Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Three A's: How Do Attributions, Attitudes, and Aptitude Contribute to Foreign Language Learning?

Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Three A's: How Do Attributions, Attitudes, and Aptitude Contribute to Foreign Language Learning?

Article excerpt

Abstract: The researchers investigated attributions for success, attitudes, and aptitudes for native language learning and foreign language learning success for 648 students enrolled in 100-level university foreign language courses (Spanish, French, and German). We examined relationships via correlational analyses and used structural equation modeling to determine the best predictive model. Relationships among variables were generally positive but low to moderate in magnitude (r= -.12 to r=.45).The best predictive model was attitudes leading to aptitude leading to exam grades. Attributions did not contribute to the prediction. Gender differences were indicated in effort attributions and in exam grades. Results underscore the importance of attitude in foreign language success.

Key words: aptitude, attitude, attributions, foreign language, university students

The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between attributions, attitudes, aptitude, and success for college students enrolled in foreign language classes. Based on previous research, we expected students' learning attributions to influence attitude toward foreign language learning, affecting foreign language aptitude and course success.We also anticipated that females would make stronger effort attributions for foreign language success.

Attributional Style and Language Learning

In Weiner's (1985, 1986) attribution theory of achievement motivation, the learner's perception of controllability (or tendency to make internal attributions) affects motivation to perform a learning task. Evidence indicates that perceived controllability contributes to motivation to learn (Anderson, 1991; Pittman & D'Agostino, 1985; Taylor & Brown, 1988; Wortman, Panciera, Shusterman, & Hibscher, 1976). In part, this line of research is an elaboration and extension of the work of Rotter (1966), who linked task performance to locus of control, a concept that has been widely used to identify patterns of performance and effort across a variety of domains (Abramson, Seligman, & Teasdale, 1978; J. D. Brown & Siegel, 1988; Lefcourt, 1982; Linder & Janus, 1997; Martinez, 1994; Weiner, 1974, 1980). According to more recent research, explanatory styles (e.g., whether a student tends to attribute success to internal or external factors) are often reported as correlated with self-efficacy or a learner's beliefs about his or her ability to perform a particular task (Bandura, 1982; Haugen&Lund, 1998). Cole and Denzine (2004) concurred with this link and evidenced a link from students' explanatory styles and courserelated self-efficacy to motivation and task value. Similarly, Marsh (1984) provided evidence linking internal attributions of success to better academic self-concepts and better academic achievement. Hsieh (2005) provided evidence supporting this link of higher internal attributions and higher self-efficacy specific to foreign language learning among college students in a study of 500 first-year, first-semester students in foreign language classes at the University of Texas at Austin.

Locus of control has been considered to be a primary factor in determining academic achievement among college students (Linder & Janus, 1997; Whilhite, 1990), high school students (Sterbin & Rakow, 1996). In a qualitative analysis of student interviews, Price (1991) found that the ''discrepancy between effort and results'' led even some high-achieving students ''to feel less in control in language classes than in other courses'' (p. 105). Thus, students' locus of control tendencies, or attributional style, may be an important predictor of foreign language achievement. J. Brown (2006) found evidence of this hypothesized link, i.e., students with an internal locus of learning were found to be more successful in self-instructed language learning than those with an external locus of learning.

Others have explored the link between success and persistence in foreign language learning and students' attributions to success or failure. …

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