Aptitude in L2 and L3 learners of German

Katharina Neema Kipp, Purdue University


This study aims at contributing to the notoriously under-researched field of aptitude and multilingualism by comparing the aptitude scores of L2 (n = 78), L3 (n= 135), and bilingual (n = 32) learners of German and their relationship with previous language learning experience, individual difference variables and enhanced proficiency in the target language. The aptitude test used in this study was the Pimsleur Language Aptitude Battery (PLAB) by Paul Pimsleur (1966). Firstly, the effect of previous language learning experience on aptitude scores of the three learner groups was analyzed. Secondly, the effect of motivation, language learning strategies and a number of other background variables on enhanced aptitude scores was determined. Thirdly, a proficiency threshold that significantly increases the likelihood of scoring high on the aptitude test was established. Significance was assessed by applying the probability-based multinomial logit model to the given data set. To gain additional insight into the language learning and test-taking process, 75 out of the 245 total participants were interviewed individually. Results showed that prior language learning had a significant effect on aptitude scores, particularly on the PLAB section that tested metalinguistic awareness. L3 learners, who had learned an additional language other than German in a formal environment, were significantly likelier to score higher than L2 learners that had been exposed to German only. Also motivation, language learning strategies as well as proficiency proved to have a significant effect on the aptitude scores of both L2 and L3 learners of German. In sum, this study refutes the claim that aptitude is an innate and stable capacity that predetermines successful language attainment. The findings of this study also suggest to shift to a more holistic and language interdependent view of aptitude that takes learners’ individual differences and experiences into account.




Sundquist, Purdue University.

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