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How Strange the Change from Macro to Micro: Second Language Acquisition wit...

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Birkbeck, University of London

Malet Street

London

WC1E 7HX

United Kingdom

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How Strange the Change from Macro to Micro:

On the relevance of second language acquisition for the development of foreign language aptitude tests

Over the years a variety of starting points have motivated the development of foreign language aptitude tests, ranging from task analyses of the nature of foreign language learning (Carroll) through perceptions of difficulty in school-based learning (Pimsleur) to more contemporary approaches which use cognitive psychology (HiLAB). This talk will slightly contrast with these because it will attempt to relate what we have learned about processes of second language acquisition over the last forty years to potential developments with aptitude sub-tests. Stages within second language acquisition (noticing, pattern recognition, restructuring, developing control) will be used as the basis for describing aptitude sub-tests. A major distinction is then drawn between handling change in the underlying language system, on the one hand, and gaining control over the system which emerges, on the other. It is argued that this distinction fits better with communicative approaches to language instruction, and also that there is an imbalance with aptitude sub-tests to over-represent language system development and under-represent the development of control and automaticity. Finally, it is argued that the wider conception of aptitude that emerges from this approach has the potential to alter the rather marginal status that aptitude currently occupies within applied linguistics.


Peter Skehan is an Honorary Research Fellow at Birkbeck. Previously he taught at universities in the U.K., Hong Kong, and New Zealand. He is interested in second language acquisition, especially task-based learning and teaching, and language aptitude. He has published several books, most recently Researching Tasks: Performance, Assessment, and Pedagogy (2012), and the edited collection Processing Perspectives on Task Performance (Benjamins, 2014). He also published a narrative review article on aptitude in Applied Linguistics in 2015.

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Birkbeck, University of London

Malet Street

London

WC1E 7HX

United Kingdom

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