Examining the Key Variables in Foreign Language Learning—A Case Study

Jing Wang, Xiaofang Gao


Learning variables such as motivation, aptitude, attitude, learning strategies, personality and learning environment are deemed by English Language Teaching (ELT) researchers as crucial in contributing to a learner’s language achievement. This study focuses on the interrelated nature of these variables and examines how they affect language learners’ learning outcomes. The main purpose of this study was to find out about the complex network of these variables as well as the individual differences among learners. The data for this study were collected through interviews. The participants were seven Chinese English as a Foreign Language (EFL) learners who were residing in Canada.
The study has yielded a number of interesting findings. One notable finding is that there seems to be some intricate interrelationships between learner characteristics (e.g., perseverance, attitude, motivation) and learner achievement. It appears that the role that learner perseverance and inner drive to learn play in their learning outcomes is as equally important as their learning environment and aptitude. Another conspicuous finding is that a correlation seems to exist between aptitude, motivation and success. Specifically, the higher aptitude learners exhibit, the more highly motivated they become and in turn, the more success they are likely to attain.
The pedagogical implications from the study lies in the need to inform EFL teachers of the intricate interrelationships of the learning variables to help them better understand the complexities underlying the language learning process and enhance teacher training in how to make their teaching more truly communicative in nature.


learning variable; motivation; aptitude; learning strategy; L2

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