The Role of Cognitive Aptitudes in a Study Abroad Language-Learning Environment

Authored by: Medha Tare , Ewa Golonka , Alia K. Lancaster , Carrie Bonilla , Catherine J. Doughty , R. Kirk Belnap , Scott R. Jackson

The Routledge Handbook of Study Abroad Research and Practice

Print publication date:  June  2018
Online publication date:  June  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138192393
eBook ISBN: 9781315639970
Adobe ISBN:


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Study abroad is an important training context for language learning and has been considered crucial for reaching advanced levels of language knowledge (Freed, 1995). Studies have shown superior performance by students who studied abroad compared to those who only studied at home across different skills and abilities (Llanes, 2011). Greater increases for participants who studied abroad have been shown in several studies for foreign language oral fluency (Freed, 1995; Segalowitz & Freed, 2004) as well as vocabulary (Dewey, 2008; Foster, 2009). Many factors have been implicated in students’ language-learning success during study abroad, with proficiency gains found to be heavily dependent on time in country (Davidson, 2010; Larson-Hall & Dewey, 2012) and other noncognitive predictors, including gender, age, starting proficiency, and knowledge of other foreign languages (Brecht, Davidson, & Ginsberg, 1993; Davidson, 2010). Aptitudes, defined as individual differences in learners’ stable cognitive abilities, may also relate to the effectiveness of a study abroad experience; however, the research on the role of aptitudes (Llanes, 2011) is inconclusive, and what has been conducted is limited by the sample size and breadth of aptitude constructs that were investigated. In this study, we examine the relationships between oral proficiency gains during study abroad and a wide range of aptitude constructs, as measured by the High-Level Language Aptitude Battery (Hi-LAB) of 10 cognitive measures.

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