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Individual differences in very young children's English acquisition in China: Internal and external factors*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 June 2015

University of Groningen (RUG), the Netherlands
University of Groningen (RUG), the Netherlands
University of Groningen (RUG), the Netherlands
University of Groningen (RUG), the Netherlands
Address for correspondence: He Sun, Graduate School for the Humanities, Department of Applied Linguistics, University of Groningen, Rode Weeshuisstraat 12, 9712 ET Groningen, PO Box 716, 9700 AS Groningen, the


This study assesses the impact of internal and external factors on very young EFL learners in an instructional setting. 71 child English learners in China (onset age: 2;0 - 5;6) were involved: their receptive vocabulary, productive vocabulary and receptive grammar were taken as outcome variables, and age of onset, short-term memory, nonverbal intelligence, English input quantity and quality, English use, and maternal English level were taken as predictive variables. Multiple regression analyses, verified by Bayes factor comparisons, revealed that the total amount of school input and home English media environment were significant predictors for all of three aspects of English proficiency, with each aspect having different additional significant predictors. Both internal factors (e.g., age of onset) and external factors (e.g., English input quantity) played an important role, but in contrast to similar studies (e.g., Paradis, 2011) focusing on a L2 naturalistic setting, external factors explained more variance of English proficiency measures.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2015 

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The authors are indebted to Sharon Unsworth and Linda Visser for their comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. The authors would also like to thank Yong Sun and Jinrong Wang for collecting data, Richard Morey for discussing Bayes factor analyses, and Linda Postma and Dylan Armstrong for proofreading the paper.


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