Talk: Motivation and Aptitude in Second Language Acquisition
A Partial Validation of Energy Conservation Theory
This presentation reports on a partial validation study on Energy Conservation Theory for SLA (ECT-L2A; Han et al, 2017), by assessing the relationship between motivation/aptitude and linguistic performance of 56 ESL beginning, intermediate or advanced learners. Results are discussed in relation to the theory and the nature of the dataset.
Motivation and aptitude have both been long established as key factors contributing to late L2 learners’ differential attainment of the target language (Dornyei & Skehan, 2003). Yet, theoretical attempts to model their role have been few and far between. Energy Conservation Theory of Second Language Acquisition (ECT-L2A; Han, Bao & Wiita, 2017), an interdisciplinary theory juxtaposing a physics perspective and an applied linguistics perspective, conceptualizes individuals’ ultimate attainment as a function of dynamic conversion and transformation of endogenous and exogenous energies throughout the learning process. Motivation, an element of endogenous energy, initially serves as the main driver of learning, grows stronger as learning advances, as a result of its interaction with input traction, an element of environmental energy, but diminishes as learning reaches asymptote. Aptitude, on the other hand, remains constant throughout the learning process. ECT-L2A predicts, inter alia, (1) that beginning L2 learners should show stronger motivation than end-state learners, (2) that developing learners should show higher motivation than that of beginning learners, and (3) that beginning, developing, and end-state learners should exhibit similar profile in aptitude.
These predictions were tested with 56 ESL learners grouped into three proficiency levels: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. Correlation analyses were conducted on learners’ aptitude, motivation, years of study, and performance on a timed grammaticality judgment test. The results showed that: (1) with increase in proficiency and years of study, there was a decrease in motivation; (2) the effect of aptitude diminished as learners made progress towards the target language; (3) combined effect of aptitude and motivation correlated positively with the their L2 attainment, but its effects diminished as the proficiency level of the groups became more advanced. The results are discussed in relation to (1) ECT-L2A, (2) previous studies on motivation and aptitude, and (3) the limitations of the dataset (e.g., low-power).