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Learner and Teacher Autonomy in Higher Education: Perspectives from Modern Language Teaching

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Edited By Manuel Jiménez Raya, José Javier Martos Ramos and Maria Giovanna Tassinari

This volume seeks to foster the development of teacher and learner autonomy in language learning in higher education. It pools the insights and experiences of a group of international researchers who present their reflections and research on different aspects of autonomy and related issues. Although autonomy is acknowledged as one of the main goals of education, in higher education the need for accountability and standardisation of learning outcomes may constitute external limitations to its development. In order to overcome teaching traditions and mainstream academic culture, teachers may need to reorient themselves and face the challenge of a substantial change involving their own and their learners’ beliefs, their practice and their role in the institution.

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The Proficiency of Multilingual and Autonomous Learners, or: What it Means to Be a Competent Learner (Hélène Martinez)

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← 114 | 115 →

Hélène Martinez

(Justus Liebig University Gießen, Germany)

The Proficiency of Multilingual and Autonomous Learners, or: What it Means to Be a Competent Learner

1.    Introduction

It does matter whether the learner has already learned one or several languages, in my opinion, then somehow everything will progress really fast. Such a person has a basic foundation. Then it depends on whether the learner is a younger or older person and whether the pre-knowledge […] or rather on which language level this person is actually on. That is important. That’s why it varies.1 (Maria, university student in romance studies, emphasis added by author)

This statement, made by Maria in the framework of a qualitative research-interview, exemplifies why certain learners are more successful than others in the acquisition of a foreign language. The knowledge of multiple languages is assumed to be a foundation for successful learning. According to Maria’s understanding of language learning, multilingual learners possess “pre-knowledge,” a so-called “basic foundation” that allows them to learn further languages quickly and effectively.

At the time of the interview, Maria is 28 years old and studies first semester Russian, Spanish, and adult education didactics in a modern foreign languages program at the Justus Liebig University in Giessen, Germany. Maria is from Ukraine, where she already holds a degree in architecture. She claims Russian and Ukrainian as her mother tongue and German as her second language. She learned...

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