Alex Housen, Els Schoonjans, Sonja Janssens, Aurélie Welcomme, Ellen Schoonheere, Michel Pierrard
June 13, 2011
This paper reports on a study that investigates the impact of learning context on the L2 acquisition of English by German-speaking pupils. Learning context is operationalized in terms of the relative prominence of the L1 and the L2 within the learning context, which in turn reflects the functional roles and domains of use allocated to the L2 and L1. L2 learning outcomes are compared across four different authentic language-learning contexts which represent four distinct positions on the second language (SL) – foreign language (FL) context continuum. The results show that the learners in the learning context most close to the SL end of the continuum (with high L2 prominence and very low L1 prominence in the wider extra-curricular context) outperform the learners in the three other contexts on most aspects of L2 proficiency investigated. Comparisons between the learners in the three other contexts yield less straightforward observations, including better than anticipated results for the learners in the prototypical FL context.