This study had two aims: (1) to investigate the relationships among individual difference variables in foreign language (FL) learning, with a focus on L1 metalinguistic ability (MA), and (2) to consider the effect of explicit instruction providing metalinguistic knowledge on FL performance of young students. The participants were 48 Japanese students who were 13 or 14 years old and had been learning English for 1.5 years. They attended two classes; one was designed to explicitly teach the concept of word class (e.g. noun, adverb) and the other to deal with grammatical relations (i.e. subject, object, and modification). Each class lasted about 80 min on two separate days. Before the classes, they answered a questionnaire that used a 5-point scale to evaluate their motivation (i.e. motives and self-efficacy) and learning strategies. Also, they took pre-test and post-test to evaluate heir MA and English performance. We conducted multiple regression analysis by taking English performance as the objective variable and selecting exploratory variables among ones that were significantly correlated to English performance. The result revealed that MA and self-efficacy significantly predicted English performance. With regard to MA, there was no significant difference between pre-test and post-test. However, English post-test score was significantly higher than English pre-test score. The finding suggests that MA has a significant influence on FL learning independently of strategy-use and motivation. Meta-syntactic concept seems to be too abstract for young students but this study shows that explicitly teaching metalinguistic knowledge is effective for them to improve their FL performance.
Mika Igarashi, University of Tokyo, Japan
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