference to teach students in accordance with their aptitude, how to use the appropriate teaching method and the teaching media to prompt guidance and the regulation to learne-
  rs’ emotion, how to display students’ subjective initiative fully to enable the teaching effect to achieve superiorly, is a question which each educators should consider. Moreover, the effects of individual differences in second language acquisition is also helpful for learne-
  rs’ self-regulation and unearth language potential fully to promote the practice of second language acquisition.
  6 Conclusion
  Having discussed some of the individual differences, I would like to mention in brief how individual learners should look at their success or failure in language learning and what they should do about it. It is absolutely wrong for the students to put themselves in a passive position, relying too much on their teacher and the envronm-
  ent; they should realize the importance of their own initiative in lan-
  uage learning because the inner factor is more important than the outer factor. Moreover, what language learners should do, if they want to be successful, is to take the initiative, and maintain a suitable cognitive style in learning. Of course, teachers should do their best to help students achieve their goal in foreign language learning. It must be admitted that no teaching techniques can totally satisfactoril-
  y be adapted to meet all individual needs. What the teacher can do is to find out the similarities and differences in their cognitive styles, motivations, personalities, etc.
  Bibliography
  [1]Arnold J. Affect in Language Learning [M]. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
  [2]Dornyei, Z. Attitudes, orientations, and motivations in language learning: Advances in theory, research,and applications [J]. Language Learning. 2003 (Supplement1).
  [3]Ellis, Rod, Second Language Acquisition [M]. Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press, 2000.
  [4]Messick, S. The Interplay of Evidence and Consequences in the Validation of Performance Assessments [J]. Educational Researcher, 1994, (2).
  [5]Richards, J. C. The Context of Language Teaching [M]. Beijing: Foreign Languages Teaching and Research Press, 2001.
  [6]Riding, R. & Sadler2Smith, E. Type of Instructional Material, Cognitive Style and Learning Performance [J]. Educational Studies, 1992, (3).
  [7]Witkin, H. A., Moore, C. A., Goodenough, D. A., & Cox, P.W. Field Dependence and Field Independence and Their Educational Implications [J]. Review of Education Research, 1997, (1).
  [8]劉潤清.外語學習者的個人因素[J].外語教學資料通訊,1996,(3).
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