Language aptitude is the ability that an individual has for learning and understanding new languages. This ability is often resolute by the use of standard aptitude tests, which forecast the extent of understanding and success that a prospective candidate will have with any new language. Aptitude tests are different from one test to another but most of them dwell in evaluation of capability to control sounds, proper grammatical arrangement, understanding language rules as well as memorizing ability of sufficient new words (Dörnyei, 2005). In this paper we shall compare the relationship between the language aptitude and the second language acquisition. Moreover, the paper shall review a research on language aptitude and explain one language aptitude as well as giving personal opinion.
Relation between Language Aptitude and Second Language Acquisition
Our analysis shall begin with some primary facts of learning any new languages. The human mental ability has been basically used in psychology to mean the several traits which involve thinking, information processing, reasoning as well as the obtaining new understanding. This simply means that mental abilities give the cognitive processes as well as the internal skills. Therefore, the language aptitude will concentrate on that mental ability for an individual to learn as well as process any new language. In an educational context, like second language learning, the language aptitude is used to mean the learning ability which is the personal potential for the acquisition of new knowledge or skill (Dörnyei, 2005).
There is a strong relation between the language aptitude and the second language acquisition. This is because a high language aptitude will mean that the second language will be acquired easily and without difficulty. However, a lower language aptitude will mean that a lot of hard work will have to be put in so as to ensure an individual comprehends the second language. Caroll defines language aptitude as the speed at which an individual learn to reason. This could be any individual in secondary school, university or any adult learning level (Krashen, 1981). For most of foreign admissions to be done, a language aptitude test is conducted so as to predict whether the candidate will be in a position to learn any foreign language easily to facilitate other studies. The language test will give a good prediction which can be used for the basis of admission. Therefore second language acquisition is related to the language aptitude and we shall discuss the extent of than relation.
There are three major components tested in language aptitude tests. The first is the phonetic coding ability which is that capability to commit a foreign language sounds to memory (Krashen, 1981). For any effective second language acquisition, there should be a good memory to store new concepts. Therefore a good memory as tested in an aptitude test indicates whether a second language acquisition would be achieved easily. The other two elements that relate directly to learning is the individual's ability to demonstrate awareness of syntactical patterning of sentences in a language and the inductive ability.
The person's capability to show knowledge of syntactical arrangement of sentences in a language is very important in learning. This is the grammatical sensitivity which is emphasized in the learning of any new language. The performance on this component does not require the candidate to really understand grammatical expressions but rather entails the mental awareness of the sentence structure (Krashen, 1981). This fact tests the candidate's consciousness when it comes to grammatical arrangement of words despite the language. The candidate should be in a position to grammatically arrange words of the first language in addition to understanding the grammatical requirement of any new language. According to Krashen (1981), the understanding of sentence structure is unlike the linguistic proficiency. The linguistic proficiency involves the knowledge of sentence structure rules of a specific language which turn to automatic responsiveness immediately we understand a language. However, the language aptitude will give attention to on the grammatical structure arrangement of sentences as they are spoken. This capability is crucial to be established in language aptitude as it is definitely needed candidates learning sentence structure rules as well as their applications in sentences construction and comprehending that new language. Therefore this component of grammatical sensitivity is directly related to the second language learning performance.
The third component of language aptitude that relate to the second language acquisition is the inductive ability. This is the ability to observe language matter and out of it take note and distinguish patterns as well as communications and associations which one of connotation or sentence structure form. The characteristic approach to evaluate this capability is providing resources in a synthetic form so as to enable a person to make the sentence structure and semantic laws regulating that language. This will make use of the general intelligence which is required for an individual to learn a foreign language. Most of the foreign languages aptitudes make use of this component in their aptitude tests which is important in predicting the intellectual ability of the said candidate. Moreover, inductive capability is seen to be aware of learning since its aim is to determine plain and conceptual rules through problem solving approach. Furthermore, linguists use the same method in their sentence structure writing from body (Krashen, 1981).
Moreover, Pimsleur reviewed the mechanisms of language aptitude which are directly related to the second language acquisition. They are related but not the same to the Corroll's components. They included verbal intellect, inspiration to learn the language and the auditory capability. The verbal intelligence meant the words knowledge as well as the capability to think analytically about the verbal resources. The verbal brainpower in the language aptitude is evaluated by the part referred to as language examination. Therefore combining the general astuteness and the inspiration of learning new language will make a candidate to learn a second language more easily (Krashen, 1981). This shows clearly that the language aptitude is closely related to the second language acquisitions.
