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Foreign language aptitude and intelligence

  • Marjorie Wesche (a1), Henry Edwards (a1) and Winston Wells (a2)

Abstract

Notwithstanding the predictive value of foreign language aptitude measures, the underlying ability or abilities tapped by them and their relationship to measures of intelligence are not well understood. This study provides a partial characterization of the nature of language aptitude through correlations and factor analyses of the Modern Language Aptitude Test (MLAT) and the Primary Mental Abilities Test (PMA). The subjects of the study were 793 English-speaking Canadian public servants at various stages of intensive French language training. The results revealed substantial redundancy among the subtests of the MLAT and PMA batteries and a Kaiser's Little Jiffy factor analysis yielded a one-factor solution at the second-order level. A principal factors solution, however, identified three interpretable second-order factors, characterized respectively as first language verbal knowledge, abstract reasoning ability, and ability to learn new language elements and associations. A unitary third-order factor was also identified, probably approximating Spearman's g. Taken together, the findings of the study are compatible with the conceptualization of language aptitude according to a hierarchical model which subsumes specific abilities of importance in the language classroom under a more encompassing general ability, or general intelligence.

Copyright

Corresponding author

Dr. Marjorie Wesche, Centre for Second Language Learning, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, CanadaKIN 6N5

References

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Applied Psycholinguistics
  • ISSN: 0142-7164
  • EISSN: 1469-1817
  • URL: /core/journals/applied-psycholinguistics
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