In Search of Lost Language: A longitudinal study into trainee teacher motivation and the reactivation of lapsed language skills

Jill Llewellyn-Williams

motivation, reactivation, attrition, knowlege, skills, reflection


Trainee language teachers require a high standard of subject knowledge for their intense training programme and frequently find it difficult to balance the need to maintain their language proficiency with the more urgent necessity of learning new professional skills. This longitudinal study explored language attrition and strategies that could be employed to reactivate lapsed language skills. An initial three year study was undertaken in the context of a Postgraduate Certificate in Education Modern Foreign Languages programme at a Welsh university with the aim of supporting subject knowledge, but the findings are relevant to the wider professional knowledge of new teachers. The initial case study phase lasted two years and many valuable data were gathered by means of questionnaires, interviews and reflective logs. This was followed by a one-year action research intervention which took the form of a subject knowledge consolidation programme, during which trainee teachers were able to put into practice strategies that would allow them to reactivate language skills that had suffered attrition over extended periods. Their progress was charted by language audits, reflective logs and focussed testing. The main finding was that effective reactivation required a combination of structural input and extensive exposure to the target language, though the latter could be undertaken by activities which could be integrated into students’ daily leisure routine. In the following two years, the programme continued to develop and findings reveal that the success that students experienced in the process of reactivation shows a clear correlation with their motivation levels. This programme has not only supported students in the reactivation of lapsed language skills but also encouraged reflection on the process of metalearning, helping them to develop into more confident and competent teachers.

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Apples - Journal of Applied Language Studies