Despite extensive research in second language acquisition (SLA), we are still a long way from understanding what exactly happens in the mind of an adult learner when learning a second language (L2). This study explores whether a learning pattern could be established over time in adult learners learning Maltese as a second language (ML2), especially Maltese verbs. This research is driven by chaos/complexity theory (C/CT), which originated in the physical sciences and mathematics and has been widely applied in human sciences. It focuses on the non-linear learning curve, the origins of the butterfly effect, and fractal patterns of learning. It describes how learning is unpredictable, chaotic, dynamic and complex. Furthermore, this research integrates cognitive and sociocultural aspects of SLA. A longitudinal research system, and also a mixed-method approach focused on methodological triangulation, were used. Thirty-five adult learners attending three Lifelong Learning institutions to study ML2 took part in this research. Structured Timed Grammaticality Judgment Tests (TGJTs), verb conjugation tasks, reflected journals and interviews were used to investigate the learners' learning curve over a period of 15 months. According to the results, all participants indicated a non-linear learning pattern. The main learning pattern shows increased learning (vertical axis) over time (horizontal axis).
Jacqueline Zammit, University of Malta, Malta