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Multiple routes to memory for a second language: Individual and situational factors


Learning a second language (L2) after early childhood is a challenge, and learners differ not only in how well they rise to this challenge, but presumably also in how they do it. For instance, a small minority of talented individuals is able to acquire a near-native accent in L2, despite the fact that the phonetic repertoire normally becomes dedicated to the native language within the first years of life. It seems thus plausible to assume that these learners have access to a different manner of phonetic learning. Different learning situations, e.g. learning a language in the classroom versus learning it by immersion, also seem likely to involve different acquisition mechanisms. However, we know almost nothing about such qualitative processing differences in L2 learning. Memory research, on the other hand, offers a number of dual-route or dual-system accounts that do describe different ways in which our brain stores and remembers information. The general dimension on which such routes differ is abstraction: New information may either be retained literally, or it could be abstracted to its most important features.
The current project aims to use such theories and methods from memory research to investigate the hypotheses that there are several alternative routes to L2 learning, and that individuals, as well as situations, differ with respect to which of these routes is preferably taken. Both word / pronunciation and grammar learning will be examined, assessing in how far language domains differ concerning the variability of learning routes. Furthermore, the stage of L2 acquisition may play an important role. Hence, both the learning of an entirely new language and the processing of an already established second language (English) are included. Since the research fields of second language acquisition (how we learn a new language) and of memory (how we learn something in general) have so far taken entirely different paths, the project will be the first of its kind.


Net EU contribution
€ 2 000 000,00
Houtlaan 4
6525 XZ Nijmegen

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Oost-Nederland Gelderland Arnhem/Nijmegen
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Non-EU contribution
€ 0,00