ALAK '99. Applied Linguistics Association of Korea conference on the theme "Bilingualism: Acquisition and Attrition". December 11, Seoul.
Plenary speakers and officers of the Applied Linguistics Association of Korea
Abstracts of presentations on language attrition
Lynne Hansen (Brigham Young University, Hawaii). Plenary address: Language regression in bilingualism: A twenty year retrospect on second language attrition.
Although language attrition is a ubiquitous phenomenon that all of us experience, it has become a topic of systematic study only in the past two decades. During that time a considerable body of knowledge has been accumulated from various contexts of language loss: the L1 attrition of immigrants, the L2 loss of returnees, and the forgetting of foreign languages by classroom learners subsequent to their L2 instruction. There is now a range of evidence on the processes involved in language attrition which has been gathered by researchers around the world.
This presentation reviews and assesses major findings that have accumulated in this developing subfield of applied linguistics including the following:
*Older is better for second language retention
*There is facilitation in some aspects of the relearning of a second language
*For some linguistic structures the last learned is first forgotten; first learned last forgotten
*Some L2 structures improve rather than attrite over short periods of disuse
*The more you know of the L2, the less you lose
*Attrition profiles vary according to proficiency level attained
*Literacy attainment relates strongly to language maintenance
*Hesitation phenomena in speech relate to language attrition
The final section of the paper examines the relevance of findings from language attrition studies to our understanding of bilingualism. Looking to the future, Korean contexts for such studies are considered. The presentation concludes with recommendations for directions in language attrition research in the new millenium.
Hideyuki Taura (Fukui Medical University, Japan). Attrition does not take place!
This study examines whether English attrition actually takes place in junior/senior high school students who have spent a lengthy period of time (more than 3 years) in English speaking countries when they return to their home countries. Special attention was paid to their writing proficiency in English to see if their skills suffer from attrition despite only having one hour formal English lesson a day (5 hours a week). A cross-sectional framework was used to investigate the English writing skills of these returnees from grades 7 through 12 (ages 12-18). The Test of Written Language (3rd edition) by Hammill & Larsen (1996) was used to examine various aspects of writing while maintaining reliability and validity. Contextual Conventions (CC), Contextual Language (CL), Story Construction (StC), overall Quotient and the total number of words of the writing samples were evaluated.
The results suggest that extensive exposure to English gives young returnees a solid foundation upon which they can build when they start formal English lessons in junior high school. In paritular, the returnees' StC and Quotient figures were significantly higher than those of peers (Japanese EFL learners) at the beginning of junior high school, suggesting that their overseas experience gives them greater overall writing competence and a greater ability to express themselves in a creative and mature way. The returnees' CC, CL, StC and Quotient scores also improved at a faster rate than those of their peers throughout junior high school, suggesting that their overseas experience gives them greater overall writing competence and a greater ability to express themselves in a creative and mature way. The returnees' CC, CL, StC and Quotient scores also improved at a faster rate than those of their peers throughout junior high school, although they tended to drop off in the returnees' final year of senior high school. Overall, weekly 5 hour-long English lessons seem to be enough for returnee students to maintain and improve their writing skills as far as the participants in this study are concerned though their drop in the skill in the final year remains to be further examined.
Justin Shewell & Lynne Hansen. The role of alphabetic literacy in second language retention: The case of Korean.
To what extent does the attainment of literacy skills help to anchor a second language after the termination of instruction or exposure to the language? The present study addresses this question by examining L2 loss among English speakers who, as young adults, had learned Korean while working as missionaries in Korea. This population is particularly well suited for such a study since they attain high levels of oral competence during two years in the target culture while, at the same time, they vary considerably in the extent to which they learn to read and write their second language.
In a previous study of members of the same population who had learned Japanese in Japan, 204 subjects, back in the United States for times varying from a few months to 35 years, completed four L2 tasks: listening comprehension, negation elicitation, numeral classifier elicitation, and story retelling. In addition, they completed a survey which included "can/could do" scales for Japanese speaking, reading and writing skills for the present time as well as retrospectively for the time of their departure from Japan. With measures of current L2 ability as dependent variables, factor analyses singled out the number of Japanese characters that had been learned as a consistently robust predictor of language retention (Hansen & Newbold, 1997).
Due to the idiosyncracies of Japanese writing, however, incorporating as it does the kanji, processed principally in the right cerebral hemisphere, as well as two syllabaries, processed in the left, the applicability of these findings to learners of other languages was unclear. In order to help clarify the limitations or the universality of the findings, the survey portion of the Japanese study was administered to 317 members of the same population who had learned Chinese (of which the writing system is processed largely in the right hemisphere) in Taiwan (Hansen & Chantrill, 1999).The factor analyses of these data showed the same strong relationship between literacy attainment and language maintenance.
The present paper reports on a replication of these Japanese and Chinese studies in the context of the Korean language (of which the Hangul alphabet is processed mainly in the left hemisphere). The study focuses on the language maintenance of 302 members of the same American missionary population who, rather than learning Japanese or Chinese, had learned Korean as a second language in Korea. A survey of motivation during and subsequent to language learning was also administered, and the findings suggest that the high relationships found between literacy attainment and language retention are underlaid by this single factor, motivation.