Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 May 2019
Language-analytic ability, or the ability to treat language as an object of analysis and arrive at linguistic generalizations, is at the core of the constructs of language learning aptitude and metalinguistic awareness, which are implicated in our ability to learn explicitly. In the context of child second language (L2) learning, it has been argued that children learn primarily implicitly and that the most important component of aptitude may be memory ability. However, no empirical research to date has investigated the relationship and development of aptitude and metalinguistic awareness longitudinally as well as examined their predictive power for children’s L2 achievement in the classroom. In a study with English-speaking learners aged 8–9 (N = 111), we found that although aptitude and metalinguistic awareness were (still) dynamic, they significantly predicted children’s achievement in L2 French. Moreover, language-analytic ability proved to be the component with the strongest predictive power. This finding suggests that it may not be level of cognitive maturity alone that determines children’s approach to L2 learning; experiencing explicit, form-focused instruction may foster the role of language-analytic ability even in children as young as 8–9 years.