Published online by Cambridge University Press: 07 November 2008
This paper reports the results of a study which investigated (a) the separate effects that differences in learners' contact can have on various aspects of proficiency, and (b) the combined effects that differences in informal contact and instructional variation can have on improvement in proficiency. Forty-eight adult learners from three intermediate-level ESL classes participated in the study.
To measure differences in learners' informal contact, a language contact questionnaire was administered. The results revealed both quantitative and qualitative differences in learners' out-of-class contact with the second language. When these differences were examined in relation to learners' performance on seven proficiency measures, correlational analysis revealed that while learners' performance on some measures was related to differences in amount of contact, it was related on other measures to differences in type of contact.
To determine whether differences in contact interacted with instructional variation to produce differences in improvement in proficiency, learners' pre-and post-test scores were examined in relation to contact and class in an analysis of co-variance. The results indicated that learners' informal contact interacted with differences in instruction to produce variation in improvement on two proficiency measures.
The findings are discussed in relation to the need for more class-room-centered research to investigate both the separate and combined effects of learner and instructional variables on second language proficiency.
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