Aptitude in Sla

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The study of individual differences in second language acquisition has achieved considerable efforts over the last years. Those researches had focused on four areas of individual differences: learning style, motivation, anxiety and learning strategies. Nevertheless, the aptitude factor had less attention. Second language aptitude was the subject of no much research during the 1950s and has been the subject of a discontinuous research during the last 30 years. Precisely what is meant by “aptitude”? Writers have used it with different emphases, some stressing inherited capacity, others present ability, or ease of acquisition. Therefore, to avoid any possible ambiguities, beginning with the definition is the best solution. “Aptitude” is defined in Oxfords English Dictionary as “3.a. Natural capacity, endowment, or ability; talent for any pursuit. c. Natural capacity to learn or understand; intelligence, quick-wittedness, readiness. Pref, The state of knowledge and aptitude or capacity; The general idea he had acquired with great aptitude. 4. Comb., as aptitude test orig. U.S., a test designed to determine a person's capacity in any given skill or field of knowledge. An aptitude test for policemen. Feb. 93/3 the aptitude test simply consists in making telegraph signals, and then testing the memory of the men. The use of aptitude tests, psychological questionnaires, even blood-sampling and cranial measurements; he hoped to discover a method of gauging student-potential”. Also defined in Warren’s Dictionary as “a condition or set of characteristics regarded as symptomatic of an individual’s ability to acquire with training some knowledge, skill, or set of responses such as the ability to speak a language, to produce music, etc.” Aptitude for learning anything can be defined for operational purposes as "the amount of time it takes an individual to learn the task in a question." Thus, individuals typically differ not in whether they can learn a task or not learn it, but rather in the length of time, it takes them to learn it or to reach a given degree of competency. This is also true of second language aptitude.

In this paper, answers in brief for several questions that always appear will be stated. These questions are: Is second language aptitude directly related to conscious learning? and Is second language aptitude actually different from general aptitude or intelligence? After an intended discussion on the previous questions, the task will turn to some examinations and predictions for aspects of aptitude related directly to conscious language learning. Afterwards, examples of standardized tests which measures second language aptitude is mentioned. A new view of aptitude is illustrated depending on a conference held in the USA. Finally, an answer for “is aptitude a factor in second language acquisition?” is stated. At the beginning, two questions will be demonstrated which are: Is second language aptitude different from general aptitude or intelligence? And is it directly related to conscious learning? The answer, which is based on a number of studies (Carroll, 1962; Gardner & Lambert, 1965; Wesche, Edwards & Wells, 1982), seems to be "Yes." Indeed, one factor of the quality of a second language aptitude test is the degree to which it goes beyond a general intelligence test in the prediction of success in learning a second language. A number of second language aptitude tests, although not all of those that have been developed, have demonstrated the ability to do so. Carroll (1962) demonstrated that second language aptitude is comprised of four cognitive abilities. These abilities are reflected, to one extent or another, in the second language aptitude tests that have been developed subsequent to Carroll's research. The first one of these abilities is phonetic coding, which is the ability to segment and identify distinct sounds, to form associations between those sounds and symbols...
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