A Review of Research on Language Aptitude
Language aptitude testing was initially conducted for similar purposes just like that of measuring cleverness. The purpose was mainly to identify students who were not likely to succeed in government institutions. The language aptitude was developed in the United States between 1925 and 1930 so as to reduce high number of failure of those students who were learning the foreign languages. The language aptitude was started by education administrators to assist in the eliminating students who were likely to fail. The tests were not developed on any stable solid facts basis but rather implemented from two points called analytical and synthetic by Spolsky. The analytical way is made up of the process of developing tests that make use of particular related abilities that are implied to make important purpose in language understanding. These tests are written in the prime language of the candidate and often concentrate on oral understanding. However, the synthetic style focuses on small study tests that the candidates have to undertake as part of the testing process and under normal circumstances their performance is relied upon in knowing specific features of new language. Out of the two test styles, the conclusion can be deduced of the candidate's expected success in a new language (Dörnyei 2005).
Therefore the implementation of language aptitude tests was to cut costs of language education by eliminating those students that were likely to fail in learning any new language. This reason was in effect for 30 years after which the second period of aptitude tests improvement. At this era there was introduction of two major language aptitude tests namely Modern Language Aptitude Test and Pimsleur Language Aptitude Battery. The researchers came up with other aptitude tests but were not used frequently (Dörnyei 2005).
The language aptitudes were developed and improved over several years of research and studies. For instance, Modern Language Aptitude test was the outcome of 5 years research conducted during 1953-1958 at Harvard University. During the period of research, a lot of sub-methods were tested and best results processed were incorporated to the aptitude to arrive at the unique language aptitude which was administered to thousands of individuals. An effective language aptitude should test the abilities which include phonetic coding, grammatical sensitivity, rote learning ability and inductive language learning abilities (Dörnyei 2005). We shall discuss each of these abilities in detail so as to understand their significance in any language aptitude test as follows;
Phonetic Coding Ability
This is taken to be the crucial feature of the language aptitude tests. This is the skill to recognize separate sounds, create relations connecting those sounds and signs showing them and maintenance of these relations. The big challenge to the learners is that of recognition of sounds or connection of sounds as different articles as compared with the task of classifying sounds which is quite easy. Therefore this capability includes the ruling, integration as well as memorizing of the phonetic resources (Dörnyei 2005).
Moreover, the phonetic coding ability is not only that capacity to distinguish among sounds but more importantly that ability to code foreign sounds in a manner that can be remembered later. Although the process of sound discrimination is different between individuals, it is not correlated to the language learning achievement. The element that is correlated to the learning success is that capacity to analyze sound in such a manner that its representation makes it to be more fleeting thus allowing remembrance beyond immediate rehearsal (Skehan, 1998).
This is the capability of an individual to distinguish the grammatical meaning of words in sentence constructions. This is the language constructions that do exist for particular words and should be followed so as to ensure clarity as well as language understanding. The grammatical sensitivity in other words means that capability of an individual to show understanding of the sentence construction arrangement and the grammatical meanings of individual components in a sentence (Dörnyei 2005).This is actually that capability to understand the contribution that each word make in a sentence rather than that ability to analyze the entire sentence explicitly. Therefore, this ability has a passive aspect which emphasizes on the recognition of a function as opposed to the clear representation (Skehan, 1998).
Rote Learning Ability
This is the capability to quickly understand relations among sounds and connotation as well as their proficiency and maintenance of these relations. It implies to that competence to memorize huge information of unfamiliar language resources (Dörnyei 2005). The ability to accumulate sufficient language terms as well as remembering whenever required in the process of learning as well as language advancement.
Inductive Language Learning Ability
This is the capability to deduce or bring on the regulations managing a set of language resources when provided with examples of resources that allow those deductions. This refers to that capability to recognize models of communications as well as association which entail whichever the sense or sentence outline from basic language information (Dörnyei 2005). Therefore it is used so as to give the indication of how a candidate will be able to control the new language in terms of following examples and be able to correct whenever such sentences are not grammatically correct.
This process is actually the language analytic ability which is concerned with the central processing of information. In other words, it is that capacity to introduce procedures of a language and make linguistic extrapolations. This is where the sentence restructuring is being done and an individual should be capable to deal with the structures that operate exactly in a language. A candidate should be in a position to input product of the phonemic coding for which this material is processed, studied for consistency of patterns as well as formation of the basic rules (Skehan, 1998).
On the other hand, Pimsleur explained that aptitude for understanding a foreign language involve three features that are verbal astuteness, inspiration and auditory capability (Dörnyei 2005). The verbal intelligence is important in that a candidate can be tested whether he is in a position to think critically using the available verbal resources. This is because the second language learning will involve the use of verbal materials which need to be reasoned and their meaning understood through communication either verbally or written. Thus it becomes necessary a candidate's ability be determined to avoid situations of failure.
Furthermore, the motivation part should be determined in the aptitude test (Dörnyei 2005). Motivation is always a recipe of success and it is important that all students learning a language be inspired by the need to understand. Those candidates who are highly motivated to learn a new language will be successful in most cases and as such a language aptitude test that contains questions to determine the level of motivation would be more informative in predicting the success of learning the language.