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UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Retention and motivation of French as a second language among students of varying abilities MacDicken-Jones, Kathleen Susan


Teachers routinely conduct a period of review after a semester or summer holiday break due to expected loss of material learned. In the area of second language (L2) acquisition, this matter is of particular concern to instructors and students because, in general, during the period of disuse students have had little, if any, contact with the language. One factor which has proven to influence the maintenance of an L2 is that of motivation. Gardner and his colleagues’ (1959, 1971, 1973, 1985, 1987, 1988) studies of French as a Second Language (FSL) have highlighted strong correlations between attitude and achievement and achievement and language retention. Research on individual differences among learners (Brounstein, Holahan, William, & Sawyer, 1988; Gardner, 1990) has also contributed to identifying what leads to a successful learner. This study examined the loss of linguistic and reading comprehension skills among learners of all ability levels in FSL, with a focus on high ability learners, following summer vacation. In addition, between-group comparisons of motivational factors, as based upon subjects’ pre-test scores were conducted. Tests performed consisted of an analysis of exam questions and components to confirm an equal level of difficulty of both test versions used, as well as tests of reliability. Pre- and post-test measures were compared to identify any loss incurred, followed by Pearson correlations and t-tests. Ability groupings were then categorized as high, medium, and low according to their pre-test scores. Within these groupings, questionnaire statistics were calculated and contrasted to highlight any motivational differences between them. Findings from this research suggested that language skills among FSL learners of varying abilities deteriorate significantly after a period of disuse. In addition, these findings confirmed that highly proficient FSL learners are more immune to attrition due to their having a more stable language base. With reference to the motivational questionnaires, analyses concluded few significant differences among the three ability levels.

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