Language proficiency and language aptitude in the retention of English as a foreign language in China

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Language proficiency and language aptitude in the retention of English as a foreign language in China

 

Author: Cui, Song
Title: Language proficiency and language aptitude in the retention of English as a foreign language in China
Degree: DALS
Year: 2016
Subject: Language attrition.
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Department: Faculty of Humanities
Pages: xiii, 240 pages : illustrations
Language: English
InnoPac Record: http://library.polyu.edu.hk/record=b2864141
URI: http://theses.lib.polyu.edu.hk/handle/200/8267
Abstract: The research on language attrition is not only far from proliferation but also having many unsolved mysteries, peculiarly when it comes to the governing factor of language attrition and the rate of language attrition. It makes a sharp contrast with flourishing studies in second language acquisition, in which various models and hypotheses have been established and well-tested and many key issues have been resolved. Specifically in the field of language attrition, the following issues are unaddressed; (1) whether there exists an initial plateau, a time period during which the language competence of the acquirers remains almost intact, before the emergence of language attrition; and (2) whether language aptitude plays a role in the attrition process as it does in the acquisition process. This dissertation aimed to tackle the following three questions in an English-as-a Foreign Language (EFL) context in China: (1) Do the subjects, who graduated one year ago and three years ago, display the same pattern of language attrition? (2) Is the initial EFL proficiency level related to the EFL retention process? (3) Is language aptitude related to the EFL retention process? Eighty English-major college graduates from Jincheng College, Sichuan University participated in the study, who were recruited from two cohorts based on the years of graduation, namely Cohort One (those who graduated one year ago) and Cohort Two (those who graduated three years ago), in order to examine the progression of language attrition over a long time span. Three instruments were adopted to measure the participants‘ language proficiency levels, language aptitude, and their EFL contact profile: a self-constructed background questionnaire, the Foreign Language Aptitude Test (FLAT) formulated by Li (2005), and an English proficiency test which was adapted from Test for English Majors band eight (TEM-8). Following results were found. First, a longer-than-one-year initial plateau was failed to be detected in any group of any cohort. Meanwhile, the participants in Cohort Two took on more severe language attrition than those in Cohort One. Second, language proficiency level obtained before attrition played a decisive role in the language retention process, in that it was not only significantly but also negatively related to the degree of overall language attrition. In other words, the tenet of "Inverse Hypothesis" was substantiated in EFL context in China. Finally, language aptitude played an active part in the language retention process, in the sense that it was related significantly and negatively to the degree of overall language attrition. This study produced contributions to research on language attrition with the case of EFL in China. First, it not only proved the validity of the "Inverse Hypothesis" in language attrition of the EFL context in China, but also attested to the pattern of language attrition amongst Chinese English-major college graduates, advanced by a previous study (Wang, 2010). More importantly, it successfully interpreted seemingly unexplainable phenomena about the initial plateau in previous literature, and bridged a long-standing theoretical gap. Second, it revealed that language aptitude bore a direct and high relation to the language retention process in EFL settings in China. The causal model of second-language acquisition and retention (Gardner & Lysynchuk, 1990) was thus modified to better approach the issues in foreign language attrition.

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